Friday, June 12, 2020

In supporting 'Land Grab' bill, Republicans unwittingly support socialism

Many Republicans in Congress made political hay by labeling the Green New Deal as "socialism." Surprisingly, too many of these same Republicans are now the leading supporters of a major piece of socialist legislation. Unlike the Green New Deal, which was defeated in the Senate with 57 votes against and none in favor (with 43 Democrats voting present), the Senate is on the verge of passing the Great America Outdoors Act with Republican support, plus almost unanimous Democratic support.

What makes the bill socialist policy? Socialism means a lot of things to people today but has historically been defined as government ownership of the means of production. Land is an indispensable means of production. The Great America Outdoors Act would socialize private land on an unprecedented scale. In the rest of this article, I'll call it the Land Grab bill.
The Land Grab bill contains two titles. The first would spend $9.5 billion over five years to reduce the backlog of maintenance and restoration on existing federal lands. That should be a clue that the federal government is not good at taking care of what it owns.

The second title is the overtly socialist part. It would dramatically increase the rate of government acquisition of private land and make it permanent. Currently, Congress makes annual appropriations for federal, state, and local acquisition under the authority of the Land and Water Conservation Fund of 1965.

Land socialism, as practiced since the Land and Water Conservation Fund became law, is a peculiar kind of socialism. Traditionally, when the means of production are socialized, production is intended to continue. For instance, when Britain nationalized steel mills and coal mines in the 1950s, they continued producing steel and coal (although in practice, production tended to go down, and then down some more). But when the four federal land agencies — the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management — buy private land, the purpose is to take it out of production and "preserve" it.

In short, modern land socialism perversely locks up the means of production.

Private property is a necessary condition of freedom and limited government. Among types of private property, land ownership has always been considered the most or among the most important for maintaining freedom and limited government. The United States already has far too much socialized land. The federal government owns 640 million acres or 28% of the country's total acreage. In the 11 Western states and Alaska, the four federal land agencies control more than 50% of the land. Some rural counties are more than 90% federally owned, and many more are more than 75%.

The consequences of all this government land are just what you'd expect from socialism. The environmental condition of the vast Western, federal estate ranges from fair to poor to dismal. The economic effects are uniformly dismal. Rural counties with lots of federal land (which are exempt from property taxes) struggle as resource producers are pushed off the land.

This environmental and economic devastation will only get worse as $900 million in annual funding from the Land Grab bill eventually buys millions and millions of acres of private land. But socialists care much more about power than about the environment or the economy.

It's, therefore, no surprise that 44 of the 47 Democrats in the Senate are co-sponsors of the Land Grab bill. But it is shocking that the main sponsor and 14 co-sponsors are Republicans, including several who opposed the Green New Deal because of its socialist character.

To take only one example, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, the main sponsor, wrote in a March 2019 op-ed that the Green New Deal is a "thinly veiled attempt to implement the radical left’s socialist agenda."

In light of this statement, it appears that Gardner only opposes socialism when it is politically expedient. Because he and 15 other Republicans support the Land Grab bill and because it also enjoys majority support in the House, it is almost guaranteed to become law. The only hope now of stopping enactment is if some of the Senate Republican sponsors and President Trump wake up.

In his 2019 State of the Union address, Trump vowed that "America will never be a socialist country." But the president was hornswoggled at a secret White House meeting in early March into supporting the bill on the preposterous grounds that it would help several endangered senators get reelected.

At this point, the Land Grab bill is so close to Senate passage that the best strategy for Senate Republicans and the president is to support amendments that will make it less toxic. These include: a five-year sunset; requiring that state and local governments approve any future land acquisitions in their jurisdictions; a prohibition on the use of eminent domain; and a budget offset to pay for all the new spending.


How Virginia’s Green New Deal Will Add to Residents’ COVID-19 Costs

While many Virginia residents are still reeling from the effects of COVID-19, their elected officials from Gov. Ralph Northam on down are increasing their financial burdens with radical Green New Deal-style programs, energy policy analysts say.

Renewable energy mandates and restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions recently signed into law by Northam, a Democrat, are economically and scientifically unsound, these critics argue.

Supporters, however, counter that the new environmental regulations are needed to put Virginia “on the path to clean energy” and help the state combat climate change.

The “Virginia Clean Economy Act” creates renewable standards that, for example, require Dominion Energy Virginia to be 100% carbon-free by 2045 and Appalachian Power to be 100% carbon-free by 2050.

The new law also says that almost all of the state’s coal-fired power plants must be closed by 2024.

The legislation was the result of “extensive stakeholder input and incorporates environmental justice concepts related to the Green New Deal,” the governor’s office said in April.

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates free-market policies, argues that with the Virginia General Assembly’s shift this year from Republican to Democratic control, green energy initiatives became a top priority for newly elected lawmakers at the expense of energy consumers.

“This whole situation is a stark reminder that elections have consequences,” Pyle said in an interview with The Daily Signal. “The Democratic-controlled Legislature and the governor hid behind the coronavirus pandemic to sneak Green New Deal-type schemes into law that will dramatically increase energy prices for all Virginians.”

“Gov. Northam continues to rely on flawed models and cites questionable evidence in support of this government makeover of Virginia’s electricity options. When Virginians see their utility bills get higher in the future, they can look back to this moment and thank him,” Pyle said.

The Green New Deal refers to congressional resolutions introduced in February 2019 that call for a “10-year mobilization effort” to end the use of fossil fuels in the U.S.

Pyle’s observation that “elections have consequences” also applies to Virginia’s recently passed Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act, which positions the Commonwealth to join a multistate “cap and trade” program limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

When Republicans held the majority in the General Assembly, they imposed budgetary restrictions that prevented the state’s Department of Environmental Quality from allocating funds to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a compact among New England and Mid-Atlantic states. Dating to 2009, the cooperative effort currently  includes 10 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. 

When the budgetary restrictions that Virginia Republicans put in place last year expire in July, the Northam administration can begin to rework regulations to accommodate the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and prepare Virginia to become a full member in 2021.

RGGI applies only to those power plants—more than 30 in Virginia—that generate over 25 megawatts. The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, a Virginia thank tank that advocates less regulation and more economic freedom, reproduced a map from the Department of Environmental Quality showing which plants would have to comply with RGGI. 

Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, contends that Northam’s decision to move Virginia into the initiative when unemployment was spiking and businesses were struggling to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates how out of touch the political class is with average Americans.

“Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,” Cohen told The Daily Signal in an email, adding:

Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown.

It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.

Under cap-and-trade measures, government officials put an upper limit or “cap” on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that power plants are allowed to emit, but also create “allowances” within interstate auctions that may be traded back and forth among companies subjected to the CO2 caps.

The idea behind cap-and-trade is to provide energy companies with financial incentives to reduce emissions. Companies that meet or exceed emissions targets then may sell any excess allowances to companies that have not done so.

David Stevenson, director of the Center for Energy Competitiveness at the Caesar Rodney Institute in Delaware, authored a paper for the Cato Institute’s Center for the Study of Science that found non-RGGI states such as Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Texas had “lower overall price increases” than states that joined RGGI.

Stevenson also wrote another paper that argues the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative could be unconstitutional under a legal theory known as the “dormant commerce clause,” since RGGI states spur higher electricity costs in states that aren’t part of the compact.

“State laws and regulations that interfere with, or discriminate against interstate commerce violate the U.S. Constitution,” he writes. “It is time to take RGGI to federal court.”

In testimony in February, Stevenson told a Pennsylvania House committee that increased natural gas production in the state already had reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

“You are probably looking at a billion dollars a year in allowance costs,” he said, describing how costly and counterproductive joining RGGI could be. “It will grow over the years, but the average over the next 10 years will be about a billion dollars a year.”

Stevenson testified as part of a hearing on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and related legislation that would prevent Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, from entering into the compact without legislative approval. Wolf issued an executive order in February instructing Pennsylvania’s environmental agency to join RGGI.

Mark Mathis, founder of the nonprofit Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy, produced a video encouraging Pennsylvania residents to keep their state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Mathis, also president of the Clear Energy Alliance, describes in the video how RGGI raises energy costs where it is implemented and warns that the governor and other policymakers could damage Pennsylvania’s economic prospects if they move the state into the compact.

Virginia’s regulatory authorities have provided testimony and public statements describing how such greenhouse gas restrictions would inflate energy prices across the state.

RGGI could cost ratepayers between $3.3 and $5.9 billion in the first decade and increase average electricity bills between $7 and $12 per month, officials with the State Corporation Commission, whose powers include regulating utilities, testified during a House of Delegates hearing.

Randy Randol, who analyzes energy and environmental issues for the Virginia Tea Party, describes the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as a regressive tax on the “most economically depressed areas of Virginia,” since it will cut into disposable incomes.

“This will make it even harder for people already struggling to get their head above water during COVID-19,” Randol said. “This is the worst time ever to raise energy prices.”

The Daily Signal sought comment from Northam’s press secretary, Alena Yarmosky, in response to energy analysts who criticized the governor’s green energy initiatives. The Daily Signal also asked when Northam expects Virginia to become a full participant in RGGI.

Yarmosky had not responded by publication time.

However, Ann Regn, communications director for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, did respond to The Daily Signal’s inquiry about costs associated with entering RGGI and how those costs might burden residents already struggling during the pandemic.

“We can’t address the COVID issue, but prior economic modeling that was conducted for [the Department of Environmental Quality] indicates the total cost associated with Virginia’s participation in RGGI is marginal at worst,” Regn said in an email in late May. “Start-up expenses for the state are minimal and the ongoing costs of the RGGI program are funded out of auction revenues.”

Regn said Virginia will become a full participant in RGGI beginning Jan. 1, and that the state must impose restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions to address climate change.

“The new laws are the first step in reducing CO2 emissions, which will begin to mitigate the impacts of climate change to Virginia,” she said.


‘Collapse of civilisation is the most likely outcome’: top climate scientists

More prophecy from an old master of false prophecy

The world’s most eminent climate scientists and biologists believe we’re headed for the collapse of civilisation, and it may already be too late to change course.

Australia’s top climate scientist says “we are already deep into the trajectory towards collapse” of civilisation, which may now be inevitable because 9 of the 15 known global climate tipping points that regulate the state of the planet have been activated.

Steffen says it would take 30 years at best (more likely 40-60 years) to transition to net zero emissions, but when it comes to tipping points such as Arctic sea ice we could have already run out of time.

Evidence shows we will also lose control of the tipping points for the Amazon rainforest, the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the Greenland ice sheet in much less time than it’s going to take us to get to net zero emissions, Steffen says.

“Given the momentum in both the Earth and human systems, and the growing difference between the ‘reaction time’ needed to steer humanity towards a more sustainable future, and the ‘intervention time’ left to avert a range of catastrophes in both the physical climate system (e.g., melting of Arctic sea ice) and the biosphere (e.g., loss of the Great Barrier Reef), we are already deep into the trajectory towards collapse,” said Steffen.

“That is, the intervention time we have left has, in many cases, shrunk to levels that are shorter than the time it would take to transition to a more sustainable system.

“The fact that many of the features of the Earth System that are being damaged or lost constitute ‘tipping points’ that could well link to form a ‘tipping cascade’ raises the ultimate question: Have we already lost control of the system? Is collapse now inevitable?”

This is not a unique view – leading Stanford University biologists, who were first to reveal that we are already experiencing the sixth mass extinction on Earth, released new research this week showing species extinctions are accelerating in an unprecedented manner, which may be a tipping point for the collapse of human civilisation.

Also in the past week research emerged showing the world’s major food baskets will experience more extreme droughts than previously forecast, with southern Australia among the worst hit globally.

Steffen used the metaphor of the Titanic in one of his recent talks to describe how we may cross tipping points faster than the time it would take us to react to get our impact on the climate under control.

“If the Titanic realises that it’s in trouble and it has about 5km that it needs to slow and steer the ship, but it’s only 3km away from the iceberg, it’s already doomed,” he said.

‘This is an existential threat to civilization’
Steffen, along with some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists, laid out our predicament in the starkest possible terms in a piece for the journal Nature at the end of last year.

They found that 9 of the 15 known Earth tipping elements that regulate the state of the planet had been activated, and there was now scientific support for declaring a state of planetary emergency. These tipping points can trigger abrupt carbon release back into the atmosphere, such as the release of carbon dioxide and methane caused by the irreversible thawing of the Arctic permafrost.

“If damaging tipping cascades can occur and a global tipping point cannot be ruled out, then this is an existential threat to civilization,” they wrote.

“No amount of economic cost–benefit analysis is going to help us. We need to change our approach to the climate problem.

“The evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute.”

Steffen is also the lead author of the heavily cited 2018 paper, Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene, where he found that “even if the Paris Accord target of a 1.5°C to 2°C rise in temperature is met, we cannot exclude the risk that a cascade of feedbacks could push the Earth System irreversibly onto a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway.”

Steffen is a global authority on the subject of tipping points, which are prone to sudden shifts if they get pushed hard enough by a changing climate, and could take the trajectory of the system out of human control. Further warming would become self-sustaining due to system feedbacks and their mutual interaction.

Steffen describes it like a row of dominos and his concern is we are already at the point of no return, knocking over the first couple of dominos which could lead to a cascade knocking over the whole row.

“Some of these we think are vulnerable in the temperature range we’re entering into now,” said Steffen.

“If we get those starting to tip we could get the whole row of dominos tipping and take us to a much hotter climate even if we get our emissions down.”

Even the notoriously conservative United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found that already with the 1.1°C of warming we have had to date, there was a moderate risk of tipping some of these – and the risk increased as the temperatures increased.

Steffen believes we are committed to at least a 1.5°C temperature rise given the momentum in the economic and climate system, but we still have a shot at staying under 2°C with urgent action.


Global cooling!

If this drop had been a rise it would have "proved" global warming

Icy blast hits Australia as temperatures drop to their coldest in 75 years in some parts of the country – and it's only going to get worse

Temperatures have plummeted below zero across South Australia, with one part of the state shivering through its coldest June morning in 75 years.

A record low of 0.9 degrees was recorded at the West Terrace weather station at Adelaide hills, the coldest overnight temperature since 24 June 1944.

However the rest of Australia is being lashed with rain, and the wet weather isn't disappearing anytime soon.

The weather was so cold in Adelaide on Wednesday morning wet clothing was producing steam outside

The Perisher Valley in NSW reached a low of -6.6C on Tuesday morning with snow showers expected for alpine regions in NSW and Victoria at the weekend.

Snow is also forecast to hit the New South Wales alps at the weekend.

In the top end, Darwin will continue through the dry season with high temperatures of around 32C with sunny days and blue skies.



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