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Is Climate Change Persecution Fading Already?

With one of our U.S. Senators’, Mr. Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat, naturally), being a key figure in the fascist effort to pursue legal persecution of people who have a contrary opinion to him on the politically charged issue of global climate change, Rhode Islanders might be interested to hear that some of his allies are backing away from his level of aggression, as the Wall Street Journal notes (text here):

Virgin Islands AG Claude Walker recently withdrew his subpoena of Exxon Mobil. He was a leader among the 17 AGs charging that the oil giant defrauded shareholders by hiding the truth about global warming. That’s hard to prove when the company’s climate-change research was published in peer-reviewed journals.

Mr. Walker also targeted some 90 think tanks and other groups in an attempt to punish climate dissent. These groups and others, including these columns, pushed back on First Amendment grounds, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute counter-sued Mr. Walker and demanded sanctions. He pulled his subpoena against CEI last month.

The real shame, and the real warning sign, is that those AGs, and fellow travelers like Whitehouse, weren’t instantly lambasted by people across America’s political spectrum for even initiating such patently offensive-to-freedom steps .

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Going to the Heart of Costly Renewable Energy


In this podcast excerpt, I discuss with the Heartland Institute’s Donald Kendal and John Nothdurft the findings of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s new report on renewable energy that confirms a very poor cost-benefit return to Rhode Islanders of renewable energy. (Listen to the full podcast of our conversation here.)

Because 98% of Rhode Island’s energy is generated by natural gas, our state already has a comparatively small carbon footprint. Further reducing it to hit purely arbitrary renewable production targets would cost state ratepayers and taxpayers $141–190 million per year in production expenses alone – four to five times the EPA’s recommended cost standard.

Rhode Islanders also cannot afford the cost to the state economy in the form of lower employment levels or in the $670–893 million per year extracted in unnecessarily higher electricity rate payments by private sector businesses and families. When will the status quo learn?

Based on these findings, the Center has strongly recommended that lawmakers reject all proposed new energy mandates and, instead, repeal those that are currently written into law. The EPA’s own cost standard highlighted in the Center renewable energy report demonstrates that state officials can set aside all renewable energy mandates with a clear conscience.

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EPA (Via Its Standards) Says Renewable Energy Offers RI Very Poor Cost-Benefit Return

It is well but perhaps not as widely known as would be desirable for a fully informed discussion on the subject that renewable energy is far more expensive than conventional (fossil fuel) energy sources. Further to this point, the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity has released a report with the helpfully descriptive title: “Renewable Energy in Rhode Island: Big Cost, Little Difference”. (Link to the full report in PDF here.)

The report points out that by the EPA’s own standards, the cost of Rhode Island abating carbon from its energy supply would far exceed the benefits that would accrue to the state.

Because of this poor cost-benefit “value proposition,” up to five times less than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–suggested standard, Rhode Island should reconsider its existing energy policy approach.

Let’s repeat this very important point and its source. By the measure of the EPA, not exactly a research arm of the vast right-wing conspiracy, it simply is not worth it, in terms of the carbon that would be abated, for Rhode Island to put renewable energy on its grid.

With this information, elected officials – Governor Raimondo and members of the General Assembly – can no longer in good conscience advocate or vote for renewable energy in Rhode Island. In fact, just the opposite, as the Center calls for: renewable energy mandates must be rolled back.

Based on this study’s findings, the Center strongly recommends that lawmakers reject all proposed new energy mandates in 2016 and, instead, repeal those that are currently written into law.

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Credit Where It’s Due (At Least for Rhetoric)

Here’s a quote from Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello (D, Cranston) that one doesn’t expect to read in Rhode Island.  On the topic of a cut to funding of the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC), as reported by Lynn Arditi:

“When the money runs out the programs are off,” House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello said during a budget briefing last week. “Every time a federal grant expires everybody wants the funding to continue. You have a government that Rhode Island cannot afford.”

Of course, as Andrew’s charts make clear, the overall level funding of government arises only because an increase in local funding made up for a loss of federal revenue, but at least the speaker is articulating important points.

Also from Mattiello, yesterday, was a statement that the green-energy article of the House budget would be removed altogether.  Many on the right have seen that as a good sign, but note this sentence in the statement (emphasis added):

Over the past several days, I have received feedback on Article 18 and have reached the conclusion that there are pieces of the article that do not need to be in the budget.

Most of the legislation in Article 18 was already submitted as bills in the House and Senate.  For example, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Freedom Index shows that the controversial energy-producer interconnect component of the article has already passed the House as H7006.

So, again, at least we’re getting evidence that sounds of reality and reason are penetrating the State House walls.  Whether they’ll have a real effect (or produce consequences if they don’t), we’ll have to wait and see.

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Article 18: Another Insider “Deepwater” Scam in the Making? (Corrected)

Despite disturbing new revelations and renewed public criticism about insider legislative grants, cronyism appears to be alive and well at the Rhode Island State House. And once again, Ocean State families and businesses would be asked to foot the bill.

In the budget that got voted out of the Finance Committee early Wednesday morning, alert observers spotted and brought to the attention of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity as well as the Ocean State Current on Friday an extensive revision to Article 18.

They are correct to loudly ring warning bells about it. If it stays in, state electric ratepayers are in for even higher electric rates than they currently pay.

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A Word of Caution When Reacting to Targeted Legislation

Here’s a hypothetical:  State legislators create an unaccountable bureaucratic board and, over time, invest it with power to make increasingly minute and economically significant decisions affecting private businesses.  After an extended and costly ordeal, one such business resolves to address an abuse that its leaders see as affecting not only its own bottom line, but the future of its entire industry.

Lobbyists and political donations are almost universally despised, but they are the the way the system works, and the business utilizes them.  Legislation it proposes to rein in the power of an insider-tied public utility and the unaccountable board make it nearly to the point of passage by being placed in the House’s revision of the budget.

How should free-market, small-government conservatives react to this sequence of events?  Apparently, if the business in question is a renewable energy company, it’s a story of cronyism on the part of the business.  I’d suggest that conservatives should temper the broad indictments of the system they’re making about the story of Wind Energy Development and House Finance’s Article 18.

Yes, there’s clearly an immediate benefit to Wind Energy if this article passes, but here’s the first provision of the relevant section of the budget article:

The electric distribution company may only charge an interconnecting renewable energy customer for any system modifications to its electric power system specifically necessary for and directly related to its interconnection. Any system modifications benefiting other customers shall be included in rates as determined by the public utilities commission.

I have to admit: that sounds reasonable to me.  Switch the details around a little.  Imagine a manufacturer wants to set up a new energy-intensive factory in the wilds of Southwestern Rhode Island, and the current practice of National Grid and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) would be to force that company to pay 100% for upgrades to any part of the power grid that its increased usage might affect, even if a particular bit of the infrastructure were on track for a scheduled upgrade the following year, anyway.

Would we characterize it as cronyism if the company took its case to the General Assembly through the usual means, asking only to pay for modifications “specifically necessary for and directly related to” its business?

There is, of course, a bit of justice to the PUC’s ruling.  National Grid should be making upgrades anyway (with the urging of the PUC), perhaps with money that it currently funnels to insider green-energy deals.  That would create a healthier business and residential environment for all of us.  One could see the Wind Energy ruling as a sly way of redirecting some of that cronyism to the public good.

But let’s be careful about our generalized proclamations.  When a near-government entity like an electric company conspires with an unaccountable bureaucracy to tilt deals away from private companies, the recourse should be to the legislature.  Maybe we don’t like the players in a particular case, but we shouldn’t attack broad principles for a particular contingency.

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Perspective on Tax Credits and the Public Good

This part of Benjamin Riggs’s post in this space earlier this morning justifies some further thought, with an eye toward understanding how government spreads public resources to serve the public good:

Since the power to be generated would benefit everyone in New England, but the effects on quality of life, real estate values, and the rural nature of the area would be imposed mainly on the residents of Burrillville, clearly they are entitled to full compensation for the contribution they would be facilitating for the general good.

Put this idea of compensation in context of controversial legislation to give Burrillville residents a say on any tax deals that the government might enter with the energy plant.  When one hears about tax deals between government and businesses, we typically think of special abatements that spread the business’s tax burden to other taxpayers, at least for an introductory period.

Even where the tax deal is a positive amount for taxpayers, one still must ask whether it’s positive enough, and other taxpayers should arguably have a say. That is, if the theoretical cost to the locals is higher than the negotiated tax windfall (or if that windfall is somehow redirected to government, not the people), then it’s still not a good deal.

Personally, I’m a big believer that government is not appropriately our mechanism for telling our neighbors what to do with their property, which is why some local conservatives see the aforementioned legislation as a naked attempt to kill the power plant.  Presumably, though, there’s some point at which a majority of voters in Burrillville will assess any harm from the plant to be less than the benefit of accepting it.

Those of us who ponder policy for a living should come up with an innovative solution, here.  Rhode Islanders, especially, have good reason to doubt the intentions of state and local politicians when they negotiate special deals with deep-pocketed corporations, so the power to negotiate such deals should be restrained.  Perhaps the answer is to revisit the way in which we assess the value of property for tax purposes so as to incorporate the value of the plant to the entire region into its taxable property.

To be extreme for the purposes of illustration, imagine if the regional good of the energy that it could provide made the power plant worth 80% of the full value of the town’s total property.  That would mean that other taxpayers’ property would only have to generate 20% of the tax revenue the town requires, which would theoretically drop its tax rate to about one-fifth of its current level.  And if the assessment isn’t negotiated, but rather a formula founded on some underlying principle of value, the opportunity for corruption and abuse would be minimized.

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Burrillville Power Plant: Torn Between Empowered Taxpayers & Much-Needed Energy

On the one hand, I support the gas-fired power plant that Invenergy is proposing to build in Burrillville, in large part, because the EPA has UNNECESSARILY shut down other large fossil fuel-powered energy generating plants, leaving New England with few reliable, reasonably priced fuel sources for making electricity.

On the other, even though it might mean that this gas-fired power plant does not get built, I like the bill that passed the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources yesterday

The legislation, which passed through the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources by an 11-2 vote, would require an approval by Burrillville voters for any type of tax agreement between the town and the developers of the power plant.

especially because it apparently restores some authority that the taxpayers of Burrillville used to have.

“I think that’s excellent,” said Jeremy Bailey, who opposes the [power plant] proposal. “Years ago, we used to have that right to vote on a potential tax agreement or tax treaty, however you want to refer to it. That right was stripped from us. We lost a little bit of that democracy that we once had, so this bill is gong to help restore that democracy to us.”

Interesting and compelling. In fact, serious consideration needs to be given to expanding this right to the state level, as it would be another way to clamp down on all of the corporate welfare that the Raimondo administration has been handing out via the Commerce Corporation, formerly the EDC, the agency that faciliated the 38 Studios debacle, in lieu of real economic development measures.

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Journalist Itching for Some Climate Change Action in Wickford

This Alex Kuffner article on flooding in Wickford is highly misleading — so misleading, in fact, that the online editor gave it the completely unsubstantiated (i.e., false) headline, “Tidal flooding in North Kingstown’s Wickford is result of rising seas.”  Here’s the text that one has to read carefully in order to correctly understand what the journalist is claiming:

For a glimpse of a future of higher seas, Rhode Islanders have to look no further than Wickford village during a king tide. …

These types of minor floods were once treated as nothing more than isolated events during king tides, which occur once or twice a year when the alignments of the sun, earth and moon maximize the gravitational pull on the oceans. But now climate scientists and coastal planners see so-called “nuisance flooding” as a harbinger of what’s to come as the seas continue to rise.

The article provides no indication that these king tides have become more frequent or intense, which it surely would if it were possible to make such a claim.  In other words, the message of this front-page article in the state’s major daily newspaper is: “We should all be afraid that this perfectly ordinary occurrence is an example of something that might happen more often in the future.”

This isn’t news; it’s propaganda.  The fact is that tide measurements in Newport show no increase at all over the last 20 years and a decrease so far this decade.  Maybe that’s a pause before rising tides begin again or maybe not.  Whatever the case, it would be reasonable to suggest that those reading Kuffner’s article are apt to come away with precisely the opposite conclusion from the truth, using recent numbers.

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6% and Flawed Models: Why We’re Skeptical of AGW

A second day, a second applause-worthy editorial by the Providence Journal yesterday. They politely call out Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who

… asked [US] Attorney General Loretta Lynch whether the Justice Department had considered pursuing fraud charges against those who have, in his view, misled people about climate change. ….

This is troubling: a U.S. senator and attorney general, both sworn to uphold the Constitution, mulling legal action against American citizens and companies for the “crime” of challenging a scientific theory.

The ProJo correctly points out that

… it is vitally important that America not discard its essential values of freedom.

With Earth Day coming up this Friday, it’s important to note the two simple facts that make so many of us skeptical of the theory of anthropogenic global warming. 1.) Man only generates 6% of all greenhouse gases. 2.) The heart of the case for AGW, the climate models, are flawed (see here and here, and lots of other places).

Accordingly, the proposal by Senator Whitehouse and others to silence by prosecutorial bullying those who question AGW not only violates, as the ProJo points out, free speech, one of America’s essential values, but also comes across as someone who … well, doesn’t want to hear why he may be wrong about something he believes in. It’s fine to disregard facts and evidence that contradict your belief in something. It crosses the line to narrow-minded despotism, however, to propose the use of the considerable powers of government to punish people or companies attempting to present such facts and evidence.

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Best/Worst List Highlights Insanity of Bill That Would Jack RI’s Already High Energy Costs

As part of its informative Best and Worst Bills of 2016, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity highlights this especially egregious bill.

Despite Rhode Island having some of the highest energy rates in the nation, a bill that would impose a new fee on carbon-based energy, resulting in even higher energy costs for most families and businesses, ranks among the worst bills yet to be voted on according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which today updated its list of the BEST and WORST bills of the 2016 General Assembly session.

Most of us, including myself, will greet with champagne and hearty applause the invention/discovery of a cheap, widely available, reliable, sustainable, “green” energy source, if and when this ever happens. Meanwhile, the sole effect of taxing (let’s call it what it is) politically incorrect fuel sources will be to needlessly make it even more expensive for individuals to live in RI and businesses to operate here.

(By the way, check out how your own legislators are doing so far this session on the Center’s 2016 RI Freedom Index.)

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Whitehouse and the Literal Conspiracy to Deprive Americans of Rights

Law professor Glenn Reynolds has an important essay in USA Today, this week, that’s relevant to RI’s former attorney general and now U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and other far-left loons who seek to implement an environmentalist inquisition and prosecute organizations that will not proclaim their unassailable faith in the doomsday wickedness of anthropomorphic climate change:

Federal law makes it a felony “for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the Unites States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).”

I wonder if U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, or California Attorney General Kamala Harris, or New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have read this federal statute. Because what they’re doing looks like a concerted scheme to restrict the First Amendment free speech rights of people they don’t agree with. They should look up 18 U.S.C. Sec. 241, I am sure they each have it somewhere in their offices.

One suspects neither the law nor the science nor the long-term fate of the planet is actually a higher priority to such corrupt politicians than their own lust for power.  And any journalist or other person who handles these affronts as if they might be legitimate should be doubted if he or she claims to be interested in preserving Americans rights.

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Nice – R.I. Trucking Assoc Moves to Invoke Fed Regs Against Toll-Funded RhodeWorks

The Providence Business News reports that the R.I. Trucking Association is attempting to bring to bear arguably the heaviest, most terrible artillery of all against Governor Raimondo’s toll-funded “bridge” repair program: federal regulations.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation sent March 18, trucking association President and CEO Christopher J. Maxwell said the proposed bridge and overpass rebuilding program should require a National Environmental Policy Act review because it will use federal funds.

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An Obvious Solution to an Energy/Environment Problem

Uh-oh. Alex Kuffner reports in yesterday’s Providence Journal that there’s a legal stumbling block… sort of… for the proposed energy plant in Burrillville:

A Brown University professor who helped craft a key state law on climate change is arguing that the construction of a new natural gas-fired power plant in Burrillville would make it impossible for Rhode Island to meet the law’s targets for reducing carbon emissions in coming decades.

In written testimony that is set to be filed with the state Energy Facility Siting Board on Thursday, J. Timmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies and sociology, says that building the 900-megawatt Clear River Energy Center conflicts with the Resilient Rhode Island Act, the 2014 law that set a non-mandatory goal of eventually reducing state greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

If this is a problem, the solution is obvious:  Kick anybody who voted for this ridiculous legislation out of office and repeal it.  To check who voted “yea” and “nay,” refer to H7904 (item 27) on this House journal and S2952 (item 8) in this Senate journal.

Truly, no word is better than “decadence” to describe the folly of legislators in an economically failing state thinking up ways to make life and business more expensive, here.

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What If This Is Really What Climate Change Is About?

We owe a debt of gratitude to “former United Nations climate official Ottmar Edenhofer” for his honesty concerning that area in which he is most expert:

“One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with the environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole,” said Edenhofer, who co-chaired the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change working group on Mitigation of Climate Change from 2008 to 2015.

So what is the goal of environmental policy?

“We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy,” said Edenhofer.

Climate is a pretense.  Of course, not every politician and activist who genuflects toward the gods of climate change wants global socialism.  Some are true believers and some invest a much smaller amount of personal showmanship in the cause for much smaller payoffs, like winning campaign contributions and votes from true believers among the public.

But here’s an imaginative exercise that I’d love folks who don’t do a double-take when people like the president of the United States proclaim that climate change is a national security issue for the military:  How would your reaction change if you came across irrefutable evidence — like the plot twist in a mid-’90s movie — that Mr. Edenhofer isn’t some wild ideologue who somehow let his mask slip, but is, in fact, correct about the motivation for pushing climate change as an issue?

I’m honestly curious.  Would you reconsider?  Would you adjust your rationale for your current views?  Of are the implications of that possibility too frightening even to consider as a possibility?

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Laws Are for the People, Not Their Betters in Government

During yesterday’s discussion on the Rhode Island House floor of H7147, the bill’s primary sponsor, Democrat John “Jay” Edwards (Tiverton, Portsmouth) presented it as a matter of fairness.  Those poor, put-upon elected officials have to provide some degree of transparency into their finances, while local grassroots groups that (very suspiciously) oppose many of the things those politicians want to do to their towns get away with spending money to voice their opinions on local issues without having to provide the politicians’ friends with ammunition for whisper-and-intimidation campaigns.

I’ll leave it for later to go into detail about Edwards’s dishonesty during his State House performance, yesterday.  For the moment, I’ll simply note the audacity of this line of argument coming from a supporter of imprisoned former Speaker of the House Gordon Fox and move on to a national issue that gives some sense of the contempt that Americans should have when government officials chastise the People to be more transparent:

The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group’s Ethan Barton reports that lobbyist, Michael J. Brady, asked in a private email for a little favor of EPA General Counsel Joe Goffman, his insider friend at EPA: “Joe, would you please send this email to Gina for me? I would have sent it to her directly with a cc to you but I don’t have a private email address for her and would prefer to not use an office email address.” (Emphasis added) Brady represents a number of green energy groups that want to support EPA’s Cross-State Pollution Rule. Goffman

The casual tone of the email exchange shows “that it is a regular practice of senior officials of this EPA to use private e-mail accounts and other ‘off-book’ techniques to craft rules with ‘green’ activists with clear financial and political interests is now clear beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Chris Horner, the man who exposed former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” email moniker.

As I said, this is a national matter, but there can be little doubt that it’s an issue at the state level, too.  For example, we’d have had no idea that George Nee — a big-time labor figure who sits on multiple government boards at the state level — used his Yahoo email account to lobby for a union-friend’s daughter to get a 38 Studios job if those emails hadn’t been part of the giant scandal of the company’s bankruptcy that lead to lawsuits and legal disclosures.

It’s increasingly clear that people in government don’t see themselves as our representatives, but as our aristocracy, with free license to seek out ways to make it impossible for us to operate without their permission.

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Teppco Closure… Government Incompetence or Corruption?

On GoLocalProv, Russ Moore is reporting that the Teppco propane terminal in Providence is taking its 36 jobs and skipping town:

Nearly one year after being hit with a $1 million tax hike by the City of Providence, Teppco, a propane terminal located at ProvPort, has officially closed its doors. The company will cease doing business in Providence this week — a move that will cause its 36 employees to look for new jobs.

According to sources with the company and at the Port, the City’s tax increase was the major cause of the closure of the facility that has been operating since 1971. Moreover, the failure by city officials to respond and work to resolve the issues caused Teppco to lose a potential buyer that would have allowed the facility to continue to operate and retain jobs.

One doubts the fallout from this controversy is so narrowly limited.  Any business considering opening or expanding in Providence or all of Rhode Island must take into account the reality that the municipal and state governments are so poorly run and are not above changing the rules of the economic game when it suits their personal purposes.  After all, the business environment isn’t just the set of taxes and regulations that the government imposes within its jurisdiction — which are utterly obnoxious in their own right — but also tendency of officials to add more and then cut special deals only with those who play ball.

As with the Citizens Financial Group development, the message is clear that businesses should look anywhere else than Rhode Island first, unless they’re big and influential enough to have the rules bent in their favor.

But aside from all that, I’m not sure why everybody assumes that this egregious example of tax grabbing and non-communication is some kind of error.  Here’s a bit of waterfront property that the owners no longer want and that can’t be sold for its current use.  Keep an eye out for new proposals to utilize the abandoned land for something that powerful people inside Providence government want more.   After all, what are jobs, taxes, and local energy/fuel sources in comparison with things that insiders want?

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Citizens Financial Group Shows an Inevitable Outcome for RhodeMap Central Planning

Frank Carini makes points in his ecoRI editorial, today, with which conservatives will find it difficult to disagree.

Last December, at a Grow Smart Rhode Island transit conference, Gov. Gina Raimondo talked about the importance of developing around dense, transit-accessible hubs. Less than four months later, the governor is celebrating a project that will do just the opposite.

Last week, the Citizens Financial Group announced plans to build a corporate campus on open space in Johnston, off Greenville Avenue and outside Route 295. The proposed 420,000-square-foot facility is expected to house 3,200 current employees. The campus will reportedly feature an on-site cafeteria, fitness center and walking paths.

Yes, developing Rhode Island’s extensive and intrusive state guide plan was “a waste of time” (and worse than that).  Yes, the amount of taxpayer resources that politicians have promised (and will continue to promise) to Citizens for its new Johnston compound is offensive.

The step that Carini does not appear willing to make, however, is to come to broad conclusions about the very nature of central planning.  Consolidating power in order to prevent people from doing things you don’t want them to do will mean that only people with enhanced leverage will be able to do those things.

Citizens can promise politicians a good talking point and labor unions a bunch of jobs, so manacles like the state guide plan won’t apply to the company.  Meanwhile, smaller, more-localized homeowners and companies will be limited to the restraints that the bank found too restrictive, ultimately giving the finance giant market leverage in addition to all of the exceptions and handouts.  Meanwhile, land that has no value to those who lack the political pull to get around the government plans is less expensive for entities that do have such pull.

This is what happens when planners don’t look at incentives, acknowledge their legitimacy, and seek to accommodate them in a way that works best all around, but rather seek to slip restrictive rules into place below the awareness of most of the people who will be affected.

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On Climate, It’s the Government That’s Acting Conspiratorially

Ted Nesi’s Saturday roundup column gives Rich Davidson, the spokesman for far-left-radical Democrat U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, room to offer some spin related to the senator’s push to make a crime of disagreeing with him on climate change:

Simply denying climate change isn’t what Senator Whitehouse believes could violate federal law. Like courts found with tobacco companies, it can be a violation of the federal civil RICO statute when companies engage in an enterprise designed to mislead the public about the dangers of their products. The senator’s questions to the attorney general were to learn whether the Department of Justice is doing its due diligence to investigate whether fossil fuel special interests are leading a coordinated fraudulent effort to deceive the American people.

Two observations.  First, the entire effort, including Whitehouse’s public pronouncements and especially the hearing with the attorney general, is an excellent example of how government can make the process the punishment and use broad threats to chill speech and activity.  What company or organization wants federal law enforcement agencies rifling through its files or telling the public that it’s under investigation for potentially criminal activity?  This sort of “due diligence” is thug government.

Second, it doesn’t get nearly as much press coverage as it should — particularly when the media presents Whitehouse’s tyrannical overtures as just a bit of he-said-she-said politicking (at worst) — but in this entire controversy, it’s the government that looks like a more likely candidate for RICO investigations.  Consider, for example, the relatively minor matter of an Obama administration video promoting propaganda about how “climate change” is producing polar vortexes (i.e., how global warming makes winter colder).  When the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) requested through official channels that the video be corrected and then requested documents substantiating the refusal of that request, the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) engaged in a time-and-money wasting exercise to keep its documents secret, lying about the nature of the video.

Now, one could interpret the White House’s actions as evidence that it wants to hide its efforts to deceive the public, or one could interpret them as a bid by an over-sized organization that overspends its revenue by hundreds of billions of dollars every year to drain scarce resources among its ideological opponents.  Either way, Sheldon Whitehouse comes out looking objectively worse as a representative of the people of Rhode Island.

If only there were some way the news media could provide residents with an accurate picture of their junior senator and the schemes of which he’s a part…

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Mark Levin Features Soviet-Like Whitehouse

Rhode Island’s own Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat) led off episode 4 of Mark Levin’s new online show.  Reviewing a clip of Whitehouse presenting an obviously prepared line of questioning for President Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, Levin draws parallels between Whitehouse’s content and presentation and the sort of government activity we used to expect from the Soviet Union.

Without any specifics — leaving much to the imagination and the insinuation — the senator and the AG discussed criminal and civil investigations of private companies that aren’t fully in line with the required climate change ideology.  Levin suggests that the entire performance isn’t meant to enlighten the senator from Rhode Island, but rather to get the message out there in the air, so to speak, that companies should start worrying about an FBI knock on the door.  “It’s as tyrannical as is possibly imaginable.”

The idea is to intimidate the public in order to prevent real debate over public policy.  In practice, the government doesn’t have to take oppressive action to the extent that people believe that oppressive action is always a possibility.  The great majority of people (including business leaders) just want to move along with their lives, and so they’ll respond to implied threats from officials.  Then, those who either won’t or can’t capitulate so easily seem like extreme cases and are easy to marginalize in an environment in which everybody else just wants the tension to go away.

This is how freedom dies, and it’s sad to see how large a role even little Rhode Island has managed to play in the process through its electoral choices.

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With H7700 RI General Assembly Goes After Your Fixtures

Think of all the challenges you have living in Rhode Island and contemplate what might ease them some.  How far down on your list would you put the following?

  • The water flow from my shower is too strong.
  • My lamps don’t operate efficiently enough.
  • My toilet flushes with too much force.
  • My appliances don’t have an additional cost added to them for stringent testing just for Rhode Island.
  • The state Commissioner of the Office of Energy Resources is too powerless to enter businesses and test their appliances.
  • My plumber or electrician can’t be fined for installing the appliances that I choose.
  • The commissioner can’t add new efficiency standards for any product that he or she chooses without getting authorization from my representatives.

If you think these matters are important, then go ahead and support the genius legislators who have sponsored H7700.  They are:

  • Arthur Handy (Democrat, Cranston)
  • Kathleen Fogarty (Democrat, South Kingstown)
  • Jeremiah O’Grady (Democrat, Lincoln and Pawtucket)
  • Mia Ackerman (Democrat, Cumberland and Lincoln)
  • Daniel McKiernan (Democrat, Providence)
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The Newport Shore and Demonstrable Environmentalist Untruths

Strange as it may sound, I’m wary of proclamations by climate change alarmists for many of the same reasons I’m wary of Donald Trump.  Although it would be beyond the layperson’s capacity to investigate every claim and prove its falsity, a limited collection of exaggerations and outright untruths gives reason to suspect that a sort of sine function applies — that the ratio of truth to untruth will remain generally the same no matter how large the claim.

On the climate change front, I have in mind this AP article by Seth Borenstein, with local flavor added by Providence Journal reporter Alex Kuffner:

In Rhode Island, according to measurements taken at the tide gauge in Newport, sea levels have risen 10 inches since 1929. And the rate of increase is picking up, said Grover Fugate, executive director of the state Coastal Resources Management Council. Waters are expected to rise another foot in the next 20 years. And by 2100, the levels could be seven feet higher, according to new estimates adopted by the CRMC last month to account for the latest data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

I’ve taken this particular data point up before, and the bottom line is that, whatever one can say about the Newport sea level over the past century, it simply isn’t credible to claim the “rate of increase is picking up.”  If we take Borenstein’s mention of 1993, for example, and apply it just to Newport, with the assumption that its rate of increase will continue for a century, we’d have a large increase, yes.  But if we were to start the measurement in 1998, one could just as easily claim that the sea levels will drop dramatically over one hundred years.  The latest one-fifth of the last century has been relatively stagnant, which is not a synonym for “accelerating.”

The assumption that one could find similar flaws in the global data receives some justification in the degree to which the advocates quoted in the article extend their claims.  The article provides no evidence beyond mere coincidence for the repeated insistence that rising seas are being caused by the use of fossil fuels.  Yet that insistence is not once qualified with doubt, and we’re supposed to trust this subgroup of scientists, filtering information through this medium of information, to tell the “detective story” of sea levels throughout human history?

 

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Renewable Energy and Crony Capitalism in Action

Yeah, maybe I’ve become cynical, but when I see this article:

The Providence company that’s in the midst of building the first offshore wind farm in the United States is now working on a host of energy projects that are on land and have nothing to do with the wind.

The most immediate is a 2.6-megawatt solar farm in Foster that was recently awarded a long-term power purchase contract through a state renewable energy program. Construction on the project, which would be Deepwater’s first foray into the solar energy sector, is expected to begin in the summer of 2017.

I can’t help but think of this legislation:

Every retail electric supplier providing service under contracts executed or extended on or after January 1, 2017, shall provide a minimum percentage of kilowatt-hour sales, as determined by the commission, to end-use customers in Rhode Island from thermal energy generating sources.

The folks who run government and those most heavily invested in the renewable energy industry are pretty seamlessly integrated at this point, in Rhode Island, so this could simply be a coincidence, but whatever the case it’s an excellent example of crony capitalism (of venture socialism).  A private entity decides to enter a market, and lo’ the government decides to force people to buy its product.

Folks, this isn’t how an economy is supposed to work.  In fact, in the long run, it won’t work at all.  Rhode Island should be considered exhibit #1 for that proposition.

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Whitehouse as Anti-Science Left’s Poster Boy

Rhode Island’s own U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (Democrat) gets a name check in Josh Gelernter’s article likening the climate change alarmists to the historically infamous persecutors of Galileo:

People tend to think that proponents of an Earth-centered solar system were nothing but intransigent religious fanatics. In fact, they included scientists of Galileo-level genius, like Ptolemy and Aristotle. When their theories were weakened and their opponents’ strengthened, they switched sides — and the “scientific consensus” changed. The intransigence belonged to the government, seated in the Vatican, which refused to accept new data because a deviation from the consensus-ante would have proved politically difficult. …

But our government — or parts of it, like Senator Whitehouse — prefer the status quo. Global warming is (literally and metaphorically) cash in the bank for many of our men in Washington, and a lot of their supporters. They want the new heliocentrists excommunicated and in prison. But remember: The lesson of Galileo’s inquisition is that truth will out.

Progressives have gone pretty far on a logical fallacy.  Essentially, they’ve promoted the notion that “the Church persecuted Galileo, and business moguls exploited workers, but we support action through government, and government is neither the Church nor a business.”  The fallacy, obviously, is to pretend that organizations in each of those three broad categories are different in a way that’s relevant to the undesirable outcome.  Put differently, they pretend such institutions can’t switch roles in the narrative, as if it’s always the prefixes and never the suffixes in “theocracy” and “oligarchy” that make a difference, as if claiming that they have invented a pure, non-prefixed government — a “cracy” or “archy.”

That’s not a sustainable delusion, but progressives have also been very busy buying off constituencies and brainwashing with reckless abandon.

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How ‘Bout Some More (Green) Chains on Our Economy?

See, here’s the thing: If my understanding of economics were wrong, Rhode Island’s economy would be humming along right now. Three green-energy provisions in Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposed budget just redistribute money to companies in a politically preferred industry, forcing us all to pay for profits that the market would never provide if people were free to direct their money where they wanted it to go:

“The governor wants to be as aggressive as she can be to expand clean energy sources,” Marion Gold, commissioner of the state Office of Energy Resources, said in an interview. “The three provisions send a signal to clean energy companies that Rhode Island is a good place to invest their dollars.”

The energy proposals would:

— Extend the Renewable Energy Fund another five years beyond its current scheduled expiration in 2017. The fund, which is replenished through a surcharge on all electric ratepayers in Rhode Island that totals about $2.5 million a year, is used to support grants and loans to developers of in-state renewable energy projects.

— Expand the state’s net metering program, which allows owners of renewable energy systems to sell power to offset their total electric bill. The program would allow “virtual” net metering for off-site systems and third-party ownership of systems.

— Impose a blanket exemption for renewable energy systems from municipal property taxes, unless a community actively chooses to tax the systems.

For people in the industry, it’s profits and investment returns. For those out of it, it’s surcharges, taxes, and socialized costs.

At the House Finance hearing regarding tolls, the Republicans’ plan to redirect some money from renewable energy handouts led to the declaration that it’s one of the few growing industries in the state. That’s because it’s heavily subsidized, and only subsidized industries are able to achieve health in this state.

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Untampered Surface Temperatures

In continuation of my project to clear out links I’d put aside for possible mention (and to make up for my failure to notice that a link I put up this morning was more dated than I’d thought), here’s an interesting find that is, indeed, recent:

A new study about the surface temperature record presented at the 2015 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union suggests that the 30-year trend of temperatures for the Continental United States (CONUS) since 1979 are about two thirds as strong as officially NOAA temperature trends.

The upshot is that only about one-third of the temperature sensors that NOAA uses to track global warming have not been compromised in some way over the last three decades (by being moved or being near some change of landscape that would have changed the results or some other issue requiring correction).  And that one-third of sensors produces a significantly smaller warming trend than the compromised sensors.  Notably, as a chart from Anthony Watts, one of the authors of the study, shows, the official records are much closer to the results of the compromised stations than the uncompromised ones.

Alarmists might dismiss this as the work of non-official-climate-scientists, but such insistence on credentials is one of those long-standing practices of insiders that’s coming into question.  Science isn’t supposed to work that way.  From another perspective, as Classical Values Dave puts it, “It’s frankly comical that a team of unpaid volunteer skeptics had to do the real fieldwork of actually looking at the stations.”

As politicians (including dictators) insist on ever greater infringements on the people’s rights in the name of climate change, incentive grows for the people to investigate the basis for the infringements.  My money’s on the likelihood that the evidence will come up wanting.

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