Sunday, January 26, 2014
America in lockdown
“Dedicated public servants” lock up lands and resources, lock down job and economic recovery
President Obama insists he is determined to create jobs in America. He recently announced the creation of “promise zones” for five communities around the nation and a “manufacturing institute” aimed at fostering more high-paying jobs in energy efficiency. He’s says he has “a pen and a phone” to “sign executive orders and take executive actions that move the ball,” where Congress has failed to implement policies he believes are needed.
Unfortunately, the executive orders and actions Mr. Obama seems to have in mind will do little to create jobs beyond the Washington Beltway – and much to do the opposite. An obvious example is his EPA’s plan to impose additional carbon dioxide emission restrictions, to save the planet from global warming, climate change, climate disruption, extreme weather or whatever term alarmists are using these days.
Another is to issue regulations and spend billions more to mandate and subsidize expensive energy efficiency, wind and solar, biofuel, alternative-fuel vehicles and other technologies, companies and financing schemes. That is what some “green” energy business leaders recommend in a report that they recently presented to the White House, promoting a “clean energy future.”
These actions will ensure employment for more bureaucrats, blue state friends and campaign contributors. But they will also ensure continued unemployment for blue collar workers and “fly-over country.” They depend on government direction and ideological compatibility, taxpayer subsidies, and crony-corporatist arrangements among businessmen, politicians and regulators.
They will make barely a dent in a chronically feeble economy in which 94 million Americans are not working; four million are long-term unemployed; the 63% labor participation rate is the lowest in 35 years; and many of the employment gains due to a magical government formula that turns 300,000 full-time jobs into 400,000 part-time positions. The President’s proposed actions likewise will not reverse the rapid increase in 49ers – companies that won’t hire more than 49 employees, because that would trigger ObamaCare and a host of other taxes and regulations, causing even more unemployment.
Extending unemployment benefits another 3-6 months, and sending our grandkids the bill, will not soften or reverse this damage. Nor will raising the minimum wage, thereby compelling more companies to automate or find other ways to trim work forces and costs, leaving even more people unemployed. But America does offer countless opportunities for President Obama to use his executive powers to unshackle the US economy, create jobs and generate revenues.
First and foremost, he could instruct his overly zealous Executive Branch agencies to delay, pare back and eliminate regulatory and paperwork burdens. Far too many of those rules are justified only by anti-hydrocarbon ideologies, computer models, cherry-picked studies that do not reflect genuine mainstream science or medicine, and even illegal experiments on human test subjects.
The Heritage Foundation calculates that the EPA alone has promulgated more than 1,920 regulations over the past five years, including twenty “major” rules that are costing the United States more than $36 billion annually. The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s latest “10,000 Commandments” report says the total federal regulatory burden on America’s businesses and families now exceeds $1.8 trillion per year!
$379 billion of that is for environmental rules that often bring dubious benefits, and frequently impose human health and welfare costs well in excess of any supposed improvements. For example, EPA itself admitted that it was unable to quantify any direct health benefits from its costly utility “air toxics” MACT rule – and a January 2014 analysis demonstrates that the health and societal benefits of using oil, natural gas and coal outweigh any alleged “social costs of carbon” by at least 50 and as much as 500 to one.
President Obama could certainly order the issuance of permits to build the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, and instantly create thousands of jobs. He could also order the EPA, Interior Department, Forest Service and other federal agencies to unlock the lands and resources that are now off-limits.
The President brags that “we produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.” Indeed, domestic production rose from 5.6 million barrels per day in 2011 to 6.4 million bopd in 2012. However, production from federal onshore and offshore areas has fallen significantly under his watch – and 96% of the production increase was on state and private lands.
That is unnecessary and contrary to the public interest. America’s federal lands – onshore and offshore, in Alaska and our eleven westernmost Lower 48 States – contain numerous oil, gas, propane, coal, rare earth and other mineral deposits. Many have already been delineated, while others await discovery and development via modern, ecologically sensitive prospecting and production technologies. However, the vast majority of these resources are off limits: officially locked up in restrictive land use categories (some of which should not be changed) or simply made unavailable by bureaucratic fiat and foot-dragging.
Technically recoverable energy resources on these onshore and offshore lands total 1,194 billion barrels of oil and 2,150 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, Institute for Energy Research analyst Daniel Simmons noted in congressional testimony. At $100 per barrel of oil and $4 per thousand cubic feet of gas, those resources are worth $128 trillion! Developing them could generate some $150 billion in bonuses, rents and royalties over the next ten years alone – plus billions more in local, state and federal tax revenues, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Using those CBO numbers, an IER study concluded:
* If the government made more of these areas available for exploration and production, America’s GDP could increase by $127 billion annually for the next seven years, and $450 billion annually in the long term. Those activities would create 552,000 jobs annually over the next seven years, with annual wage increases of up to $32 billion, hugely benefitting workers’ and families’ health and welfare.
* Over the next 37 years, opening these lands would also increase America’s cumulative economic activity by up to $14.4 trillion … employment by 1.9 million jobs per year … wages by $115 billion annually … and local, state and federal royalty and tax revenues by a cumulative $3.8 trillion!
However, Simmons points out, the Interior Department has leased only a paltry 2% of federal offshore areas and less than 6% of onshore lands for oil and gas development. It has also stalled endlessly on issuing permits to drill on lands it has leased, in areas that are supposed to be available for multiple use and energy development. Its Bureau of Land Management’s proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing on public lands will likely delay, block and lock down the many benefits associated with fracking.
Access to metals and minerals on public lands is likewise subject to “bureaucratic discretion.” America’s “dedicated public servants” are thwarting development of Alaska’s Pebble Mine gold, copper and molybdenum deposit; Montana’s Finley Basin tungsten, copper, gold, silver and molybdenum deposit; and Arizona’s Rosemont Copper project – all of which would generate thousands of jobs and billions in payrolls and government revenues. Meanwhile they are fast-tracking permits for bird and bat butchering wind turbines – and considering 30-year eagle-killing permits for the installations.
In conducting these energy and mineral exploration and development projects, we can and must protect human health and environmental quality – from genuine threats, not speculative, exaggerated or computer scenario risks. We cannot afford to keep our lands, resources, jobs and revenues under lock and key.
If President Obama really does care about creating jobs and opportunities for the middle class, he will think and act outside of his ideological box, and pay less attention to his most rabid environmentalist base. We will know soon whether he is capable of doing that – and what kinds of executive orders and actions he really has in mind to move the ball on job creation. (I'm not holding my breath.)
The Hill, the newspaper that covers Congress, says this year, there will be a major policy battle over "climate change." Why?
We already waste billions on pointless gestures that make people think we're addressing global warming, but the earth doesn't notice or care.
What exactly is "global warming" anyway? That's really four questions:
1. Is the globe warming? Probably. Global temperatures have risen. Climate changes. Always has. Always will.
2. Is the warming caused by man? Maybe. There's decent evidence that at least some of it is.
3. But is global warming a crisis? Far from it. It's possible that it will become a crisis. Some computer models suggest big problems, but the models aren't very accurate. Some turned out to be utterly wrong. Clueless scaremongers like Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Cal., seize on weather disasters to blame man's carbon output. After Oklahoma's tragic tornadoes last year, Boxer stood on the floor of the Senate and shrieked, "Carbon could cost us the planet!" But there were actually fewer tornadoes last summer.
4. If the globe is warming, can America do anything about it? No. What we do now is pointless. I feel righteous riding my bike to work. That's just shallow. Even if all Americans replaced cars with bicycles, switched to fluorescent light bulbs, got solar water heaters, etc., it would have no discernible effect on the climate. China builds a new coal-fueled power plant almost every week; each one obliterates any carbon reduction from all our windmills and solar panels.
Weirdly, the only thing that's reduced America's carbon output has been our increased use of natural gas (it releases less greenhouse gas than oil and coal). But many environmentalists fight the fracking that produces it.
Someday, we'll probably invent technology that could reduce man's greenhouse gas creation, but we're nowhere close to it now. Rather than punish poor people with higher taxes on carbon and award ludicrous subsidies to Al Gore's "green" investments, we should wait for the science to advance.
If serious warming happens, we can adjust, as we've adjusted to big changes throughout history. It will be easier to adjust if America is not broke after wasting our resources on trendy gimmicks like windmills.
Environmental activists say that if we don't love their regulations, we "don't care about the earth." Bunk. We can love nature and still hate the tyranny of bureaucrats' rules.
We do need some rules. It's good that government built sewage treatment plants. Today, the rivers around Manhattan are so clean that I swim in them. It's good that we forced industry to stop polluting the air. Scrubbers in smokestacks and catalytic converters on cars made our lives better. The air gets cleaner every time someone replaces an old car with a new one.
But those were measures against real pollution -- soot, particulates, sulfur, etc. What global warming hysterics want to fight is merely carbon dioxide. That's what plants breathe. CO2 may prove to be a problem, but we don't know that now.
The world has real problems, though: malaria, malnutrition, desperate poverty. Our own country, while relatively rich, is deep in debt. Obsessing about greenhouse gases makes it harder to address these more serious problems.
Environmentalists assume that as people get richer and use more energy, they pollute more. The opposite is true. As nations industrialize, they pay more attention to pollution. Around the world, it's the most prosperous nations that now have the cleanest air and water.
Industrialization allows people to use fewer resources. Instead of burning trees for power, we make electricity from natural gas. We figure out how to get more food from smaller pieces of land. And one day we'll probably even invent energy sources more efficient than oil and gas. We'll use them because they're cost-effective, not because government forces us to.
So let's chill out about global warming. We don't need more micromanagement from government. We need less.
Then free people -- and rapidly increasing prosperity -- will create a better world.
Everyone's heard that bees are in a "global crisis." Except there has never been more beehives in the world.
Yes, honeybees in the US and parts of Europe are dying in above average numbers with the most likely cause being the Varroa mite and associated viruses.
But the "bee-pocalypse" predicted with alarmist talk about colony collapse disorder (CCD) is not happening, because beekeepers are adapting and actually keeping ever more beehives and producing ever more honey.
What has happened is that production in the US and Western Europe has declined, but Asia has more than increased its production (from 22% to 43% of all beehives). Much of the honey production has moved to cheaper production in India, China, Turkey and Iran. So, when we bemoan our reduced beehive numbers in Western Europe or the US, part of the story is no different from declining industries bemoaning the lack of domestic production of t-shirts.
The little bump in the early 1990s is due to a dramatic reduction in beehives in Eastern Europe and Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Most bees in Europe and the US are domesticated, with few wild and feral honey bee colonies.
See also here
Kansas Renewable Mandates Causing Skyrocketing Electricity Prices
Renewable power mandates are causing a dramatic spike in electricity prices in Kansas, U.S. Energy Information Administration data show. The state’s electricity prices have risen approximately eight times faster than the national average since Kansas enacted renewable power mandates in 2009.
In 2009 the Kansas legislature passed legislation creating the mandates, which require Kansans to purchase 20 percent of their electricity from designated renewable sources by the year 2020.
Sharply Rising Prices
Since 2009, U.S. electricity prices have risen merely 2.4 percent, from 9.89 cents per kilowatt hour to 10.13 cents per kilowatt hour (data through October 2013, the most recent month for which the U.S. Energy Information Administration published data when this paper went to press).
In Kansas, by contrast, electricity prices have risen 19.4 percent since 2009, from 8.07 cents per kilowatt hour to 9.64 cents per kilowatt hour.
The increase in Kansas electricity prices masks an even faster rise in electricity costs in the Sunflower State. Federal taxpayers (including Kansans) provide substantial subsidies to renewable power producers, most notably through the wind power production tax credit. These additional costs are hidden; they are not reflected in the Energy Information Administration retail price data.
Directly Traceable to Renewables
The rise in the state’s electricity prices closely tracks and is directly attributable to the increasing generation of costly renewable power. Wind power makes up nearly all the renewable power generation in Kansas. Since 2009, Kansas has more than tripled the share of its electricity mix generated from wind power. In 2009, 6 percent of electricity generated in Kansas was from renewable sources. In 2013, approximately 20 percent of the state’s electricity was generated from renewable sources.
Power grid operators confirm the higher costs renewable power imposes on consumers. Andrew Ott, senior vice president for markets at PJM Interconnection testified in Ohio legislative hearings last spring that the cost of delivering wind power to electricity consumers is two to three times the cost of delivering conventional power. PJM Interconnection coordinates electricity in 13 states. These cost premiums apply in Kansas, as well.
Households Hit Financially
These rapid electricity price increases are imposing real financial hardship on the state’s residents. Had electricity prices increases in Kansas matched the national average since 2009, the state’s electricity consumers would have saved $557 million in electricity costs. The average Kansas household has already paid an extra $506 in electricity costs (nearly $130 per household per year) above what it would have paid if the state’s electricity price increases had kept to the national average.
Two decades of global dryland vegetation change
Drier lands are greening up with higher levels of CO2
Discussing: Andela, N., Liu, Y.Y., van Dijk, A.I.J.M., de Jeu, R.A.M. and McVicar, T.R. 2013. "Global changes in dryland vegetation dynamics (1988-2008) assessed by satellite remote sensing: comparing a new passive microwave vegetation density record with reflective greenness data". Biogeosciences 10: 6657-6676.
Andela et al. (2013) set the stage for their study by noting that drylands cover nearly 30% of the global land surface, and that over the last few decades many of their native ecosystems "have faced increased pressure from human demands and climate change," citing Asner et al. (2004), Dore (2005) and Liu et al., 2013).
Seeking to learn how dryland ecosystems around the world may have been responding to the concomitant pressures exerted by both man and nature, Andela et al. employed two satellite-observed vegetation products "to study the long-term (1988-2008) vegetation changes of global drylands: the widely used reflective-based Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and the recently developed passive-microwave-based Vegetation Optical Depth (VOD)," the first of which products "is sensitive to the chlorophyll concentrations in the canopy and the canopy cover fraction, while the VOD is sensitive to vegetation water content of both leafy and woody components," which when used together, in their words, "helps to better characterize vegetation dynamics, particularly over regions with mixed herbaceous and woody vegetation."
In describing their findings the five researchers report "NDVI was more sensitive to herbaceous vegetation changes and short-term precipitation variations," while VOD "was more sensitive to changes in woody vegetation and longer-term precipitation variations." And, as a result, they remark that "co-trends between NDVI and VOD provide evidence of widespread woody vegetation encroachment at the expense of the herbaceous vegetation component in arid regions, and arid shrublands in particular."
And as their ultimate conclusion about the matter, they concluded that the "spatial distribution of trends suggests that a global driver (e.g., CO2 fertilization) is causing a change in relative performance of woody vegetation compared to herbaceous vegetation," while further noting that evidence for woody thickening and encroachment was also found for some semi-arid drylands.
Thus, in spite of the postulated growing negative impacts of man and climate alike, the greening of the earth continues - and in places where it's toughest of all to be green (arid lands) - with the proposed impetus for the phenomenon being the likely-enabling role of anthropogenic-induced atmospheric CO2 enrichment.
Proof wind turbines take thousands off a British home: Value of houses within 1.2 miles of large wind farms slashed by 11%, study finds
The presence of wind turbines near homes has wiped tens of thousands of pounds off their value, according to the first major study into the impact the eyesore structures have on house prices.
The study by the London School of Economics (LSE) – which looked at more than a million sales of properties close to wind farm sites over a 12-year period – found that values of homes within 1.2 miles of large wind farms were being slashed by about 11 per cent.
This means that if such a wind farm were near an average house in Britain, which now costs almost £250,000, it would lose more than £27,000 in value.
In sought-after rural idylls where property prices are higher, the financial damage is even more substantial. In villages around one of Southern England’s largest onshore developments – Little Cheyne Court Wind Farm in Romney Marsh, Kent, where homes can cost close to £1 million – house values could drop by more than £100,000.
The study further discovered that even a small wind farm that blighted views would hit house values. Homes within half a mile of such visible turbines could be reduced in value by about seven per cent. Even those in a two-and-a-half-mile radius experienced price reductions of around three per cent.
The report’s author, Professor Steve Gibbons, said his research was the first strong evidence that wind farms are harmful to house prices.
Prof Gibbons, director of the LSE’s Spatial Economics Research Centre, said: ‘Property prices are going up in places where they’re not visible and down in the places where they are.’
The study, which is still in draft form but is due to be published next month, focused on 150 wind-farm sites across England and Wales. It compared house-price changes in areas that had wind farms, were about to see one built or had seen one rejected by the local authority.
Last night Chris-Heaton Harris, MP for Daventry, said: ‘There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence – especially in my constituency – of house-price reductions near wind turbines. The question is, will anybody be liable for these losses in future?’
And Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the LSE, said: ‘These results are not really surprising as it is already known that people place a value on countryside views.’
A Department for Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: ‘Developments will only get permission where impacts are acceptable.’
A spokesman for Renewables UK, which represents the wind industry, said: ‘We will be analysing the conclusions closely when the final report is issued.’
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Preserving the graphics: Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere. But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases. After that they no longer come up. 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 or here
Posted by JR at 10:43 PM