Category Archives: Environment

Pie Vegetation In The Sky?

Seen on Colbert:

Sounds like a very cool concept… But his use of terms like what “the plan we would like to see implemented” worries me. I’m a much bigger fan of letting the market decide, not relying on some collective implementation of a plan* (i.e. government).

So I went and checked out the group’s website. I’ll let you graze there yourself to learn more, but a few things I found here only confirm my fears:

Providing all urban populations with a varied and plentiful harvest, tailored to the local cuisine eliminates food and water as resources that need to be won by conflict between competing populations. Starvation becomes a thing of the past, and the health of millions improves dramatically, largely due to proper nutrition and the lack of parasitic infections formerly acquired at the agricultural interface. Given the strength of resolve and insight at the political and social level, this concept has the potential to accomplish what has been viewed in the past as nearly impossible and highly impractical.

Will vertical farming walk my dog too? After all, they’re promising a whole lot of other ridiculous benefits along with it…

Oh, and this one really takes the cake:

It is further anticipated that large-scale urban agriculture will be more labor-intensive than is currently practiced on the traditional farm scene, since the deployment of large farm machinery will not be an option. Hence, employment opportunities abound at many levels.

And this is a good thing? Really, in a nation where we’re already importing agricultural workers, he’s saying that less efficiency in our agricultural sector is a good thing?

Maybe I should go to his house and break some windows; imagine how many more glaziers he’ll need to employ!
» Read more

Government Getting Away With What Plebes Can’t

Over at Coyote Blog, Warren is discussing things that the NY Transit Authority can get away with that would get a private property owner fined:

New York City Transit has spent close to $1 billion to install more than 200 new elevators and escalators in the subway system since the early 1990s, and it plans to spend almost that much again for dozens more machines through the end of the next decade. It is an investment of historic dimensions, aimed at better serving millions of riders and opening more of the subway to the disabled.

These are the results:

One of every six elevators and escalators in the subway system was out of service for more than a month last year, according to the transit agency’s data.

The 169 escalators in the subway averaged 68 breakdowns or repair calls each last year, with the worst machines logging more than double that number. And some of the least reliable escalators in the system are also some of the newest, accumulating thousands of hours out of service for what officials described as a litany of mechanical flaws.

Two-thirds of the subway elevators — many of which travel all of 15 feet — had at least one breakdown last year in which passengers were trapped inside.

If this was private industry, it’s the sort of performance that an investigative journalist would be salivating over. If it were a private business, it would be a story about how the owner was putting people at risk all in an effort to save money.

But it’s not. It’s the government. So there’s wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth (by the article author, not Warren), and the tone of the argument is conciliatory and making excuses for why the situation is so bad and how sincere the government is about fixing it.

I read Warren’s post two days ago. And as I sat behind a public school bus today, I got a faceful of evidence that it’s not only the public elevators that are able to get away with service no private actor would. The bus was in front of me at a light, and as it left the light, a belched a cloud of foul-smelling gas that quickly permeated the inside of my closed, air-conditioned truck.

I thought to myself: “What would happen to me if my truck was throwing out those fumes?” I’m assuming it would fail emissions and probably not be allowed on the road. Not so for buses. In fact, a clean-air program has rated California‘s soot production and smog production as a “C” and “Poor” level, respectively, despite the fact that the state’s clean-up program, active since 2000, is rated as “Good”. I guess they missed this bus.

But hey, it’s not like they should hurry or anything, it’s only our kids on the bus. I’m sure most of the legislators’ kids are avoiding the bus on the way to their private schools.

Farmers Struggling Despite High Corn Prices

With record-high corn prices, and plenty of subsidy money floating around, an interesting thing is happening. Less farmers are growing corn!

Why? Because the inputs used in growing corn are rising in price even more quickly:

The amount of corn planted in the U.S. is expected to dip this year. Rice acreage in California, which sells as much as half its crop overseas, is predicted to increase by only a small amount. Instead, farmers are planting cheaper-to-grow wheat and soy.

They say the reason is simple. The cost of planting some crops is rising as fast as their prices, and sometimes faster, leaving little incentive to increase production of some foods that remain in high demand around the world.

Farmers typically plant their crops once a year and not all of them cost the same to produce. Both corn and rice, for example, require more fertilizer to grow and fuel for farmers to tend than other crops. As the prices of those supplies rise faster than the prices of some commodities, farmers are shying away from some expensive crops.

This, of course, came as a bit of a shock to me. I never realized that corn was so resource-intensive to grow. So much so that the cost of growing corn makes it barely sustainable, even with the subsidies and record prices caused by high demand.

But that raises another question. If corn is a very resource-intensive crop for us to grow, why in hell would we want to use it as a fuel source?!

Thank You, Big Oil

Glenn Beck on CNN wrote a nice little piece about the hypocrisy of “environmentalists” and why we shouldn’t be demonizing “Big Oil” for working for profit.  Worth a quick read.

I Can’t Think Of A Catchy Title

I suppose the best way to describe myself would be to say that I have a problem with authority. I’ve always disliked when people told me what to do, even as a young child, and I’ve always preferred to find my own path through life and make my own decisions, even if it occasionally went against the conventional wisdom and sometimes worked to my short-term disadvantage. My dad said I inherited it from him, but that I’ve taken it to a whole new level. When I was young I wanted to be a journalist, until I got to college and realized that journalism was less about the search for objective truth than it was about writing the stories that best suited your employer’s interests, whether they were true or not (which didn’t sit well with me at all). So I drifted aimlessly through a couple of years of college as an indifferent (often drunk) student, unsure of what to do with myself until one of my fraternity brothers gave me a copy of “The Fountainhead” and I got hooked on the ideas that success and a refusal to conform to societal standards were not mutally exclusive, and that the greatest evil in the world was society and government’s failure to recognize or accept individuality and individual freedom as a strength, not a weakness. So I threw myself into studying politics and history, worked in a few political campaigns after college, had some success, and thought about doing a career in politics until I realized that most of the people I knew who had never had a career outside of politics had no comprehension of how the real world actually worked and tended to make a lot of bad, self-absorbed decisions that rarely helped the people they claimed to be representing.

That didn’t sit well with me either, so I decided to put any thoughts of going into politics on hold until I’d actually had a life and possibly a real career, and I spent the next couple of years drifting between a series of random yet educational jobs (debt collector, deliveryman, computer salesman, repo man, dairy worker) that taught me the value of hard work, personal responsibility and the financial benefits of dining at Taco John’s on Tuesday nights (2 tacos for a buck) when money got tight.

After awhile, however, the desire to see the world (and the need for a more consistent and slightly larger paycheck) convinced me to join the Army, where I spent ten years traveling around the world on the government dime working as an intelligence analyst. I generally enjoyed my time in the military, despite the aforementioned problem with authority (which wasn’t as much of an issue in the military as many people might think it would be), and I got to see that the decisions our political leaders make were sometimes frivolous, often ill-informed, and always had unforeseen repercussions down the road…especially on the soldiers tasked with implementing those decisions. I was fortunate enough to spend most of my 10 years in the military doing jobs I enjoyed, traveling to countries that I always wanted to see (Scotland is the greatest place in the world to hang out, Afghanistan is very underrated) and working with people I liked and respected, until I finally decided that at 35 it was time to move into a job where I didn’t have the threat of relocation lying over my head every two or three years, where I didn’t have to worry about my friends being blown up, and where I didn’t have to work in any capacity for George W. Bush.

I work now for a financial company in Kansas where I’m responsible for overseeing, pricing and maintaining farms, commercial and residential properties, mineral assets, insurance policies, annuities, etc. In my spare time I like to read books on economics, history, and politics (I’m preparing to tackle Murray Rothbard’s “Man, Economy & State” and Von Mises’ “Human Action”…should take me about a year at the rate I’m currently finishing books), watch movies, and destroy posers on “Halo 3″ (where I’m signed in under “UCrawford” for anyone interested in taking a shot at me some time). I used to play rugby until age, inconsistent conditioning, and a string of gradually worsening injuries finally convinced me to quit. I’m a rabid fan of the Kansas Jayhawks in general and their basketball and football programs in particular and I’m also a devoted fan of the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. I’m also fond of going online and debating/picking fights with people on the merits of the philosophy of individual freedom…sometimes to the point of being an asshole (but hopefully a reasonably well-informed asshole). I’ve been a big fan of The Liberty Papers ever since finding it online, I respect the body of work they’ve put out, and I’m honored that Brad Warbiany invited me to join his jolly band of freedom fighters. So cheers, Brad, and to everyone else I look forward to reaching consensus or locking horns with you in the near future.

Earth Hour — What They SHOULD Have Said

Allow me to engage in a bit of strawman-bashing. In the comments to Don Boudreaux’s excellent post at Cafe Hayek, a rather idiotic argument came up. It is the same argument that many of our own contributors received when we opposed Ron Paul, and commenters told us “If you don’t like Ron Paul, you must tell us who we SHOULD vote for.” It’s a strawman, of course, because criticizing one idea doesn’t obligate you to posit your own. But that’s not good enough for some people, as this comment to Don’s post shows:

Congratulations!

Instead of bringing forward some better and more rational proposals that will help to avoid that hysteria that indeed clouds the environmental issues and could cause the remedies to be worse than the sickness, and help the world to be able to use scarce resources wisely and effective… you live up to your role as an educator, as a beacon of light… and just make fun of it all.

As if the folks at Cafe Hayek haven’t offered their own positive ideas on a whole host of topics, one bit of criticism gets the “well, what would YOU do about it?” response. Laughable…

…but I’m going to offer a suggestion anyway. I’m going to offer the free-market environmentalist answer.

Here’s what the World Wildlife Fund should have said:

Greetings. In our modern world, we are faced with many problems. While the work of caring environmentalists and improved technology has done a lot to improve the environmental situation in the Western world, we have much farther to go. Rising populations and increased worldwide standard of living are only adding to the strain that humanity is placing on our planet. Oil and coal have served us well to bring us to this point, but exact a heavy toll on the planet to extract and use. These sources of energy are the past; they are not the future.

Conservation is one part of the solution to this problem. Conservation helps the environment by reducing demand, and helps individuals by reducing the prices they pay for the resources they use. Taken in the aggregate across society, reduced individual energy use helps to ensure that we can move from today’s needs to the future, and do so in a smooth transition. We hope that our recent Earth Hour event reminds humanity that they should be ever-mindful of their impact on the planet, and do what they can to minimize that individual impact, for the good of their pocketbooks and the planet.

But conservation is not enough. The pressures of increased population and increased prosperity will only lead to higher energy consumption. In order to protect our Earth, we must find alternative energy sources, with a smaller impact on our environment. To ensure widespread acceptance, the solution must be both environmentally-friendly and cheap. Our current solutions show promise, but are too expensive to be deployed on a wide scale. Thankfully, rising prices of oil will make it more economically feasible to explore alternatives, and the work of firms such as Massachussetts’ Konarka Technologies are helping to bridge the gap between today and the future.

Environmentalism and energy consumption are not mutually-exclusive. The crucial factor, however, is technology. We can solve these problems, but it won’t be done by politicians or policymakers. It won’t come from Washington or Brussels. And it can’t be done by mandate. The solutions will come from hard-working, caring, dedicated scientists and engineers. It will come from those in the private sector who stand to make a profit from cheap, clean energy.

Those who care about our planet have many options open to them. For those who are still young, with their careers and lives ahead of them, we encourage you to study physics, materials science, and engineering. You can directly impact the problem by researching, developing, and implementing the technologies which will help us solve these problems. For those who may be too late to change their career path, there are countless investment opportunities in the companies working on these problems. The beauty of these options is that it offers you both the opportunity to profit and enact a social good.

Turning off your lights for an hour is a reminder of what you can do in the short term, and of the important problem that we must solve. But if you really want to help, it’s time to get your hands dirty and start making the long-term solution a reality.

Those of us on “the right” are often lambasted as uncaring when it comes to environmental problems. We are not. We are simply cognizant of the fact that the solutions “the left” offers are typically damaging, counterproductive, and anti-prosperity. The real solution will come from the same place all solutions come — the long-term work by people trying to improve their own lives, and by extension improve the world for the rest of us.

Google “Doing Their Part” For Earth Hour

Seen today:

google.jpg

“Earth Hour” is a worldwide event where individuals are asked to shut off their lights for an hour. Ineffectual, pointless, but that’s what we need to do “for the planet”.

So what does Google do? Do they run some of their servers in a lower-power mode, perhaps sacrificing the speed of search results in order to reduce energy use? Nope. Do they even do the politically correct but economically idiotic idea of buying “carbon offsets” for the energy they use for that hour? Nope. Does blackening their home page even save energy? Nope. In fact, outside of changing a few lines of very simple code, it doesn’t appear that this gesture has taken any effort at all.

What have they accomplished? Well, they’ve “raised awareness”. Good work, fellas, because without Google, I may never have known about the idea of conservation!

What a joke.

Others covering this: Don Boudreaux & Billy Beck

Gordon Brown Resists the EU’s Biofuel Targets

The Guardian- Gordon Brown is preparing for a battle with the European Union over biofuels after one of the government’s leading scientists warned they could exacerbate climate change rather than combat it.

In an outspoken attack on a policy which comes into force next week, Professor Bob Watson, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said it would be wrong to introduce compulsory quotas for the use of biofuels in petrol and diesel before their effects had been properly assessed.

“If one started to use biofuels … and in reality that policy led to an increase in greenhouse gases rather than a decrease, that would obviously be insane,” Watson said. “It would certainly be a perverse outcome.”

Under the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, all petrol and diesel must contain 2.5% of biofuels from April 1. This is designed to ensure that Britain complies with a 2003 EU directive that 5.75% of petrol and diesel come from renewable sources by 2010.

But scientists have increasingly questioned the sustainability of biofuels, warning that by increasing deforestation the energy source may be contributing to global warming.

Watson’s warning was echoed last night by Professor Sir David King, who recently retired as the government’s chief scientific adviser. He said biofuel quotas should be put on hold until the results were known of a review which has been commissioned by ministers.

“What is absolutely desperately needed within government are people of integrity who will state what the science advice is under whatever political pressure or circumstances,” he said

Suspending my skepticism of the man made global warming phenomenon for a moment; the scientists make a very important point in this article about how government should think first before acting. The problem is that governments don’t think; people think. If the people of the U.K., the U.S. or anywhere else for that matter believe they can depend on the government making intelligent decisions on their behalf, this biofuels boondoggle is only the latest example of why those who would outsource their thinking to the government are mistaken.

Fortunately for the U.K., they have a prime minister in Gordon Brown who is willing to resist the knee jerk reaction to go along with the European Union and actually listen to scientists rather than seek out scientists who will tow the popular party line.

The prime minister made clear that Britain is wary of the target when he said last November: “I take extremely seriously concerns about the impact of biofuels on deforestation, precious habitats and on food security, and the UK is working to ensure a European sustainability standard is introduced as soon as possible, and we will not support an increase in biofuels over current target levels until an effective standard is in place.”

Unfortunately for us here on the other side of the pond, President Bush took the opposite approach: he caved. In 2007 President Bush signed legislation which would require the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022. As Brad pointed out in his recent post on this subject, E-85 ethonal in particular wastes a tremendous amount of water.

What the biofuels proponents fail to tell consumers is that E-85 ethanol is horribly inefficient. As George Mason University Economics Professor Walter Williams points out, this particular fuel cannot be piped (because of pipeline corrosion from leftover water) but must be shipped by trucks and trains, damages engines not specifically designed for ethanol (again because of the leftover water), and is 20 to 30 percent less efficient than petroleum. Williams goes on to explain that to produce one SUV tank worth of fuel with E-85 requires 450 pounds of corn; enough corn to feed one person for an entire year!

Despite all of this, the politics is leading the way rather than the science and the free market. The farm subsidy lobby is very powerful in Washington in both political parties (and is apparently powerful in the EU as well).

And that’s really the dirty little secret. But for government subsidies, E-85 ethanol would have no chance of competing in the free market. Biofuel production displaces the basic economic resources of land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurial ability which could otherwise be used to better address the energy problem. British scientists are already thinking about the possible consequences of the EU’s biofuels policies. How much pain can be avoided if only policy makers will have the courage to listen before allowing such a disastrous policy from moving forward? The only way to solve the energy problem is for governments to get out of the way, allow innovators to innovate, and let the free market pick the winners and losers.

Hat Tip: Cato Daily Dispatch

Another Ethanol Boondoggle

Along this blog, I’ve been beating the anti-ethanol drum for quite some time*. Now, we have yet another reason to oppose it. Not only is it environmentally neutral (or harmful), not only does it drive up the cost of food products, it also sucks up scarce water resources!

This is controversial for several reasons. There are doubts about how green ethanol really is (some say the production process uses almost as much energy as it produces). Some argue that using farmland for ethanol pushes up food prices internationally (world wheat prices rose 25% this week alone, perhaps as a side-effect of America’s ethanol programme). But one of the least-known but biggest worries is ethanol’s extravagant use of water.

A typical ethanol factory producing 50m gallons of biofuels a year needs about 500 gallons of water a minute. Most of that goes into the boiling and cooling process, which is similar to making beer. Some water is lost through evaporation in the cooling tower and in waste discharge. All this is putting a heavy burden on aquifers in some corn-growing areas.

There’s only one group who still thinks this is a good idea: farmers. And we’re paying them to think it, so I don’t think they’re very impartial.

What will it take to put a stop to this? Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can figure out that this is an incredibly useless, counterproductive, and costly endeavor. But nobody will stand up and try to put a stop to it.

Are our politicians that wedded to the ethanol train? One would think that perhaps a certain senator from Arizona might suggest that there won’t be any ethanol powering the Straight Talk Express. But I’m not holding my breath.
» Read more

Government Influence Of Science — Mandating Losers

Democrats seem to want the federal government to invest huge sums of money in development of alternative energy sources. tarran, last year, pointed out that government has all the wrong incentives and thus often picks the most politically-palatable technologies, not the most effective.

This is currently occurring in Britain, a nation which has gone down the same path towards ethanol as the United States. What’s interesting is where the opposition is currently coming from– the greens:

Yet even as their star has risen at Westminster, biofuels have been raising doubts among greens. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, two environmental-lobbying groups, have given warning that biofuels may not be as eco-friendly as they seem. On January 14th a more august body took a similar line. The Royal Society, Britain’s national science academy, published a report that analysed the bewildering range of biofuels on the market. It concluded that, thanks to carbon emissions from fertilisers and processing, some biofuels may cause more climate change than petrol. That raises the risk of a spectacular official own-goal: if targets encourage people to use the wrong sort of fuel, transport may get dirtier, not cleaner. The Royal Society wants ministers to specify targets not for biofuel consumption but for greenhouse-gas reduction. The government says it may do that after 2010.

I’ve pointed out that in the US, we have a system where we subsidize corn and tax sugar. This is a situation where our ethanol mandate distorts the market by raising the price of corn, raising the price (and reducing the supply) of food crops, raises the price of fuel, and if Greenpeace is correct, doesn’t even improve the environment. Why does this occur? Because corn producers vote and lobby Washington, while sugar producers are largely foreign, and thus cannot vote for politicians in Congress.

Government and science don’t mix.

California Slightly Backs Down On Thermostat Issue

Last week, I posted about California’s proposed Big Brother Thermostat proposal, where they were planning to mandate that all new thermostats allowed the state utility companies to shut off your A/C if it was an “emergency”. They’ve backed down on this one, but only slightly:

As initially proposed, these programmable thermostats would have deferred in emergencies to a radio signal from utilities, wresting control from customers.

After public protests, Chandler said the commission staff has suggested letting customers choose whether to accept the emergency control.

“The consumer or customer can override the emergency control,” with the change, Chandler said.

However, the thermostat will still include a radio control component that utilities could use with consumers’ consent. That component will be a mandatory part of the thermostat, which can’t be removed by the consumer.

Critics say they fear that requiring new homes to include a radio-controlled thermostat will make it easier to enforce mandatory controls later.

Fundamentally, nothing has changed. They still have decided to take control of your thermostat, and I think the critics’ point is quite valid. This isn’t the end of the road. When major power grabs don’t work, you take minor power grabs. The destination doesn’t change, only the length of the step.

What I said last week doesn’t change. If you get stuck with one of these thermostats, disable it. And even though they’ve softened their position, you should still contact your representative. We all know that this is but one step on a defined path for the regulators, and it is still important to let them know you’re not fooled.

Is Your Air Conditioner Working? Not In California!

Occasionally there are changes coming down the pipe that even non-politicos don’t like. Usually, the only ones that draw ire from the “average” citizen are those that are widespread and hit close to home.

California has proposed a policy that so neatly fits both categories that people like my wife (a probable Obama voter!) respond in shock and disbelief. From their Energy Commission’s newly-proposed rules about your thermostat (PDF, see pages 63-64):

(c) Thermostats. All unitary heating and/or cooling systems including heat pumps that are not controlled by a central energy management control system (EMCS) shall have a Programmable Communicating Thermostat (PCT) that is certified by the manufacturer to the Energy Commission to meet the requirements of Subsections 112(c)(1) and 112(c)(2) below:

1. Setback Capabilities. All PCTs shall have a clock mechanism that allows the building occupant to program the temperature set points for at least four periods within 24 hours. Thermostats for heat pumps shall meet the requirements of Section 112(b).

2. Communicating Capabilities. All PCTs shall be distributed with a non-removable Radio Data System (RDS) communications device that is compatible with the default statewide DR communications system, which can be used by utilities to send price and emergency signals. PCTs shall be capable of receiving and responding to the signals indicating price and emergency events as follows.

A. Price Events. The PCT shall be shipped with default price-event offsets of +4°F for cooling and -4°F for heating enabled; however, customers shall be able to change the offsets and thermostat settings at any time during price events. Upon receiving a price-event signal, the PCT shall adjust the thermostat setpoint by the number of degrees indicated in the offset for the duration specified in the signal of the price event. The PCT shall also be equipped with the capability to allow customers to define setpoints for heating and cooling in response to price signals as an alternative to temperature-offsetting response, as described in Reference Joint Appendix JA5.

B. Emergency Events. Upon receiving an emergency signal, the PCT shall respond to commands contained in the emergency signal, including changing the setpoint by any number of degrees or to a specific temperature setpoint. The PCT shall not allow customer changes to thermostat settings during emergency events.

If for any reason the state-regulated utilities deem that there is an “emergency”, they can do anything they want to your air conditioner or heater, and the thermostat gives you NO ability to override the setting. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got an elderly person sweltering in the summer heat in the central valley who cannot handle a few hours in extreme temperatures, you cannot change the thermostat. Of course, this isn’t new technology. In fact, the utilities were offering discounts to those buyers who voluntarily installed these thermostats. But I’m guessing either not enough people were adopting them for the nannies in Sacramento, or the utilities got tired of TOO MANY people adopting the technology, and wanted it mandated so they wouldn’t have to offer discounts.

Now, this is all an effort to mitigate the effects of high power draw in the hot summer months, when people are running their air conditioners. In the past, these situations have resulted in rolling blackouts and much political strife from the constituents. Those of us who have some economic sense and a history of California would point out that most of the woes this is intended to solve are the unintended consequences of California’s royally incompetent regulation and “de”regulation of their energy sector. Screwy regulatory hurdles, NIMBYism, and lobbying have resulted in a system which has completely destroyed any semblance of a market, and artificially limited increases in supply which might have kept electricity plentiful and prices low. Instead of fixing the problem, they’re simply adding another layer.

There’s still time to put a stop to this. If you live in California, contact the “process administrator” of these proceedings, Chris Gekas. Or your local legislator. Any complaint needs to be registered by January 30th, or this thing will go through without a problem.

Of course, there’s always the chance that it will go through anyway. If that occurs, my plan is good old-fashioned civil disobedience. If my next home has one of these installed, I will order a thermostat from out-of-state or– given that I’m an electrical engineer– find a way to disable the radio. The State of California may mandate this sort of idiocy, but it’s too bloated and inefficient to enforce it (once you get through an initial building inspection), so I would recommend others do the same. When the rest of the state is sweltering through a hot summer day without A/C, those of us who still value freedom can invite our neighbors over and explain to them the folly of big government.

Hat Tip: Cafe Hayek
Also See: The American Thinker

Should Oil Producers Embargo America Again? The Democrats And Republicans Seem To Think So

In 1973, OPEC announced an embargo of oil sales to countries whose governments had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war. In the U.S. this precipitated a major economic crisis as the U.S. government attempted to ration gasoline and control production and sale through a regime of price controls. The U.S. Central bank also embarked on an inflationary spree in an attempt to “stimulate ” the economy. Just as in the Great Depression, the result was a combination of inflation and economic stagnation, known as “stagflation.”

Today, nearly every presidential candidate is calling for something called “energy independence”, which amounts to an attempt to reenact the embargo, although this time it would be the U.S. government turning back oil shipments instead of the Saudi Government. This suicidal course is supposed to insulate the economy from high energy prices and to promote attempts to mitigate global warming. However, rather than insulating the economy from higher energy prices, these measures will have the perverse effect of making the high energy prices we face today more devastating and permanent.

Energy is merely a factor of production; one of many inputs that are converted into a more valuable product or service. Because energy is one of the most important inputs into most manufacturing processes, consumers of energy tend to be very price-conscious; attempting to get the most ergs for their dollar. However, unlike a person shopping at a grocery store, they can’t easily switch from oil to natural gas as easily as a consumer switches switches from buying eggs and bacon for their breakfasts to buying oatmeal. Once a factory or some other piece of heavy equipment or facility is designed to use on particular energy source, switching to another source is either very expensive or impossible. Thus, the largest consumers of energy look at not only the current price of energy products, but also at the long term trends. They try to lock in suppliers to long term contracts. They study the long term availability of the various sources and try to predict what the supply situation is like.

This desire for predictability forces energy producers to focus on keeping prices low and stable, if they want to attract customers. Because there are so many consumers of energy who will pick a supplier and stick with that supplier for a long period of time, and because these customers strive to understand their supplier’s business in great detail, the sources of energy that they choose to consume tend to be the most stable and cheapest sources then available, generally energy from oil or other petroleum products.

The plans being promoted by the politicians attempt to force American businesses to consume not the cheapest forms of energy, but rather more expensive and less economical forms of energy. They take one of four forms:

The Manhattan Project

Most programs call for the U.S. government to take money from tax-payers and to spend it on scientific research and engineering development to develop new sources of energy, or to make the consumption of new energy sources more “efficient”.

The problem is that these R&D programs will be funded by a political process and not necessarily based on criteria of which programs are most likely to bear fruit on a reasonable time-scale. The R&D that is expected to provide a payoff is already being done by investors or companies that expect to make a mint if they are the first to market with more efficient, less costly mechanisms that satisfy the demand for energy. The works that are not already being done, for the most part, are boondogles with an insufficient probability of a positive return. Essentially, the money confiscated and redirected to this research will necessarily displace investments that would otherwise be made in more profitable or less risky ventures. Thus, these programs are guaranteed to be as big a waste of money as other forays of the government into R&D such as nuclear power plant design and space exploration.

For my theory on why this is so, see my article Government Funding of Science: Inherently Susceptible to Junk and Superstition.

Subsidies for ‘local’ energy sources

Most plans involve subsidies for energy sources that do not use imported oil, things like wind-mills, ethanol and other ‘sustainable’ forms of energy. Essentially, these alternative sources of energy exist, but are so much less economical than imported oil, that nobody seriously uses them. The government’s plan is to subsidize these alternates so that the price demanded from people who are purchasing them is competitive with that of the hated imported oil. There is, of course, one problem with that: TANSTAAFL.

The subsidies must be paid by taxpayers, the same people who, for the most part, are consuming the subsidized energy. The result? The tax-man boosts the cost of energy to higher levels than we currently pay for “imported oil”. If the high cost of gasoline is painful, the cost of ethanol enhanced gasoline will be much more painful. In the end, this is the equivalent of treating the pain caused by a patient’s sore muscles by beating him up.

Subsidies for increased fuel efficiency

The rationale for this scheme is that if we could reduce the amount of fuel consumed, the price of the fuel would go down. However, it assumes that consumers want more efficient vehicles or factory equipment, but are powerless to influence manufacturers and producers to make more efficient machinery. This is, of course, poppycock. People balance fuel efficiency with many other criteria in making their choice. In times of bountiful, cheap energy, they may decide that a vehicle of large mass and carrying capacity is what they want. Increased efficiency generally comes at the expense of cost, or reduced performance in some other area.

Again, the principle of TAANSTAFL applies. By mandating that all products have a certain degree of efficiency, these plans essentially are forcing consumers to forgo other wants, or pay higher prices to purchase equipment that meets their needs.

Paying for Externalities

Currently it is in fashion to blame combustion of fossil fuels for causing a warming of the Earth. Of course, the change in climate causes people to bear costs in the form of reduced crop yields or loss of land to the sea etc. Many of these plans attempt to ‘mitigate’ this damage either through additional taxes levied on fuel consumption or from cap-and trade schemes. Both ideas suffer from flaws:

The rationale for remedying externalities through taxation is thus: Let us say that every gallon of gasoline burned in the U.S. causes $0.25 worth of damage to everybody on Earth. A tax of $0.25 is levied on each gallon of gasoline that is purchased or produced and the money is then spent to compensate the people suffering the damage.

Of course, the reality is quite different. The funds rarely are spent to reimburse injured parties, assuming that the injured parties can even be identified. Rather the funds are apportioned through a political process. A glaring example of this is, for example, the use of tobacco settlement money to pay for athletic programs in government schools as opposed to reimbursing Medicare for the costs of caring for ill smokers.

Cap and trade schemes have their own sets of problems. Under such a scheme, the state sells or issues permits to individuals or businesses permitting them produce X amount of pollution. The owners of these permits are then free to sell permits to those who wish to buy the right to pollute. There are two basic problems unique to these schemes:

First, there is the question of how many permits to issue? Of course, there will be a conflict between those who favor more permits and those who favor a reduction in the numbers of permits that are issued. The process for setting the number of permits will be a political one, and as such only loosely coupled with the actual number of permits that is appropriate, assuming that the number of appropriate permits is even calculable.

Secondly, there is the question of who gets the permits? If the permits are given away, then the state will have to ration the permits it issues. The distribution of permits will again be a political process with connected individuals and organizations being granted a windfall of permits that they can then sell at a great profit. Alternately, if the permits are sold, typically by auction, then once again the problems associated with the state levying taxes to repair externalities will manifest themselves.

Do We Need a National Energy Policy?

To me, the answer is a resounding NO! We no more need a national energy policy than we need a national food policy or a national entertainment policy or a national clothing policy.

The fact is that those who consume energy are already driven by reasons of frugality and profitability to seek the least expensive and most cost-efficient forms of energy out there. In order to prevent people from using oil, the state must force people to pay more for oil than they ever would under a volatile free market scheme. This means that in order to ensure energy the U.S. government must, in effect, force an embargo upon its subjects. Under international law, it is considered an act of war for one nation’s navy to blockade another nation’s sea trade. The fact that U.S. politicians are attempting to carry out such an act of war on their own people – worse that a significant portion of the U.S. population thinks this is a good idea – is quite disheartening.

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.

Why Capitalism Is Not Anti-Environment

To obtain shellfish, it’s often required dredging the sea floor. That’s a particularly nasty proposition, because it destroys reefs harboring complex ecosystems. And at the same time, it’s not particularly energy-efficient, and the damage done tends to also damage the shellfish recovered. However, a new type of non-invasive dredge is changing that (at least for scallops):

However, in one case—scallop trawling—Cliff Goudey of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reckons he has a solution. He and his team have designed a dredge that can dislodge scallops without touching the seafloor.

The dredge has several hemispheric scoops in place of the toothed bar. As it is pulled along, the scoops direct water downward. That creates a series of gentle jets that can shuffle the scallops from their resting places—but the streams of water are not powerful enough to damage the benthic zone’s long-term tenants. And the scoops swivel out of the way if they encounter anything solid, so the dredge does not destroy such protuberances. Best of all, from the fisherman’s point of view, it takes less effort to float a dredge on water jets than it does to drag it across the uneven surface of the seabed. That makes Dr Goudey’s new device a more fuel-efficient way to fish than the traditional method.

Having assessed a prototype both in a laboratory tank and in the sea off the coast of Massachusetts, Dr Goudey was recently invited by the University of Wales to test his invention against a traditional dredge. New and old designs were dropped from the stern of a trawler and towed across the seabed off the Isle of Man. They each caught the same number of scallops. The new dredge, though, damaged the catch much less than the traditional one.

Most of what humans do is considered damage to the environment, at least by the strongest of environmentalists. And unfortunately, with the old dredging technique, they have somewhat of a point. There was very little way to capture the externality of damage done to the environment. So the environmentalists resort to their only tactic: ban it immediately.

But look at what happens when the market is able to innovate? They find a better way of doing it. It catches the same number of scallops, so it’s just as effective. It uses less energy, so it makes more money. And even better, it causes less damage to the scallops, so they can likely be sold for a higher price (earning more money). So fishermen make more money, the environment is not damaged, and consumers get higher-quality scallops. We’ve all become richer– due to capitalism.

The Cult Of Death

An Australian medical expert has called for a $ 5,000 per child tax for any family with more than two children:

COUPLES who have more than two children should be charged a lifelong tax to offset their extra offspring’s carbon dioxide emissions, a medical expert says.

The report in an Australian medical journal called for parents to be charged $5000 a head for every child after their second, and an annual tax of up to $800.

And couples who were sterilised would be eligible for carbon credits under the controversial proposal.

(…)

“Every family choosing to have more than a defined number of children should be charged a carbon tax that would fund the planting of enough trees to offset the carbon cost generated by a new human being,” said Prof Walters, an obstetrician at King Edward Memorial Hospital.

Along the same lines, the British media ran a story a few weeks ago about a woman who had herself sterlizd to “protect the planet:”

Had Toni Vernelli gone ahead with her pregnancy ten years ago, she would know at first hand what it is like to cradle her own baby, to have a pair of innocent eyes gazing up at her with unconditional love, to feel a little hand slipping into hers – and a voice calling her Mummy.

But the very thought makes her shudder with horror.

Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.

Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible “mistake” of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time.

He refused, but Toni – who works for an environmental charity – “relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery.

Finally, eight years ago, Toni got her way.

At the age of 27 this young woman at the height of her reproductive years was sterilised to “protect the planet”.

Incredibly, instead of mourning the loss of a family that never was, her boyfriend (now husband) presented her with a congratulations card.

There was a time when the birth of a child, any child, was a time of celebration and, for most sane people, that is still the case. For this new breed of environmentalists, though, the birth of a child, if not the very existence of humanity itself, is a cause for despair, not a cause for celebration. To them, human beings are a scourge upon an otherwise pristine paradise.

Now, it’s not surprising that people like this exist; doomsday cults of one kind or another have existed as long as human civilization. Usually, though, they are recognized for the nuts that they are.

Today, though, they are lauded as visionaries.

Weather Channel Founder, John Coleman: Global Warming ‘Greatest Scam in History’

It is the greatest scam in history. I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming; It is a SCAM. Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create an illusion of rapid global warming. Other scientists of the same environmental whacko type jumped into the circle to support and broaden the “research” to further enhance the totally slanted, bogus global warming claims. Their friends in government steered huge research grants their way to keep the movement going. Soon they claimed to be a consensus.

Environmental extremists, notable politicians among them, then teamed up with movie, media and other liberal, environmentalist journalists to create this wild “scientific” scenario of the civilization threatening environmental consequences from Global Warming unless we adhere to their radical agenda. Now their ridiculous manipulated science has been accepted as fact and become a cornerstone issue for CNN, CBS, NBC, the Democratic Political Party, the Governor of California, school teachers and, in many cases, well informed but very gullible environmentally conscientious citizens. Only one reporter at ABC has been allowed to counter the Global Warming frenzy with one 15 minute documentary segment.

I do not oppose environmentalism. I do not oppose the political positions of either party. However, Global Warming, i.e. Climate Change, is not about environmentalism or politics. It is not a religion. It is not something you “believe in.” It is science; the science of meteorology. This is my field of life-long expertise. And I am telling you Global Warming is a non-event, a manufactured crisis and a total scam. I say this knowing you probably won’t believe a me, a mere TV weatherman, challenging a Nobel Prize, Academy Award and Emmy Award winning former Vice President of United States. So be it.

I have read dozens of scientific papers. I have talked with numerous scientists. I have studied. I have thought about it. I know I am correct. There is no run away climate change. The impact of humans on climate is not catastrophic. Our planet is not in peril. I am incensed by the incredible media glamour, the politically correct silliness and rude dismissal of counter arguments by the high priest of Global Warming.

In time, a decade or two, the outrageous scam will be obvious. As the temperature rises, polar ice cap melting, coastal flooding and super storm pattern all fail to occur as predicted everyone will come to realize we have been duped. The sky is not falling. And, natural cycles and drifts in climate are as much if not more responsible for any climate changes underway. I strongly believe that the next twenty years are equally as likely to see a cooling trend as they are to see a warming trend.

Who should we believe: John Coleman, meteorologist and the founder of the Weather Channel or Al Gore, political hack? And to think that I thought the debate on global warming was over!

Hat Tip: News Busters

Government Funding of Science: Inherently Susceptible to Junk and Superstition.

I recently discovered the thoroughly enjoyable podcast put out by Skepticality magazine, and was browsing through some past ‘casts, when I stumbled across an interview (in Podcast #59) with Lori Lipman-Brown, a lobbyist in the employ of the Secular Coalition of America. The interview was pretty wide ranging, but at one point it focused on a battle in the U.S. House of Representatives concerning stem cell research. She recounted how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had attempted to use an interpretation of Christian theology to buttress her position. She criticized Nancy Pelosi as follows:

“We were flabbergasted when we heard her start saying that ‘stem cells are a gift from God’ and that ‘stemcell research is biblically based’ in her arguments. I mean she was going to vote the right way, but this was her argument to get other people to vote the right way. And the reason this is really horrific is-our argument is whether or not you allow stem cell research to progress shouldn’t be based on your theology, because if it is just a competition between whose theology is right. I mean President Bush, when he vetoes these bills, he bases it on God and the Bible also and his interpretation. … Making this a competition of whose theology wins is not appropriate. What you need to do is to say ‘Look this is science, this is not – we can’t have the government imposing anyone’s theology – you know, this is research, this is not about what someone’s religious belief is.” – I transcribed this myself – any deviation from what was actually said is a mistake rather than malice – tarran

In effect, she was opposed to a minority being able to block some bit of government funding for research based on moral objections rooted in superstitious beliefs.

Roman Scientific Research Into Agricultural ForecastingThis seems a reasonable position at first blush, but is, in fact, a highly immoral and, frankly impossible proposition. Let us turn to our old friends the Nazis for a demonstration, since they make for great reductio ad absurdum argumentation. » 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.

The Endangered Species People Act

(WSB Radio) — Despite the threat of legal action by Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Army Corps of Engineers says it has no plans to reduce the release of water from Lake Lanier and Lake Allatoona.

Army Major Darren Payne tells WSB’s Pete Combs the Corps is required by law to send water down the Chattahoochee River to protect endangered wildlife, power plants and water needs along the river.

“At the moment there’s not a whole lot we can do,” said Payne. Gov. Perdue has given the Corps a deadline of today to respond to the state’s demand to reduce the amount of water, under the threat of legal action.

Payne says the Corps will continue to release 2 billion gallons of water a day.

“We cannot deviate without some action being taken on the endangered species act or special legislation,” said Payne.

Ah, the Endangered Species Act strikes again! A law which has arguably done more to undermine property rights in our country than any other could potentially endanger the lives of Georgians. The Army Corps of Engineers apparently has no choice but to follow the law as it is currently written meaning the federally protected mussels and sturgeons have priority over the people of Georgia.

As Gov. Sonny Perdue threatened legal action, the Georgia delegation to the U.S. House as well as both of the state’s senators introduced legislation to amend the ESA to allow states to be exempt from the law if either the Secretary of the Army or the state’s governor declare emergency drought conditions (Personally, I would prefer a complete repeal of the ESA but this proposal seems like a reasonable enough compromise for now).

I fail to understand where the controversy is. Does anyone really want to argue that these animals should have priority over American citizens who are being forced to cut back their water usage so they can have water to drink, bathe, and clean with? Outrageous!

Neal Boortz proposed a rather interesting idea: the governor should order the Georgia National Guard to seize the dam from the Corps of Engineers. I have no idea of what the legalities of doing such a thing are and other legal options should be exhausted first, but I believe one could make a good case for doing just that. During the War of 1812, at least one governor who opposed the war refused to allow U.S. troops to come into his state. If one were to look at a more contemporary example, certain “sanctuary cities” refuse to enforce federal immigration laws.

While I normally advocate the rule of law, it seems to me that if cities and states can pick and choose the federal laws they wish to follow, then ignoring the ESA in this emergency seems to be quite appropriate. Endangered species should never have the ability to endanger people.

Is Ron Paul’s Foreign Policy Good For America ?

Last week, the Manchester Union-Leader, one of the leading newspapers in New Hampshire, and well-known for having a conservative editorial page, criticized Ron Paul’s foreign policy views as the same type of isolationism that gripped the Republican Party, and the nation, in the years prior to Pearl Harbor.

Today, Ron Paul responds in a column in which he says that he advocates the same foreign policy as the Founding Fathers, a foreign policy that would still work today

If I understand the editors’ concerns, I have not been accused of deviating from the Founders’ logic; if anything I have been accused of adhering to it too strictly. The question, therefore, before readers — and soon voters — is the same question I have asked for almost 20 years in Congress: by what superior wisdom have we now declared Jefferson, Washington, and Madison to be “unrealistic and dangerous”? Why do we insist on throwing away their most considered warnings?

Well, one legitimate reason for thinking that this might be that the foreign policy that guided a nation of a few million people situated on the Atlantic seaboard in an era when the nearest threatening nation was weeks away by sailing ship might not be entirely applicable in guiding a nation of several hundred million spread across a continent in an era when weapons capable of annihilating a city can be delivered within hours, or delivered without warning in a cargo container. Or when a commodity that is, quite literally, the lifeblood of the world economy could be held hostage.

I’m not saying that the Founding Fathers were wrong, just that even they might have a different view of the world if they lived in the one we did.

Paul goes on to describe what his vision of a non-interventionist foreign policy would be:

A non-interventionist foreign policy is not an isolationist foreign policy. It is quite the opposite. Under a Paul administration, the United States would trade freely with any nation that seeks to engage with us. American citizens would be encouraged to visit other countries and interact with other peoples rather than be told by their own government that certain countries are off limits to them.

American citizens would be allowed to spend their hard-earned money wherever they wish across the globe, not told that certain countries are under embargo and thus off limits. An American trade policy would encourage private American businesses to seek partners overseas and engage them in trade. The hostility toward American citizens overseas in the wake of our current foreign policy has actually made it difficult if not dangerous for Americans to travel abroad. Is this not an isolationist consequence from a policy of aggressive foreign interventionism?

On the surface, Paul makes a point about the blowback that comes from aggressive interventionism without regard for consequences. That, quite honestly, is a fairly good description of the history of American involvement in the Middle East for the past several decades. Whether through ignorance or stupidity, the United States has engaged in policies that have served more to create resentment than to actually solve the problems that they were directed at.

But Paul’s criticism of embargoes as a tool of foreign policy, and his suggestion that the United States should not have any concern about radical or expansionist regimes obtaining potentially dangerous technology strikes me as a bit naive.

As Stephen Green points out, does this mean that Ron Paul would have no problem with American high tech firms selling the latest technologies to regimes like Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syira, or North Korea ? Or with General Electric and Honeywell competing with the the Russians to decide who will sell the Iranians the latest nuclear reactor technology ? Only the most naive view of foreign intentions would assert that these regimes will simply go away and play nice if the United States withdrew from the world in the manner that he suggests, and that regimes led by men who have already made clear they apocalyptic visions will suddently turn peaceful.

Neville Chamberlin was wrong about that in 1938, and its still wrong today.

Or, as Stephen points out:

In 1940, The Imperial Japanese Navy was made from American scrap metal, and powered by American oil — as it shelled Chinese coastal cities. We should be proud that in 1941, we stopped selling oil and scrap iron to Japan. And we should be prouder still, that by 1945 the US Navy had reduced the Japanese fleet back into scrap. And we should be just as proud today that we’re using our strength and influence to prevent rogue regimes from gaining access to nuclear materials.

Why ? Because it’s in our national interest to prevent them from having those weapons and, unlike 1789, the national interests of the United States don’t stop at the Atlantic seaboard.

I like Ron Paul and I support him because he is the most pro-liberty candidate to run for President in a generation, if not longer. Whatever happens to his campaign, I would like to think that it will have positive benefits for the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, because it will remind people that we still exist and that we still matter. Like many libertarians, though, his foreign policy, when taken to it’s logical extreme to the extent he does in this Op-Ed response, simply doesn’t work in the modern world.

The New Inquisition

This is just too funny for words: NASA Global Warming Data had “Y2K Bug”

I say again, the concept of current anthropogenic climate change; except in the case of localized micro-climates; holds no scientific water.

Honest scientists will tell you the same thing if pressed (and if their funding doesn’t depend on it), but the agenda politics of todays science (admittedly on both sides of the political spectrum, but generally on different subjects), prevents real, honest, science from occurring anymore; or from being reported if and when it is (the record of suppressing global warming debunkers is long and shameless at this point)

The honest numbers are simple. Global temperatures have risen an average of less than 1 degree centigrade since measurements started being taken. There is no “sudden and precipitous increase”. There is no hockey stick; it was a lie, and even the climate change people have admitted it. The ice caps aren’t melting, in fact in most areas they are thickening slightly. The sea level isn’t rising.

Since temperature recordings have begun, volcanic eruptions have put more carbon into the atmosphere, and caused more temperature change than all of human industry; but it wasn’t by increasing temperatures with carbon, it was by decreasing them with dust in the air.

The world has been far colder than today at times when there was far more carbon in the atmosphere; even without more dust. The world has been far warmer than today with far less carbon in the air.

The amount of anthropogenic carbon in the atmosphere is less than one half of one percent of all carbon (the vast majority is released by soil, and rotting vegetation); and considering how small a percentage of our atmosphere carbon and carbon compounds (between 0.03 and 0.06 percent. Not between 3% and 6%, 3 one hundredths of a percent); that amount is completely insignificant to climate change.

All existing climate change can be fully and scientifically explained by natural endothermic cycles, and the fluctuation in output of the sun (because earth is an exothermic system). The suns output has varied greatly over the course of human history (and of course long before), and periods of warming and cooling have tracked right along with that output.

The climate IS changing, and has since the moment the earth formed a climate. As near as we can tell (through Ice core samples and the like) there has never been a period of more than 200 years without at least a 1 degree change in global average temperatures.

The climate will continue to change on its own; and nothing humans do will change global climate significantly one way or the other… unless it’s something that actually would kill us all (incredibly massive particulate pollution over a high percentage of the earths surface – including the oceans – would do it. It would trigger massive warming, followed rapidly by an ice age; and likely kill all crops and food animals in the process, along with at least 80% of humanity, if not more).

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t attempt to develop better sources of energy, we should. We aren’t going to “run out” of oil, ever in fact; a basic understanding of economics would show that; but, oil is going to get more and more expensive as time goes on, and petroleum based fuels are inefficient, and do contribute to micro climate pollution.

In many ways, doing things greener IS in fact better. Saving energy is generally a very good thing. Not polluting is generally a good thing. When it isn’t, is when it destroys economies, prevents job growth, reduces food production, increases food prices, and all the other ways that forced greenism (I won’t even call it environmentalism, because it isn’t doing the environment much good), causes pain, suffering, misery, and general reductions in peoples health, quality of life, standard of living, and basic liberties.

“Climate change” isn’t about the environment; it’s about giving financial and political control to anti-western, anti-capitalists. It’s about punishing those rich capitalist nations and people, for not being poor socialists. It isn’t science, it’s a pseudo-scientific political movement and near religion. The adherents don’t need any proof, because they have faith; and any who challenge that faith must be burned as heretics in their new inquisition.

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

1 2 3 4