Category Archives: Environment

Tom Martino’s ‘Hot Button’ Earth Day Rant

I just happened to come across this wonderful rant from Tom Martino concerning Earth Day and environmentalism. For those of you who live outside the Denver media market, Tom Martino (a.k.a. ‘The Troubleshooter’) isn’t a political commentator per se but a consumer advocate with both a radio and TV show (similar to Clark Howard, but unlike Howard he does endorse products and services).

So what’s getting this apolitical consumer advocate so worked up concerning Earth Day?

Answer: the fact that the environment has become a Left/Right political issue. The Left uses the environment to ‘fear monger’ citizens into accepting bigger government while some on the Right dismiss the need to combat pollution altogether. Isn’t there a middle ground?

 

Martino hit on two main points about improving the environment which bear repeating: environmental education and technology. I know first hand that the construction industry’s big mantra right now is ‘sustainable design.’ Engineers, architects, MEP professionals, contractors, and designers at every level are receiving training for LEED certification to make their designs more energy efficient and better for the environment. Being LEED certified helps these individuals become more marketable in a very difficult economy (I’m considering receiving this training myself) and nearly every new building design has a LEED rating or some sort of sustainability rating.

The latest CAD and BIM software packages have better tools to calculate energy use, water use, emissions, and the overall carbon footprint of the building in the construction phase as well as the overall expected life of the building. There is definitely a market demand for efficiency in these designs; one does not have to buy into man made global warming or be of a particular political philosophy to realize the benefits (both from an economic and environmental standpoint).

The market plays a role and yes, sometimes reasonable government regulation does as well. Who among us would like to return to a time when automobiles had 12 mpg or less and belched giant black clouds of smoke? One only need spend a few minutes behind the tailpipe of one of these cars* to appreciate just how clean burning modern engines are. It’s in the auto industry’s best interests to make their vehicles even more fuel efficient and cleaner burning, not because government demands them but because consumers demand them.

Perhaps Earth Day is a political day but it doesn’t have to be. I tend to believe there are a good number of people out there who have a similar view of Earth Day, the environment, and environmental policy as Tom Martino who just happen to not be as outspoken as he is. It’s definitely nice to hear someone verbalize and broadcast what many of us are already thinking and is certainly a message worthy of recycling.

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Obama’s April Fools Joke

Yesterday, President Obama announced a new plan that supposedly announced new drilling off the nation’s East Coast, Alaskan Coast, and Gulf of Mexico. State run media proclaimed it as Obama moving to the center and striking a balance between environmentalists and the “drill, baby, drill” crowd. However, once you look at Obama’s actual proposal the truth is much different.

Rick Moran writes a piece for Pajamas Media today that illustrates the bait and switch Obama pulls on the American people.

Sounding for all the world like someone who just experienced a “road to Damascus” moment on energy, Barack Obama embraced offshore drilling for oil and ordered wide swaths of previously pristine ocean open to the depredations of greedy and rapacious oil companies.

Or if you’re not one of Obama’s wacky green supporters, Obama gave the go-ahead for tapping the biggest expansion of energy reserves in history.

Or did he?

In fact, what Obama giveth with one hand, he taketh away with another. Some leases already in motion have been canceled while potentially huge deposits of oil and natural gas are still off-limits, including the entire Pacific coastline of the United States from the Mexican border to Canada. In addition, in order to expand drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the president must get the authorization of Congress. This would have been a snap when gas was $4 a gallon, but is much less a certainty today.

Other leases that had been approved in Alaska have also been canceled for further environmental study. Of course, the president didn’t even bother to mention the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — sacred calving grounds of the porcupine caribou — which would yield as many barrels of oil as all the areas the president opened for drilling combined. And the slow motion approval process guarantees that I will be retired and getting to and from our little grocery store here in Streator, Illinois, riding a donkey before a drop of that East Coast oil makes it to market.

What is the point of this welcome but ultimately less-than-half measure to expand our domestic oil production? Note the word “drill” used in just about every headline in the media about this story. The president is sending a signal to the American people that he has heard their cries of “drill, baby drill” and has deigned to respond favorably. Citizens will think better of him for it, despite the fact that it will not increase domestic oil production until the president is long out of office and considered an elder statesmen. Perhaps he will have been elected president of the world by then, but if we’re still in Afghanistan I wouldn’t bet on it.

Yeah, so much for “drill, baby, drill”. Plus, Obama made this announcement in front of a F/A-18 Hornet fighter that is slated to run on a mix of 50% jet fuel and 50% biofuels on Earth Day. This “drilling” announcement was designed to position Obama towards the center while at the same time bribing squishy Republicans who are open towards voting for cap and tax along with “moderate” and “conservative” Democrats who are reluctant to vote for it. As expected, state run media lapped it up and dutifully reported it as Obama wanted them to and to complete the disinformation campaign, they even found far left politicians and activists who were outraged.

Ultimately, this proposal is simply just an early April Fool’s joke by Barack Obama on the American people. It takes away existing oil leases and ultimately does not expand drilling in the US while at the same time giving Obama political cover to push cap and tax and the rest of his “green energy” subsidies. Unlike most April Fool’s jokes, this one is not funny. Instead, it will ultimately cost the average American family at least $1500 more a year in energy costs.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Bureaucratic Environmental Protection Agency

The proprietor of Coyote Blog is an entrepreneur specializing in operating camping & recreation facilities. Recently he’s been moving from big pick-up trucks to much smaller, more fuel-efficient, cheaper used Japanese trucks. That is, until the EPA barred their import:

These are trucks that are from an emissions regime (in Japan) harsher than ours and that have three times the gas mileage of the trucks they are replacing. But apparently the EPA doesn’t have rules for them and doesn’t know how to categorize them, and anything a bureaucrat doesn’t have rules for must be illegal, right? So now we are forced to go back to full-size pickup truck purchases until the EPA can catch up with the market.

Your government at work. Causing higher pollution and higher domestic energy usage by banning imports completely until they can fully study the matter — rather than allowing a variance and continuing to import from a more stringent country while doing their study.

But hey, I’m sure Government Motors is happy for the business Coyote might end up sending their way. No conflict of interest there, right?

A Must Watch on “Climate Change” from Climate Skeptic

Warren is local to me (he lives about three miles away actually), and runs both the excellent libertarian small business and economics blog CoyoteBlog, and the absolutely essential climate blog Climate Skeptic.

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

Why Cash For Caulkers Is Good [If Not Libertarian] Public Policy

As a libertarian, I spend a lot of time railing against idiotic government giveaways. The TARP, the Porkulus Stimulus, and Cash For Clunkers all took copious levels of heat. I derided them for various reasons:

TARP: Notwithstanding the wide-ranging areas this money was targeted to (i.e. auto bailouts) and the fact that when it was determined it would lose less than planned the difference would be spent elsewhere, this was nothing more than a bald-faced attempt to shore up balance sheets to forestall economic reality. I said at the time that much of this activity was designed to slow down the contraction and hope that the economy could grow out of the doldrums in the meantime, but that it risks causing rampant inflation when money velocity actually picks up. Worst, it had the potential for the government to buy the worst garbage paper the banks had on offer, essentially being an economic sinkhole of major proportions. Luckily it has not been as bad as anticipated, largely because government meddling in the internal affairs of banks has caused them to try like hell to pay it back quickly and get themselves out from under its terms.

Stimulus: The stimulus was billed as a way to jumpstart shovel-ready infrastructure projects, but it was quickly apparent that the only thing shoveled was a load of BS. Stimulus was little more than a giveaway to state and local governments to continue spending beyond the ability of their states to support and reward them for overspending the proceeds of economic expansion as if the bubble would never pop. While employment has plummeted in the private sector, government is growing — never a good sign to a libertarian. Here in high-tax California, we need to slash our state public sector, not bail it out.

Cash for clunkers: Billed as a stimulus and environmental program, cash for clunkers was pure destruction of economic value. Cars with an average market value of roughly $1500 — productive, useful assets — were rendered completely inoperable. In a perverse unintended consequence, it dried up the supply of older used cars (and thus increased the price of said cars), hurting some of the poor who might not be able to afford better vehicles. Paying people to dig and then fill up holes would have been economically stupid, but cash for clunkers is the equivalent of asking them to put uranium in those holes so that hole could never be safely dug again. Pure economic insanity.

But Cash for Caulkers is somewhat different. For those unfamiliar with the proposed program, it gives tax subsidies to people who work to make their homes more energy-efficient. The draft would provide a 50% rebate on materials and labor up to $12K per household. As a libertarian, I don’t much believe that the government should have the responsibility to fix economic burst bubbles. But this particular policy has several features that make it much more effective and efficient economic stimulus than much of what the federal government has done.

  • This policy primarily targets those in the building/construction trade, arguably the hardest hit of the economic downturn. Since the housing bubble was partially created by bad government policy, it is at least preferable to help these folks find a more orderly transition than the welfare line.
  • Home weatherization and energy efficiency is often a large initial expense with a long time horizon to pay back. Due to increased social and geographic mobility, it is often ignored by homeowners who don’t know if they’ll be in their homes long enough to make the efficiency gains worth it. Thus, improvements in home energy efficiency are underproduced by the market.
  • Because this will reduce energy consumption in some homes, it may have the positive externality of reducing demand on energy for all users (thus hopefully lowering price). Again, this positive externality suggests that energy efficiency improvements are underproduced by the market.
  • Finally, unlike Cash-for-clunkers, which destroyed and replaced useful economic assets, Cash for Caulkers actually improves existing economic assets. There is a lasting economic benefit to reduced energy usage for the present and future owners of these homes.

Of course, I cannot claim that I’m in favor of this program. The positive aspects I list above are ascribed to my ideal cash-for-caulkers policy, which I am certain will not closely resemble what comes out of the sausage-factory on Capitol Hill. Waste, fraud, and abuse are certain to be rampant. In a cost-benefit analysis of the size of the program, one can’t assume Congress will determine either cost or benefit rationally. It is picking economic winners and losers, which is partly responsible for getting us into the Great Recession in the first place. And finally, while it might have been an interesting idea BEFORE the TARP, stimulus, and cash for clunkers, I think we’ve already gone so far into deficit spending that it’s a good idea to stop while we’re only a few trillion behind. It appears that the country has hired Barack Obama to dig a deficit hole and [hopefully] fill it back up, but he simply refuses to stop digging.

So if I’m not in favor of the program, why am I writing this post? Frankly, it’s because I saw the level of derision that the policy got on several fronts (including from Jon Stewart). Done properly (which I don’t expect Congress to be capable of delivering), it would have been a timely program that helps those who are most affected by the housing crash while improving existing assets that might not be otherwise improved. Done properly, it could actually be seen as an investment in our future — and by that I mean an actual investment, not simply “spending”, which is politicospeak for that word.

It might sound silly, but home weatherization actually has potential at being smart policy. After a year of horrible, bad, not-very-good-at-all government spending and giveaway programs, to see one that actually has promise shouldn’t cause scorn and derision as its primary reactions.

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