Thursday, April 04, 2013

Green Tyranny

John Stossel

Environmental activists and politicians would like you to think that we must love their regulations -- or hate trees and animals.

I love trees and animals. But you can love nature and still hate the tyranny that environmental regulations bring.

The Environmental Protection Agency just announced it will boost gas prices ("only" a penny, although industry says 6 to 9 cents) to make another minuscule improvement to air quality.

In New York City, my mayor wants to ban Styrofoam cups, saying, "I think it's something we can do without."

Congress already dictates the design of our cars, toilets and light bulbs.

Originally, environmental rules were a good thing. I love the free market, but it doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution. I could sue polluters for violating my property rights, but under our legal system, that's not even close to practical.

So in the '70s, government passed rules that demanded we stop polluting the air and water. Industry put scrubbers in smokestacks. Towns installed sewage treatment. Now the air is quite clean, and I can swim in the rivers around Manhattan.

But government didn't stop there. Government never stops. Now that the air is cleaner, government spends even more than it spent to clean the air to subsidize feeble methods of energy production, like windmills and solar panels. Activists want even more spending. A few years back, the Center for American Progress announced they were upset that "Germany, Spain and China Are Seizing the Energy Opportunity ... the United States Risks Getting Left Behind."

In this case, we're better off "left behind." After spending billions, those European governments made no breakthroughs, and now they're cutting back.

The Endangered Species Act was another noble idea. We all want to save polar bears. But now the bureaucrats make it almost impossible for some people to improve their own property.

Louisiana landowner Edward Poitevent wants to build homes and offices north of Lake Pontchartrain. He could provide safe high-ground housing to people eager to move away from areas that were flooded during Hurricane Katrina. But he is not allowed to build because the government decided 1,500 acres of his land should become a preservation area for a threatened species called the dusky gopher frog. None of these frogs currently live on his property. Poitevent told me, "The Fish and Wildlife Service has certified that the frog has not been seen in the state of Louisiana since 1967."

Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they were "not available" to talk with me about this. Instead, they posted a video on YouTube that says they work "with" landowners: "The Service has many voluntary partnership-based programs that can provide technical and financial assistance to manage species."

That sounds nice, but the government's handbook on how to work with them is an onerous 315 pages long.

The environmentalists so torment those who resist their schemes that some landowners tell each other, "If you find an endangered species, shoot, shovel and shut up!" That's mostly a joke. But it does happen, and it's one more way government regulations backfire.

Throughout the world, most reductions in pollution have been achieved because of capitalism, not government control.

Fracking for natural gas reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Even much-hated coal and oil provide benefits. Science writer Matt Ridley says, "Burning of fossil fuels is helping the rainforest in the Amazon to grow."

Ridley also points out modern industrial farming allows people to grow more food on less land, and so people cut down fewer trees. "New England used to be 70 percent farmland -- it's now 70 percent forest."

You can even see the difference between areas that get greener and ones that don't from space: The Dominican Republic is noticeably greener than its immediate neighbor, Haiti, mainly because the Dominican Republic uses fossil fuel instead of burning wood from its forests for fuel, as Haiti does.

Industry and technology, not regulations, are humanity's greatest contribution to the environment. Leave people their freedom, and they come up with new, smarter, more efficient and thus cleaner ways of doing things. Stifling that process with regulation isn't "progressive."


IMF calls on U.S. to institute $500 billion carbon tax

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called upon the U.S., its largest contributor, to levy a $500 billion a year carbon tax on consumers to offset what it calls “underpriced” oil, coal, and other energy products.

This “mispricing” is supposedly leading to “excessive energy consumption,” which is “accelerating the depletion of natural resources” and contributing to climate change.

“The IMF is lobbying on behalf of environmentalist radicals, arguing that not implementing a half-trillion dollar a year carbon tax is a de facto energy subsidy,” Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson wrote in a letter to members of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade.

The IMF study, published on Jan. 28, states, “Consumer subsidies include two components: a pre-tax subsidy (if the price paid by firms and households is below supply and distribution costs) and a tax subsidy (if taxes are below their efficient level).”

In a statement, Wilson called the IMF’s view “warped.” He added, “not taxing being construed as a subsidy that economically crowds out anything is as Orwellian as it gets. There is no level of deception these people will not stoop to in order to hide their true ends.”

The study justifies these taxes as preventing climate change: “The efficient taxation of energy further requires corrective taxes to capture negative environmental and other externalities due to energy use (such as global warming and local pollution).”

In a March 27 interview, the IMF’s head of fiscal affairs, Carlo Cottarelli said, “Even where countries impose taxes on energy, they’re rarely high enough to account for all of the adverse effects of excessive energy consumption, including on the environment.”

Cottarelli claimed that not taxing carbon emissions in the U.S. by $500 billion a year “crowd[s] out public spending that can boost growth, including on infrastructure, education, and health care. Cheap energy can also lead to overconsumption of energy, which aggravates environmental problems, such as pollution and climate change.”

“Just think about what Cottarelli said. It’s a completely distorted view of reality. It is higher energy costs and increased taxes are what would actually dampen consumer spending in other areas,” Wilson explained.

Therefore, Wilson said, the IMF-proposed carbon tax is “just a means to an end by increasing governmental power over other these other areas of the economy, like health care and education, for one by raising $500 billion a year in additional revenue.”

“By strangling the economy for money and restricting energy consumption, people will naturally turn to governments for sustenance since producing value in the private sector will come at a much higher premium. What good is a job in the U.S. economy if a person cannot afford to drive there?” Wilson asked.

He also criticized the IMF for bailing out Greece, Portugal, and Ireland with $86.6 billion of bailouts, which the U.S. has contributed about $17 billion to, and the IMF’s role in levying a €5.8 billion savings deposit tax in Cyprus.

Wilson said the U.S. “should have nothing more to do with this radical outfit,” and called on Congress to reject the Obama Administration’s budget request to double the nation’s quota subscription in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to $130 billion from its current $65 billion level, converting part of the nation’s current $100 billion line of credit to the IMF.

If the Obama request was fulfilled, it would keep the nation’s total stake in the IMF at $165 billion.

“Not only should that request be rejected, but Congress ought to withdraw our quota subscription altogether, along with the $100 billion line of credit,” Wilson added in his letter to the House subcommittee, concluding, “Taxpayers should not be propping up bankrupt socialist states and the banks that fund them, let alone financing the lobbying efforts of radical environmentalists.”


"Frankenol" – End the Madness

The word “gasoline” no longer characterizes the stuff we put into our cars. Due to regulations forced on the refining industry, “Frankenol” might be more accurate.

This government-engineered, market-distorting fuel is a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol (E10). Originally conceived to breathe life into the fledgling U.S. ethanol industry and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, continued tinkering with the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) has turned the program into a nightmare.

The RFS requires refiners to blend increasing amounts of ethanol into the nation’s fuel pool annually. Last year they were responsible for blending a minimum of 13.2 billion gallons. This year the figure is higher at 13.8 billion gallons. By 2022, the RFS mandate will require 36 billion gallons.

To document compliance, refiners track the RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers) applied to every gallon of ethanol purchased, or they buy paper RINs which are credits paid to ethanol producers. In either case, refiners have to spend real money to comply with the law.

In creating the RSF program, the government assumed that gasoline demand would continue to rise.  It was wrong. With more fuel-efficient vehicles, a lackluster economy, and higher prices at the pump, gasoline demand has declined to the lowest level in 18 years.

As a result, refiners are stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place: They have had to reduce fuel production because demand is down; yet they have to comply with the increasing ethanol mandate.  This means they are buying more ethanol credits in the form of RINs but purchasing fewer gallons of ethanol. As a result, millions of gallons of corn-based ethanol are sitting in storage tanks, while the price of RINs has climbed 20-fold in the last 90 days. Industry analyst Byron King says the RIN credit gimmick has "added a dime, or more, per gallon to the national fuel bill in the first quarter of 2013 – in the face of stagnant or declining oil prices."

But that’s just part of the RFS’s market distorting impact. Ethanol contains less energy than crude oil-based gasoline, so motorists have to fill-up more often and needlessly spend more money. Furthermore, an estimated 42 percent of the nation’s 2012 corn crop will be consumed to make ethanol.  Artificially driving up corn prices – particularly when much of the farm belt was drought stricken - has resulted in more expensive meat, poultry, and countless food products leaving consumers to bear the burden.

Research by the Heritage Foundation conducted last year indicated that U.S. ethanol production was responsible for increasing the price of corn by up to 68 percent. Stanford University’s Center for Food Security and the Environment  warned, “Poor households in the developing world, where 70-80% of the budget is spent on food, [are] hurt the most.”

And there’s more. Ethanol producers looking to create a larger market for their fuel have convinced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow the sale of E15, a fuel blend containing up to 15 percent ethanol. However, as AAA warns, E15 could "void car manufacturers warranties" since 95% of the nation's 240 million light duty vehicles can't handle the concoction.  E15 "could result in significant problems such as accelerated engine wear and failure (and) fuel-system damage," according to AAA.

If that’s not bad enough, Son of RFS (RFS2) contains volumetric mandates for other biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol – although no commercial quantities of the advanced fuel are even available.  For failing to use this fantasy fuel that can't be found, the EPA fined energy companies $6.8 million. Thankfully, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against the EPA and overturned the imposition of the phantom fuel fines.

One would think the judges’ ruling would stop this regulatory insanity. It didn’t. A few days after losing in court, the EPA mandated that 62 percent more cellulosic ethanol be blended into motor fuel in 2013.

However well intended way back when, the RFS is another example of government market intervention that has turned out badly. The RFS is casting a large, menacing and costly shadow over the production and marketing of motor fuels. Rather than making fuels better, it is making them worse. Rather than helping American consumers, it is siphoning money from their pockets.

Frankenol and its ugly Frankenfuel stepchildren should be abandoned on the scrap heap of failed policy prescriptions before they can cause more harm. Congress should repeal the RFS.


States show folly of energy mandates

With the Keystone XL pipeline on its way to final approval and President Obama’s picks to head the Departments of Energy and Interior announced, deep-pocketed environmental lobbying groups and activists that are a key part of the Democratic base are formulating their goals and agenda for Obama’s second term.

While Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has introduced carbon tax legislation, it is unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled House; and rather than make another attempt at cap and trade, which the Democrats couldn’t pass when they controlled all of Washington during Obama’s first two years in office, many think the next play will be for a national renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) that would mandate that a certain percentage of the nation’s electricity be produced from renewable sources.

Fortunately there are the states, those fifty laboratories of democracy as former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis referred to them, to show us the negative impact that a national renewable energy standard would have. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia already have a renewable energy mandate on the books. These mandates inject government into the business decisions of utility companies, requiring them to procure energy from more costly and less reliable sources than they otherwise would.

The increased energy costs produced by renewable mandates are passed along to consumers in the form of higher utility bills. According to the Institute for Energy Research, utility bills in states with a renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) are 40 percent higher on average than in states without one.

While the Sierra Club and many Congressional Democrats dream of enacting a national RPS, over a dozen bills have been introduced this year to repeal a number of them at the state level. In fact, a bill that would repeal North Carolina’s RPS will be heard in committee later this week.

In 2007, North Carolina became the first state in the South to impose a renewable energy portfolio standard. Since then, two things have occurred: 1) Enough time has passed that the economic harm wrought by the state’s energy mandate has become evident and 2) The composition of the state legislature has become more amenable to repealing misguided regulations like the state’s RPS.

Republicans won majorities in the state legislature in 2010 and took total control of state government for the first time in over 100 years with the election of former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory as governor last November.

Last month, Representative Mike Hager (R) introduced HB 298, legislation that would repeal North Carolina’s energy mandate. A companion bill was introduced in the state senate shortly thereafter. While an RPS repeal effort stalled in Kansas earlier this year due in large part to the political clout of the wind industry in that state, the North Carolina legislation has a shot of passing. And it’s not hard to see why, given the strong case had by proponents of RPS repeal.

North Carolina residents are all too aware of the way in which energy mandates drive up consumer costs. During the decade immediately preceding enactment of the state’s renewable energy mandate, utility bills in North Carolina grew by an average of 1.7 percent per year. Since the mandate’s imposition in 2009, utility bills have increase by an average of 2.29 percent — a 33 percent jump compared to the annual rate of growth prior to passage of the state’s RPS.

A John Locke Foundation study found that North Carolina’s renewable energy mandate, if it remains in place, would increase electricity costs for consumers by $1.8 billion and result in the loss of 3,500 jobs by 2021, the year in which the law is fully phased in and requires North Carolina utilities to generate 7.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. The report also found that the state RPS will depress economic growth and reduce in-state investment.

Repeal of the North Carolina’s RPS would stimulate the state economy by increasing disposable income for individuals and families, while raising the job-creating capacity of employers. The necessity of RPS repeal is all the more urgent in light of the state’s 9.4 percent unemployment rate, the fourth highest in the nation, and the fact that North Carolina taxpayers and businesses contend with the highest personal and corporate income tax rates in the Southeast.

By driving up utility bills, state renewable energy mandates act as a hidden tax. Additionally, this is a surreptitious tax that disproportionately hurts lower income households. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, households with an annual income of $50,000 or less really take a hit from expensive energy mandates. Approximately half of U.S. households earn less than $50,000 per year and these households spend the greatest share of their income on energy, spending significantly more on energy than they do on either food or health care. It is these households who bear the brunt of the state’s expensive energy mandate.

The hypocrisy of many on the Left is on full display in North Carolina this year. Many of the same lawmakers and organizations who have criticized proposals to eliminate the state income tax and shift to a consumption tax base as regressive policy that disproportionately hurts the poor are the very same people who vehemently support the state’s expensive energy mandate that hits the least among us the hardest.

It would be a huge loss for the coercive utopian lobbyists on Capitol Hill if North Carolina, a state that is home to the nation’s fastest growing city in Raleigh and largest banking center outside of Manhattan in Charlotte, were to get rid of its expensive energy mandate. Lawmakers in the Tar Heel State can certainly boost their constituents’ pocketbooks and bottom lines by repealing the state’s RPS. And in doing so they would also do a great service to the nation by taking wind out of the sails of efforts to impose this misguided policy on the rest of the country.


Carbon footprints

Okay, here’s the bombshell. The volcanic eruption in Iceland, since its first spewing of volcanic ash has, in just FOUR DAYS, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet – all of you.

Of course you know about this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress – it’s that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow and to synthesize into oxygen for us humans and all animal life. I know, it’s very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of: driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kid’s “The Green Revolution” science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of abroad, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your 50 cents light bulbs with $10.00 light bulbs …well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just four days.

The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in just four days – yes – FOUR DAYS ONLY by that volcano in Iceland, has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon. And there are around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spewing out this crud at any on time – EVERY DAY.

I don’t really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in all its years on earth. Yes folks, Mt Pinatubo was active for over one year – think about it.

Of course I shouldn’t spoil this touchy-feely tree-hugging moment and mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keep happening, despite our completely insignificant efforts to
affect climate change.

And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud but the fact of the matter is that the bush fire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years. And it happens every year.

Just remember that your government just tried to impose a whopping carbon tax on you on the basis of the bogus “human-caused” climate change scenario.

Hey, isn’t it interesting how they don’t mention “Global Warming” any more, but just“Climate Change” – you know why? It’s because the planet has COOLED by 0.7 degrees in the past century and these global warming bull artists got caught with their pants down.

And just keep in mind that you might yet have an Emissions Trading Scheme – that whopping new tax – imposed on you, that will achieve absolutely nothing except make you poorer. It won’t stop any volcanoes from erupting, that’s for sure.

But hey, relax, give the world a hug and have a nice day!


Australian conservative leader forecasts job loss for prominent Warmist if the Coalition wins power at Federal Election

TONY Abbott has signalled he will sack Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery if he is elected as prime minister in September.

The Opposition Leader, who has vowed to dismantle the Climate Change department and merge it with the Environment Department in government, said he did not see the point of paying Professor Flannery around $180,000 a year for his views which were already public knowledge.

He said if elected as prime minister on September 14 and given the opportunity to revoke the carbon tax a whole range of climate change bureaucracies would also be axed.

"I suspect we might find the particular position you refer to might go with them," Mr Abbott told 2GB’s Ray Hadley when asked about Professor Flannery.

"It does sound like an unnecessary position given the gentlemen in question gives us the benefit of his views without needing taxpayer funding."

Professor Flannery, who penned the popular climate change book The Weather Makers, was appointed as Climate Commissioner in February 2011.

The 2007 Australian of The Year gets a salary of $180,000 for the three-day-a-week role.

Establishing the independent climate commission was a 2010 election commitment by Labor. It was originally slated to cost $5.6 million over four years.

Mr Abbott's comments come as Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says a new report warning Australia will soon face more extreme weather should serve as a warning to those who think action on cutting greenhouse gases can wait.

The report from the Climate Commission says climate change is already increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather like heatwaves, fires, cyclones, heavy rainfall and drought.

The report entitled Critical Decade: Extreme Weather, released on Wednesday, says the global climate system is warmer and moister than 50 years ago, with the extra heat making extreme weather events more frequent and severe.

[Note the carefully cherry-picked period.  Had they chosen 15 years ago or 80 years ago there would have been no change.  Warmists are SUCH frauds]

In response to the report, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council warned that while they had experience combating extreme weather events, people cannot expect emergency crews to protect their communities from increasingly intense fires and floods.

Mr Combet said climate change was no longer a problem for future generations to solve, as the impacts were already being felt.

He said the scientific advice was that this was the critical decade to act, and effective policies now would determine the severity of climate change experience for years to come.

"Increasing greenhouse gas emissions is like loading the dice for more extreme weather events in the future," he said in a statement.

The past summer was Australia's hottest, capped by the longest and most extreme heatwave on record.

The southern part of the country - including key food-growing regions - is becoming more drought-prone while the northwest is getting wetter.

Chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery has warned that while one-off events do occur, record-breaking weather was becoming more common as the climate shifts.

The independent commission's report draws on the latest research and observations from bodies including the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and Australian and international universities.

Mr Combet said it was time for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to "pull his head out of the sand" and listen to the advice of the experts.

It was time he was held accountable for his "reckless views" on climate change, and called on to explain how he'd propose tackling global warming.

"Australia needs responsible leadership and sound policies on climate change, not opportunistic scare campaigns and negative politicking," Mr Combet said, adding the coalition's Direct Action policy had been criticised by scientists, economists and business experts.

A survey released on Wednesday by the World Wildlife Foundation of nearly 1300 people nationwide showed 72 per cent believed humans were contributing to climate change.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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