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Utilities Reducing Rates Around the Country Due to Tax Cut

Paul Bedard reports in the Washington Examiner that National Grid won’t be alone if it reduces rates to reflect its lower tax burden, owing to the GOP-Trump tax cut that has just gone into effect:

On the heels of companies dishing bonuses of up to $3,000 to over one million workers due to the anticipated benefit of President Trump’s tax reform victory, several major utilities have announced plans to cut rates in a consumer payback related to the lower taxes.

Energy suppliers like Washington’s Pepco, Baltimore Gas and Light, Pacific Power, Rocky Mountain Power and Commonwealth Edison said they plan to give hundreds of thousands of customers a rate cut due to the tax reform.

Again, lowering the cost of doing business lowers the prices that companies have to charge to cover operating expenses and achieve whatever profits they need, which contrary to popular progressive delusion, they can’t just arbitrarily collect.

On the same topic, I asked Lt. Governor Dan McKee’s office whether his call for lower utility rates means he supports the tax reduction.  Here’s the response:

Lt. Governor McKee has publicly voiced his concern with the tax bill. One of his major issues with the bill is that it gave the overwhelming amount of tax relief to a very small and select percentage of the population and particularly large corporations. Lt. Governor McKee will use the new law in any way possible to help Rhode Islanders. In that vein, he will continue to pursue the rollback of previously approved and pending National Grid rate increases and encourage others to do the same.

Political rhetoric notwithstanding, one suspects that the former mayor of Cumberland understands that tax cuts in a system in which a relatively small percentage of the population pays the majority of taxes will lead to disproportionate reductions for those who pay the most.  One also hopes that the lieutenant governor is cognizant of the fact that his latest initiative plans to take advantage of the relief given to a “large corporation.”

We can only shake our heads, though, that a politician who actually seeks to draw advantage from the effects of legislation from the opposite party seems so moderate.

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McKee Proves the Point on Corporate Tax Reform

Readers may have caught wind of the push — led by Democrat Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee — to pressure or force National Grid to lower its requested energy rates in response to presumably significant savings due to the tax reform passed by the Republican Congress and President Trump.  On WPRI, Ted Nesi reports that at least one Massachusetts energy provider is lowering rates “to pass along some of its millions of dollars in tax savings to customers”:

“Our neighbors in Massachusetts will be getting a break on their monthly electricity bills,” McKee said in a statement. “It’s time for Rhode Island to ask National Grid to use its corporate savings to lower rates in our state and provide much needed relief for local families and small businesses.”

Wherever one may fall on the spectrum of possibilities for pressuring or forcing companies to use their resources in certain ways, whether utilities or otherwise, doesn’t this episode pretty much reinforce the premise of corporate tax cuts?  When government imposes costs on businesses, they are ultimately passed along to consumers and the economy overall.

And by the way, when we periodically hear politicians attacking companies — as McKee has attacked National Grid in the past — shouldn’t they simultaneously seek to mitigate the various ways in which they, the politicians, push the companies to higher prices?  That would include not only taxes, but also regulations and other government programs, such as those proliferating in the name of environmentalism.  Or is government the only area in which there are no trade-offs?

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Bag Ban Mania Has Come to Tiverton

The activists are going town by town pushing fruitless plastic bag bans, and in Tiverton the debate raises more disturbing beliefs:

Hilton apparently believes that government’s providing educational services creates an excellent opportunity to manipulate children into conflict with their parents to advance a cause whenever a handful of elected officials agree with activists that the cause is righteous. While one would have to research how much class time must be devoted to an issue in order to turn children into a government youth corps, Tiverton parents might rightly wonder whether the school district’s academic results illustrate available slack in the school day. Just 28% of Tiverton high school students are proficient in math and fewer than half in reading. Perhaps indoctrination can wait until those results improve.

On the other hand, perhaps the school department could seize on the issue to provide practical lessons in math, science, and critical thinking.

The town administrator is warning of big spending increases next year, and this is what elected officials are spending their time on?

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The Other Side on Cleaning the Bay

I forget the specific issue, but some years ago, out of frustration at the one-sided nature of his reporting, I contacted the Providence Journal environment reporter to say I’d be happy to voice the other side if he ever felt inclined to include it.  I think it was Alex Kuffner, but it might have been his predecessor.  Whoever it was, the reply was that he didn’t believe there really was another side.

That exchange came to mind when I read Kuffner’s article about fishermen who aren’t happy that we’ve cleaned Narragansett Bay so thoroughly:

Lanny Dellinger, board member of the Rhode Island Lobstermen’s Association, put the blame on a tightening of restrictions on wastewater treatment plants after the historic Greenwich Bay.

We think of waste as waste, of course, but there’s a reason we put manure in soil to fertilize it.  We do live in an ecosystem, in which creatures tend to have complementary roles.

The article does a good job highlighting the reality that, over time, different forms of life thrive and fade out.  Some human modification or natural event changes the immediate environment, and the balance of life changes.  People have to adapt, both in their diets and their industries.

Sometimes we adopt a hubris that hides that fact:

There are larger questions in play, said Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

“Given the complexity of everything that’s going on, what are we trying to get to?” she asked.

What’s the right level of nutrients in Narragansett Bay?

“Right” by whose lights?  In some ways, environmentalists are just reactionaries.  The thing that they value in the status quo (or the past) must be preserved or even enhanced without regard to some unseen cost.

There shouldn’t be something that we’re “trying to get to” as a permanent condition.  We should set some controls for outright pollution guidelines for resolving differences and then let life happen.

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National Grid as Learning Opportunity for the Governor

One begins to get the sense that National Grid energy prices are becoming a bit of a representation of Rhode Island’s business climate generally, which makes this sort of rhetoric from the Raimondo administration a bit hard to take, from Alex Kuffner’s article on rate increase requests for the Providence Journal:

Rhode Island families and small business owners — especially manufacturing businesses — are already challenged by high energy costs,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “The Public Utilities Commission needs to open up National Grid’s books and stand up for Rhode Island ratepayers.”

Macky McCleary, administrator of the state Division of Public Utilities and Carriers — sister agency to the PUC — said Rhode Islanders deserve better value in their utility services.

“What we received today appears to be a proposal that continues business as usual and presumes the willingness of Rhode Islanders to bear an ever‐increasing burden of higher costs,” he said.

Read through the article and what you’ll find is a list of complaints that touch on government mandates on energy and on business in general:

  • Labor costs, including health care
  • New hires to connect green energy sources to the grid
  • Wealth redistribution through a low-income discount
  • Electric vehicle charging stations

How can the governor play defender of the people when it comes to these expenses and then allow things like mandatory paid sick time, new health care mandates, and expanded green energy programs?  Whether these costs filter through the energy company or not, they ultimately all come from the same household incomes.

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The Fruitlessness of Plastic Bag Bans

As we hear rumors that the municipal fad of plastic bag bans may move up to the state level, Glenn Reynolds points toDaily Mail article reporting that up to 95% of all plastic waste in the world’s oceans comes from eight rivers in Asia and two in Africa:

Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world’s oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research.

The top 10 rivers – eight of which are in Asia – accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste.

About five trillion pounds is floating in the sea, and targeting the major sources – such as the Yangtze and the Ganges – could almost halve it, scientists claim.

When your neighbors attempt to impose these sorts of environmentalist restrictions on you, what they’re really doing is imposing useless drags on our lives and economy in order to feel good about themselves.  Naturally, the most vulnerable in our community will ultimately feel the effects most acutely, but that’s of little concern when you’re saving the world from a phantom non-Asian bag menace.

That statement may seem a little harsh, but in all the articles I’ve read about these bans, I don’t think I’ve ever seen mention of the actual source of plastic in the oceans or a discussion of the economics.  I have, however, seen stories about people getting sick from reusable grocery bags.

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An Administration with No Credibility to Chastise

To be fair, this is the sort of thing one expects a governor to say when an institution, particularly a public utility, falls short of expectations at a time during which people are relying on it, as Shaun Towne reports for WPRI:

[Democrat Governor Gina] Raimondo’s office on Wednesday said the governor has directed the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) Administrator Macky McCleary to assess National Grid’s storm preparedness and restoration efforts.

To ensure National Grid’s attention is focused on the ongoing restoration, Raimondo’s office said the review will begin once all homes and businesses are back online.

“Rhode Islanders should expect the lights to come on when the switch is flipped. National Grid owes Rhode Island families and businesses a swift response when power goes out and thoughtful planning to prevent outages when storms are forecasted,” Raimondo said in a statement Wednesday.

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for a politician to position herself in opposition to inadequate services when this is also news, as reported by Susan Campbell, also on WPRI:

On the first day of open enrollment for health insurance, a glitch prevented hundreds of customers from reaching HealthSource RI.

About 300 calls were routed incorrectly, due to a change that was made to the agency’s phone menu Tuesday night, according to Brenna McCabe, a spokesperson for the agency.

Add the following to the list of reasons government should remain small enough that it’s actually possible for politicians to run it well:  It doesn’t help when the people’s elected representatives have less than zero credibility for complaining about the disappointing performance of other organizations.

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For Some, Driving Out Producers Is a Feature, Not a Bug

A father-and-son op-ed in the Wall Street Journal notes that California’s cap-and-trade energy scheme (like Rhode Island’s) misses the reality that companies can simply leave and, moreover, have incentive to do so:

Yet the law’s designers still have not confronted the central conundrum of trying to impose a state or regional climate policy: As firms compete for a limited supply of carbon permits, they are put at a disadvantage to out-of-state rivals. Production flees the state, taking jobs and tax revenues with it. Emissions “leak” outside California’s cap to other jurisdictions.

Of course, as we can readily observe in Rhode Island, this works out just fine for people who have jobs (often because they’re politically connected) and the wealth to tolerate higher energy prices.  They’re happy to pay more for energy… for everything… if they get to feel good about “being green” and never coming across any energy-production plants that don’t give them a thrill of self virtue, like wind turbines might.  Those to whom that doesn’t apply, however, find that they have incentive to leave the state, as well.

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Spinning Evidence of Climate Change Alarmism

A curious thing happens by the end of Harry Cockburn’s Independent article about scientists’ admission that they overshot the mark with their warnings of global warming a decade ago.  We start with this acknowledgment that those of us who were sneered at as “deniers” were actually right to be skeptical:

The study, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, does not play down the threat which climate change has to the environment, and maintains that major reductions in emissions must be attained.

But the findings indicate the danger may not be as acute as was previously thought.

But we end with the new spin, from University College London Professor Michael Grubb, who suggests that keeping the global increase in temperature to 1.5° Celsius “is simply incompatible with democracy.”

New calculations suggest that humanity can emit more than three times the amount of carbon than scientists had previously prescribed (as a pretense for imposing economy-changing regulations on the planet), which is great news, according to Grubb, because:

“That’s about 20 years of emissions before temperatures are likely to cross 1.5C,” Professor Allen said.

“It’s the difference between being not doable and being just doable.”

Catch the trick?  Under the previous assessments, it would already be too late to do anything about catastrophic climate change, so we might as well keep our democracy (and prosperity, I might add) through to the bitter end.  If we acknowledge that the models have been alarmist, on the other hand, there’s a chance that we just might be able to save the world.  So, there’s still a reason to hand over our freedoms to an international bureaucracy of elites.

Whether the models might still be too alarmist, we cannot yet tell, but why risk it for the petty sake of our inalienable rights as individual human beings?

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A Century of Global Climate… Easier to Predict than a Hurricane’s Path?

I make a point of directing news and commentary from ideologically conflicting sources across my desk, and so it isn’t unusual for me to see a headline like, “Harvey should be a warning to Trump that climate change is a global threat,” immediately following one like, “The Trouble With Connecting Harvey to Climate Change.”

My own view on that contrast is much like Datechguy’s (via Instapundit):

Now as a person familiar with both mathematics and computer science, this [huge] variation [in predictions of the incoming hurricane’s likely path] is not odd, in fact it’s completely understandable. After all a computer model is based on the best possible guesses from the available data and hurricanes are “complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes” so there is nothing at all odd about there being a 850 mile variation as to where it will it.  As we get closer to Sunday and we have true data to input the variation in the models will correspondingly decrease.Now apply this to climate change models telling us we face disaster in 100 years.You aren’t dealing with a single “complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes” you are dealing with EVERY complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes that exists on the earth. Every single additional item you add increases the variation of the data models. Furthermore you are also dealing with variations in the sun, variations in the orbits of the earth, its moon and more.

Furthermore, as the post points out, those advocating alarmism on climate change have financial incentive to do so in a coordinated “consensus” kind of way, whereas the incentive for those predicting hurricanes that will play out over the following week is mainly to be as accurate as they can be.  The hurricane trackers aren’t asking us to hand over vast quantities of our resources, not to mention our rights, to them.  They’re just trying to do a job, and because they’ll have liability for their predictions in the near future, they’re much more controlled about their claims.

Observe, Americans, and respond to activists accordingly.

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