Friday, October 10, 2014
Conservatives ask: What would Milton Friedman do about warming?
Really? Friedman would put a price on carbon dioxide -- a harmless, odorless chemical that is essential for plant growth? Friedman spent most of his life defying the consensus so the present semi-consensus is unlikely to have impressed him. But Milt was a clever guy and good at making people think. He might therefore have said that what they should do is what Ross McKitrick says - set the price of carbon based on the rate of warming. i.e. $0.00
If the late free-market economist Milton Friedman were alive today, he'd probably support pricing carbon.
That was the argument made by two economists on a panel today at the University of Chicago, where Friedman taught for more than 30 years.
Steve Cicala of the university's Harris School of Public Policy and Michael Greenstone, a former adviser to President Obama who holds a chair named for Friedman, argued that the anti-regulatory economist would have supported government policies aimed at protecting and compensating victims of man-made warming. Friedman, who died in 2006, would have viewed climate change as a negative externality associated with burning fossil fuels and would have believed that society was entitled to recover its losses from those who emit carbon to advance their economic interests, they said.
While there is a market for the products that are associated with greenhouse gas emissions -- like electricity, fuel and steel -- there is no market for the pollution inflicted by their manufacturers on the public.
"It is theft," said Cicala. "That's a loaded term, but if someone else has a better term for taking something from someone without their consent and without compensating them, I'd be happy to hear it."
"We do have a climate policy, and it's just that it's fine to pollute," said Greenstone, who now directs the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.
The way to internalize greenhouse gas emissions is for the government to create a market for emissions and then get out of the way, he said. The cost to emit should track with a rigorous estimate of the social cost of carbon -- the incremental cost to society of each additional metric ton of CO2 emissions. The Obama administration's often-controversial figure is $37 per metric ton.
The panel was moderated by former Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), whose stance on climate change contributed to his 2010 loss in the Republican primary. He now heads the Energy and Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University.
Inglis, who still describes himself as a conservative, argues that his colleagues on the right would be more receptive to the issue of climate change if there were a conservative policy model to address it. His initiative proposes a revenue-neutral carbon tax, which would return all the revenue from a levy on emissions to the public in the form of other tax cuts.
Inglis said any carbon tax that could garner support from conservatives like himself would have to include border protections to keep emissions from relocating overseas and would have to be revenue neutral.
Cicala said the key was to give high-emitting industries in other countries an incentive to reduce their emissions rather than just hitting them with a border adjustment cost that might spark a trade war.
While it may be difficult to persuade developing companies to tax their fossil fuels resources, he said, taxing consumption in wealthy countries will cover most emissions for the simple reason that rich countries consume more.
The false prophet
Bay Area radio evangelist Harold Camping was properly excoriated throughout both the legacy media and the Blogosphere for his prediction that the world would end on May 21st, 2011. How many not-so-final countdowns are the gnostic high priests of climate allowed to issue before being similarly called out as false prophets?
Obama misleads students about climate and energy
Climate change actually has little to do with energy choices
Bob Carter and Tom Harris
In his October 2 address on the economy at Northwestern University, President Barack Obama told students, “If we keep investing in clean energy technology, we won’t just put people to work assembling, raising and pounding into place the zero-carbon components of a clean energy age. We’ll reduce our carbon emissions and prevent the worst costs of climate change down the road.”
But what does climate change have to do with energy supply? Almost nothing.
Climate change issues involve environmental hazards, whereas energy policy is concerned with supplying affordable, reliable electricity to industries and families. So where is the relationship to climate?
Until the 1980s, there was none. That one is now perceived testifies to the effectiveness of relentless lobbying by environmentalists and commercial special interests towards the idea that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from hydrocarbon-based power-generation will cause dangerous global warming.
So far, that has not happened. It has now been 18 years with no measurable planetary warming.
However, this warming disaster idea has become so entrenched that even prime ministers and presidents now misuse “carbon” as shorthand for “carbon dioxide,” and often call this plant-fertilizing gas a pollutant. For example, during his 13-minute address at the UN’s Climate Summit 2014 in New York City September 23, Mr. Obama referenced “carbon pollution” seven times and “carbon emissions” five times. That’s almost one misnomer per minute.
In reality, CO2 is environmentally beneficial. It is the elixir of life for most of our planetary ecosystems. Without it, life as we know it would end. No evidence exists that the amount humans have added to the atmosphere is producing dangerous warming or, indeed, any climate or weather events noticeably different in frequency, duration or intensity from human experience over the past couple of centuries.
Many negative consequences flow from wrongly connecting energy and global warming issues. Foremost among them has been a lemming-like rush by governments to generously subsidize what are otherwise uneconomic sources of energy, solar and wind power in particular.
The International Renewable Energy Agency reports that worldwide investment in renewables (not counting large hydropower) amounted to an incredible $214 billion in 2013 alone! IRENA insists that these expenditures need to more than double by 2030, to achieve the impossible goal of restricting average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
However, results to date show that those investments have brought few benefits, and much harm. European studies have found that expensive, unreliable wind and solar power kills two to four jobs for each “renewable” energy job this heavily subsidized industry creates.
Mr. Obama paints alternative energy sources as environmentally virtuous, because they supposedly reduce CO2 emissions and provide renewable and clean sources of power. This too is highly misleading.
Wind and solar energy are certainly renewable – when the wind blows and the sun shines. But there is no power otherwise, so it’s tough luck if that’s when a hospital needs electricity for emergency surgery. Such intermittency also makes these sources entirely unsuitable as major contributors to national energy grids, to power factories, schools, businesses and families. The use of wind and solar power also increases the cost of electricity dramatically.
Moreover, these sources are assuredly not renewable when you consider the enormous amounts of land, mining, energy and raw materials required to build the wind and solar facilities, the extremely long transmission lines required to carry their electricity to urban centers, and the backup fossil-fuel generators needed the 80-90% of the time the renewable sources aren’t working.
Alternative energy sources are also far less environment-friendly than the President would have us believe. Wind turbines kill millions of birds and bats every year, and some rare species will undoubtedly be vulnerable to extinction if wind power continues to expand near important wildlife habitats. Massive solar installations have a disastrous effect on desert ecosystems and incinerate important bird species.
And yet the wind and solar generators are typically exempt from environmental laws that are used to block many other activities.
These problems are becoming apparent even to the European Union, once the world’s green energy leader. EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger recently said European energy policies must change, from being climate driven to being driven by the needs of industry, and job preservation. He could have included families, because millions of European households can no longer afford to heat their homes properly, due to soaring energy prices.
All nations need to return to the historic separation that previously existed between energy policy and climate policy. They must analyze and plan for both, in accord with their own distinct requirements and resources, and based on defensible environmental, technological, and economic analyses.
This means abandoning Mr. Obama’s naïve mantra that our energy choices affect global climate.
“When the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (DSL) was being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), significant parts of the Texas economy were placed at risk,” Chris Bryan, agency spokesman for the Texas Comptroller, told me when I asked about the recent decision from a United States District Court that dismissed a lawsuit filed by environmental groups.
On September 30, District of Columbia District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras ruled against the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Defenders of Wildlife. The groups brought charges in the hopes of requiring the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to reverse its 2012 decision not to list the DSL as endangered.
The 2012 decision was the first time that community engagement successfully beat back a proposed ESA listing — a stinging defeat that environmental groups didn’t take kindly. (Writing and speaking about the DSL, I was an active part of that effort. My work earned me a nasty press release from the CBD.) The groups responded with the lawsuit, likely confident of success in the courts — after all, with more lawyers on staff than biologists, legal victories have been the benchmark.
In August 2013, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs was granted intervenor status in the case. In October, several regional and national oil-and-gas associations — including the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the Permian Basin Petroleum Association—joined Combs.
The DSL story is important because it represents a new chapter in ESA compliance — a successful chapter that allows conservation and human economic activity to coexist. Previously, presence of an ESA listed species would shut down activity with harsh consequences for landowners and communities.
The spotted owl history is the trophy of bad ESA policy. More than 20 years ago, the spotted owl was listed as an endangered species. As a result, virtually the entire logging industry in the Pacific Northwest has been shut down—leaving thousands unemployed and hundreds of communities decimated. Fifty percent of the nation’s forestry jobs lost from 1990 to 2009 were in just two states: Oregon and Washington. Yet, the listing did not stop the decline of the spotted owl. And, as a result of the listing, forest management in the West changed — leaving thousands of acres overgrown, unhealthy, and susceptible to the devastating wildfires we see today.
Texas decided to do it differently.
Aware that the DSL was an ESA target, conservation efforts started in 2008. About 46 percent of the DSL habitat is private land in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeastern New Mexico—an area that produces 15 percent of U.S. oil and 5 percent of the nation’s natural gas and is a prime ranching and farming region. The locals were very worried that if the DSL were listed, the regulations would seriously impact their operations and impose substantial costs. Bryan told me: “This listing had the potential to dramatically curtail economic activity in the Permian Basin—which accounts for approximately 57 percent of Texas’ total crude oil production and supports roughly 47,000 oil-and-gas-related jobs. The oil-and-gas industry has a very high economic ‘multiplier,’ stemming from the fact that companies buy tremendous amounts of equipment, material and services in Texas, in addition to the direct jobs they create in the oil patch itself.”
Historically, the ESA’s excessive legal and literal penalties have discouraged landowners from engaging in conservation efforts. In hope of keeping the regulatory authorities from showing up, the mantra when an endangered species is found on your property was: “shoot, shovel and shut up.”
Illustrating the devastating results of finding an ESA-listed species on your land, a new report on ESA reform from the Reason Foundation tells the story of Craig Schindler, a Missouri farmer, whose property includes caves containing the grotto sculpin — which just received ESA listing:
Based on an economic impact analysis carried out for Fish and Wildlife, the 18 acres Craig estimates he will have to sacrifice for the sculpin is worth some $90,000 and produces approximately $7,000 in crops annually.
“They’re cutting my living down,” Craig told the local Perryville News, “I have cattle and grow crops, but if you take 18 acres away from a guy, that’s quite a bit.”
Fish and Wildlife also proposed to place buffer zones around sinkholes that lead to caves with sculpins. Under the listing, Craig could face up to $100,000 and/or a year in jail for killing or injuring just one sculpin, or even harming its habitat. So, in addition to losing the use of 18 acres, he will have to spend thousands of dollars to fence the buffer zone in order to prevent livestock on the rest of his ranch from inadvertently harming the sculpin. “I’m going to have to pay for this fence out of my pocket, and lose the ground for cattle to graze on,” he said. But even that will not immunize him from prosecution under the ESA because local Fish and Wildlife personnel have the power to decide if his uses of other land, such as fertilizing crops and grazing livestock, harm the sculpin.
With the proposed listing of the grotto sculpin, Craig Schindler discovered the upside-down world of the ESA. In return for harboring rare wildlife, he was to be punished by having his property turned into a de facto federal wildlife refuge but paid no compensation.
To add insult to injury, if the grotto sculpin were to be listed under the ESA, Craig would still have to pay taxes on the land he would not be able to use.
Stories such as Schindler’s and histories like the spotted owl’s prompted the Texas State Legislature to pass a bill creating the Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species to help municipalities and regional governmental bodies cope with the ESA through technical assistance; help formulating and implementing species-conservation initiatives and plans; assessing the economic impact of federal, state and local endangered-species regulations; and creating advisory committees to help the Task Force.
Additionally, the Comptroller’s Office provided funds to survey the DSL habitat — which revealed 28 more Texas DSL populations, in addition to the three known populations.
The 2011 surveys were possible because of a special provision the legislature passed in 2011 that allowed DSL population locations to remain confidential. Without the force of state law, landowners are resistant to cooperating in conservation efforts out of fear, that like Schindler, their property would be rendered unusable.
By being proactive, Texas was able to enact voluntary conservation programs that brought about the 2012 FWS decision not to list the DSL. Addressing the Texas approach, in a thorough review of the September 30 ruling, Brian Seasholes, director of the Endangered Species Project at the Reason Foundation, says: “the Texas Conservation Plan (TCP) for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard is based on a number of provisions, including a robust scientific process; beneficial and measurable conservation outcomes; participation by a wide range of stakeholders from the state and federal levels, the regulated community, and academia; effective monitoring and oversight by independent third parties; regular reporting on the plan’s progress and implementation; and a highly innovative habitat mitigation mechanism called the Recovery Credit System.” Seasholes sees that the Texas approach protects landowners from the ESA and the federal government, while finding a balance between economic activity and species conservation.
Comptroller Combs is elated with the court’s decision, especially considering the pushback she received when she took a risky stand and embarked on an experimental plan to forge an innovative, flexible and successful conservation plan for the DSL. Responding to the court ruling, Combs said: “It supports our basic belief that the TCP provides appropriate conservation for the lizard and reaffirms that the research conducted by Texas A&M University about the DSL helped to provide Fish and Wildlife the best scientific data available to make the decision not to list the species as endangered.”
New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce, who spearheaded much of the public education on the potential impacts the DSL listing would have on communities in his district, was, likewise, pleased with the court’s decision: “It is about time the courts stood up for private landowners over radical environmental groups that continually use sue-and-settle tactics to exploit taxpayer money to pay lawyers and fund themselves instead of recovering species. This decision ensures that sound conservation efforts are carried out in Eastern New Mexico without sacrificing the economic activity that the area depends on. The plan itself is a great example of how cooperative conservation efforts between private industry, state officials, landowners, and the federal government are more than adequate to protect species. This decision differs from the Fish and Wildlife’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken in March that severely hindered a successful cooperative conservation effort. I hope the Fish and Wildlife Service along with the courts continue to allow future efforts like this to succeed.”
Hopefully, now that they can see Texas’ proactive efforts — such as those engaged to protect the DSL — can withstand legal challenge, other states will take similar legislative and conservation actions that will prevent environmental groups (under the guise of conservation) from using lawsuits to block economic growth in the United States.
Environmental Researcher: Wind Industry Riddled with 'Absolute Corruption'
A Mexican ecologist has blown the whistle on the corruption, lies and incompetence of the wind industry - and on the massive environmental damage it causes in the name of saving the planet.
Patricia Mora, a research professor in coastal ecology and fisheries science at the National Institute of Technology in Mexico, has been studying the impact of wind turbines in the Tehuantepec Isthmus in southern Mexico, an environmentally sensitive region which has the highest concentration of wind farms in Latin America.
The turbines, she says in an interview with Truthout, have had a disastrous effect on local flora and fauna:
"When a project is installed, the first step is to "dismantle" the area, a process through which all surrounding vegetation is eliminated. This means the destruction of plants and sessilities - organisms that do not have stems or supporting mechanisms - and the slow displacement over time of reptiles, mammals, birds, amphibians, insects, arachnids, fungi, etc. Generally we perceive the macro scale only, that is to say, the large animals, without considering the small and even microscopic organisms...
....After the construction is finalized, the indirect impact continues in the sense that ecosystems are altered and fragmented. As a result, there is a larger probability of their disappearance, due to changes in the climate and the use of soil"
Then there is the damage caused by wind turbine noise:
"There is abundant information about the harm caused by the sound waves produced by wind turbines. These sound waves are not perceptible to the human ear, which makes them all the more dangerous. They are also low frequency sound waves and act upon the pineal and nervous systems, causing anxiety, depression (there is a study from the United States that found an elevated suicide rate in regions with wind farms), migraines, dizziness and vomiting, among other symptoms."
But the wind turbine operators are able to get away with it because the system is so corrupt.
"What happens is absolute corruption. I have to admit that generally there are "agreements" behind closed doors between the consultants or research centers and the government offices before the studies are conducted. They fill out forms with copied information (and sometimes badly copied), lies or half truths in order to divert attention from the real project while at the same time complying with requirements on paper. Unfortunately, consultants sometimes take advantage of high unemployment and hire inexperienced people or unemployed career professionals without proper titles. Sometimes the consultants even coerce them into modifying the data.
Research centers, pressured by a lack of funding, accept these studies. It is well known that scientists recognized by CONACYT (National Counsel on Science and Technology) accept gifts from these companies, given that they need money to buy equipment for their laboratories and to fill their pocketbooks to maintain their lifestyles. This is the extent of the corruption. Upon reviewing these studies, it is clear that the findings are trash, sometimes even directly copied from other sources online. These studies tend to focus on the "benefits of the project" and do not include rigorous analysis.
The Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) does follow-up to the studies, but everything can be negotiated. The bureaucrats have the last word."
Though Professor Mora is talking specifically about Mexico, what she says applies equally well to supposedly more transparent democracies such as Britain, Australia, the US, Canada and Denmark. The wind industry is necessarily one of the most corrupt enterprises on earth because it depends for its entire existence on government favours, backhanders, dishonest environmental impact assessments and on regulators turning a blind eye to the known health problems caused by wind turbine noise. Without crony capitalism, the wind industry simply would not exist.
Here are some links to a few of Breitbart's hits on the subject. As I can personally testify from a decade spent covering this scandal, there are few forms of life on the planet lower than those parasites who make their fortune out of bird-chomping, bat-slicing eco-crucifixes.
Greens fear loss of Senate firewall
Green groups are fearful of Republicans winning the Senate majority in November, predicting it could lead to a “whittling away” of environmental regulations at the hands of GOP leaders.
While environmental groups are spending millions of dollars trying to save the Senate for Democrats, they acknowledge the possibility that they could be forced to play defense against an all-Republican Congress in 2015.
“I think that the wholesale repeal of environmental legislation, repealing [Environmental Protection Agency] greenhouse gas authority, things like that, that’s unlikely to happen,” said Ben Schreiber, director of the climate program at Friends of the Earth.
“It is much more the painful whittling away [regulations] by attaching things to must-pass legislation,” he said, referring to policy riders that could be attached to legislation funding the government.
Republicans feel bullish about their chances of gaining the six seats they need to win Senate control. That outcome could elevate Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a staunch opponent of Obama’s environmental policies, to majority leader, provided he wins his own tough reelection race.
McConnell has begun to talk about the agenda that Republicans would pursue in the majority, placing a heavy emphasis on energy and environmental issues. He has promised to bring up a bill that would force the federal government to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and vowed action on measures to overturn EPA pollution rules.
The GOP has done all it can to stop many of Obama’s environmental regulations, and the House has voted dozens of times to roll back his authority.
“Americans have seen a barrage of regulations and red tape from the president’s Environmental Protection Agency, strangling the coal industry, one of my home state’s most important sources of jobs and economic development,” McConnell said recently on the Senate floor.
“The regulations and lack of certainty in the coal industry that this administration has caused have contributed to a loss of 7,000 Kentucky jobs in that industry since the year President Obama took office,” he added.
Even if Republicans do triumph at the polls, they are not expected to come anywhere close to the 60-vote majority that would be needed to break filibusters by Democrats.
That means votes from centrists Democrats — many of whom hail from energy producing states — could be decisive in whether any of the GOP bills reach President Obama’s desk.
Daniel J. Weiss, who leads the campaign activities for the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), said he fears that Republicans would seek to block the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which it has been able to do since a 2007 Supreme Court ruling.
“Mitch McConnell has made it clear that if he’s the majority leader, one of his top priorities is to block EPA from doing its job and forcing the Clean Air Act on cutting carbon — which is the biggest step the country has ever taken to cut pollution,” Weiss said.
“And he has made it clear, he’s suggested he’s willing to shut down the government to block EPA, and we want to make sure doesn't happen,” he said.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) predicted that a Republican-controlled Senate would be an “environmental nightmare.”
He said the GOP-led House has voted twice as many times to weaken environmental rules as it has to overturn ObamaCare.
“They’re a wholly-owned subsidiary right now of the polluting industries, and they’re going to do what they’re told,” he said. “The only limit on them is if the American public, I think, has really had it with that.”
Schreiber said the GOP House offers a good model of what a Republican Senate would do.
“We have an idea of what they’re going to do, because we’re seeing it in the House right now,” he said. “Drilling everywhere, anytime, any place. More subsidies for the fossil fuel industry. Attacks on renewable energy. Attacks on EPA.”
Schreiber said his worst fear would be if the Senate acted to remove the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. But that drastic of a move would be unlikely, he said.
Environmental advocates say they take comfort in the fact that President Obama will retain the veto pen no matter what happens in the election.
“It’s a challenge to pass any legislation, and certainly climate is in that same place,” said Alan Rowsome, a senior director of government affairs for the Wilderness Society. “But I think the president is going to continue to move forward and be a leader on that.”
The Wilderness Society focuses a large part of its advocacy on conservation, which Rowsome said gets more bipartisan support than climate change rules.
“These issues transcend the parties in many instances. There is a lot of support across the aisle for many conservation measures, and we’re going to focus on those opportunities to really find common ground,” he said.
Schreiber said his group would also work to find common ground with the GOP.
“All that we can do is educate the public about our issues, like we always have, and talk to members of Congress and educate them about our issues as well,” he said.
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Posted by JR at 1:44 AM