With employment and energy, central planners can’t (and shouldn’t) try to micromanage the world. They’re just going to hurt people.
Rhode Islanders are already saddled with high energy costs, and a carbon tax would make that worse, without any guarantee that the environment will be helped at all.
With resistance to climate alarmism still high, maybe the solution is a new approach for scientists to address the subject and present it to the public.
Green energy schemes are a way to allow wealthier people to feel good about taking money from poorer people.
Such stories as this, in the Providence Journal, should read less like celebrations of newfound revenue and more like lamentations of tyranny:
Volkswagen is paying more than $157 million to 10 states to settle environmental lawsuits over the company’s diesel emissions-cheating scandal. …
Volkswagen has admitted to programming its diesel engines to activate pollution controls during government treadmill tests and turning them off for roadway driving.
So some states imposed harsh restrictions on cars, and one company cheated. (More specifically, one company has been caught cheating.) As a results those states are getting windfall slush money to splash around.
What huge incentive for states to over-regulate everything! Environmental policy is especially ripe for this sort of abuse, and one can see why governments want so badly for there to be a looming environmental catastrophe to justify its confiscation of money and assault on rights.
When talking among themselves, environmentalist left-wingers will admit that government money allows them to waste resources.
Ronald Bailey notes in Reason that human ingenuity, more than draconian restrictions on our freedom, is advancing U.S. environmental health:
The International Energy Agency is reporting data showing that economic growth is being increasingly decoupled from carbon dioxide emissions. Basically, human beings are using less carbon dioxide intensive fuels to produce more goods and services. The IEA attributes the relatively steep drop in U.S. emissions largely to the ongoing switch by electric generating companies from coal to cheap natural gas produced using fracking from shale deposits. Renewals also contributed a bit to the decline.
Yes, you could argue that the pressure from environmentalists and regulators pushed the energy industry to make the investment in alternatives, although I’d be skeptical and also argue that radical environmentalism has been a net negative even then. Even without that argument, though, we must acknowledge that, if safeguarding the planet really is our goal, allowing humanity to advance is a critical part of the strategy. And it keeps our lives improving, too. Win-win.
Jeff Jacoby has a great column in the Boston Globe about the reasonableness of doubt about extreme climate change claims:
Yet for all the hyperventilating, Pruitt’s answer to the question he was asked — whether carbon dioxide is the climate’s “primary control knob” — was entirely sound. “We don’t know that yet,” he said. We don’t. CO2 is certainly a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, but hardly the primary one: Water vapor accounts for about 95 percent of greenhouse gases. By contrast, carbon dioxide is only a trace component in the atmosphere: about 400 ppm (parts per million), or 0.04 percent. Moreover, its warming impact decreases sharply after the first 20 or 30 ppm. Adding more CO2 molecules to the atmosphere is like painting over a red wall with white paint — the first coat does most of the work of concealing the red. A second coat of paint has much less of an effect, while adding a third or fourth coat has almost no impact at all.
This paragraph reminds me of the time I spent my half hour lunch break from construction sitting in my van on a snowy day arguing back and forth with a PolitiFact journalist about his bogus rating for Republican Congressional Candidate John Loughlin related to global warming. I forget the specifics, but key was the notion that 94% of greenhouse gases are natural, most of it water vapor. It’s a notion I first encountered in this 2007 Anchor Rising post by Monique (which she raised as a reminder for years afterwards, as you can see by searching “6%” here).
The reporter took much the same rhetorical approach as those who’ve attacked Pruitt and (I’m sure) Jacoby: dismissal, mockery, and scorn. As fun as DMS may be, it isn’t science, and it shouldn’t be a basis for public policy that affects people across the globe.
Although it is unfortunately not online, a March 8 Newport Daily News story by Marcia Pobzeznik raises an interesting controversy involving a wind turbine in Tiverton. Like all green energy installations, the turbine is heavily subsidized, and it is arguably more so, in this case, because it is part of the affordable housing development at Sandywoods Farm. That hasn’t made the owners shy about wanting to skirt their tax bill.
According to Tiverton’s tax assessor, David Robert, the turbine is worth $395,000 and is taxed accordingly at $7,560 annually. Church Community Housing Corp., the owner of the development, is arguing that the turbine should be exempt from taxation because the energy is sold at retail. There, if I’m understanding the article correctly, is the rub:
The electricity generated by the turbine is sold to National Grid per an agreement signed on May 9, 2011. The 275-kilowatt turbine’s output would “offset some, but less than all of the projected on-site usage” of the housing development, according to the agreement that Sandywoods shared with the Tax Assessment Board of Review.
Because of the way the transaction is structured — with the turbine owner receiving a check from National Grid and being charged separately for its own energy — the lawyer for the development argues that it is, indeed, selling the energy.
One suspects that, even to the extent the general public pays attention to public policy, most people wouldn’t think it matters whether a turbine owner gets a reduction on his or her bill or just a check that offsets energy usage. With green energy, affordable housing, and any government-subsidized activity, though, one must always assume there to be a scheme.
Just another reason to stop all subsidies.
The snow coming down, leaving us inside with our heating systems and, for many, the comfort of generators should things get that heavy, creates an excellent atmosphere in which to read Stephen Moore’s thoughts on why “Europe’s Lesson Teaches Us: Don’t Go Green.” Moore also touches on the impetus to make the United States green, too:
So very quietly, Europe and other nations aren’t going so green anymore. The EU spent an estimated $750 billion on green energy handouts over the past decade and what it has bought for that is a doubling of its power costs.
This has given American steel, auto, light manufacturing, agriculture, and technology firms a big competitive edge in world markets. This is why European nations and Australia are understandably desperate for the U.S. to move to the same green energy policies that they adopted years ago.
Just as it’s in Russia’s interests to bankroll an American anti-fracking movement, the elites of Europe, who have pushed their countries too far toward fashionable energy programs, have reason to pressure the United States to hobble its own economy. If Europeans were to demand that their leaders put the well-being of workers and families first and loosen their regulations, many in the United States would cheer them on, but our own elites shouldn’t expect us to sacrifice our workers and our families to make us fair in foolishness.
Here’s a key part of a recent article by Kimberley Strassel, of the Wall Street Journal, profiling President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director, Scott Pruit:
Speaking of lawsuits, Mr. Pruitt says he plans to end the practice known as “sue and settle.” That’s when a federal agency invites a lawsuit from an ideologically sympathetic group, with the intent to immediately settle. The goal is to hand the litigators a policy victory through the courts—thereby avoiding the rule-making process, transparency and public criticism. The Obama administration used lawsuits over carbon emissions as its pretext to create climate regulations.
“There is a time and place to sometimes resolve litigation,” Mr. Pruitt allows. “But don’t use the judicial process to bypass accountability.” Some conservatives have suggested the same tactic might be useful now that Republicans are in charge. “That’s not going to happen,” he insists. “Regulation through litigation is simply wrong.” Instead, Mr. Pruitt says, the EPA will return to a rule-making by the book. “We need to end this practice of issuing guidance, to get around the rule-making procedure. Or rushing things through, playing games on the timing.”
There are way too many ways for activists to slip changes into the law without the awareness of a voting public that can’t possibly keep track of it all or, even if we could track it, select candidates to correct specific problems on the vast field of government activity. That’s why it’s entirely appropriate to elect executives who see themselves in opposition to the bureaucracy itself.
Don’t forget, by the way, that the activists moving policy through “sue and settle” also tend to take home a decent paycheck courtesy of the government, like the ACLU lawyers who sued Rhode Island over the UHIP debacle.
A thoughtful, well grounded op-ed by former state rep Doug Gablinske in Thursday’s Providence Journal, who makes the reality case that the electricity to be generated by the proposed Burrillville power plant is very much needed.
Thanks to efforts to restrict the development of a piece of land in Tiverton, a government casino and hotel became its best use.
You may have been keeping half an eye on the proposed power plant that a firm called Invenergy would like to build in Burrillville. Friday, the Providence Journal reported that
Invenergy has failed to sell the second half of the power output of its proposed fossil fuel-burning power plant in Burrillville to the regional electric grid.
Opponents of the proposed plant understandably view this development as good news. However, it is not a fatal blow for the proposed power plant, as the article notes.
Further along, the article also notes that New England has had 4,200 megawatts of generating capacity taken off line (my observation: this happened in large part due to out-of-control EPA regulations by the Obama administration), and another 6,000 megawatts are at risk of going off line. Accordingly, many of us are concerned about the cost and continued adequate supply of electricity.
Environmentalists believe they have the answer.
But opponents of the plant say that renewable sources can fill in any need for new power in New England.
Yikes. Sorry, no, that is simply not the case.
Contrary to the implicit beliefs of environmentalist zealots, this is a good thing:
… rates for all of 2016 were generally low throughout New England. Mild weather and the lowest natural gas prices since 1999 drove overall wholesale energy prices to their lowest point since 2003, according to Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO-New England, the operator of the regional power grid.
Despite the fact that low energy costs help people, especially the poor and working class, the Left wants to close down power plants, like the one at Brayton Point in Somerset and to prevent new sources of energy, like the proposed natural gas plant in Burrillville.
Unfortunately, it isn’t clear that the general public makes the connection between environmentalism and energy prices strongly enough for a reasonable balance to overcome heated rhetoric and numbers games.
Climate alarmism seems to raise more questions than it answers, and here’s one: If we should charge traditional energy companies for global harm, what other industries (e.g., Hollywood) do demonstrable harm and ought to be taxed accordingly?
In India innovation is turning coal exhaust into baking soda; in Somerset, environmentalists are turning waterfront property into a useless plot of land that is a drag on local taxes and the economy.
Ah, the tender extremism of the Environmental Protection Agency, as John Daniel Davidson writes on The Federalist:
… now comes the federal government to tell the inhabitants of Alaska’s interior that, really, they should not be building fires to keep themselves warm during the winter. The New York Times reports the Environmental Protection Agency could soon declare the Alaskan cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, which have a combined population of about 100,000, in “serious” noncompliance of the Clean Air Act early next year.
Read the whole thing, but in sum, according to Davidson this is a local problem isolated to an area that people can choose to leave. The writer, for one, is willing to take the health risks associated with some wood-fire-related pollution for the benefits of life in the area, but the distant federal government isn’t willing to allow him that option.
Like much progressive, big-government action, the effect of this regulation (intentional or not) will be to limit the places humanity can settle… except, naturally, those privileged few with money to burn. To be sure, it must be difficult for federal bureaucracies to tell people how to live their lives when we’re so spread out into the wilderness.
Indeed, one finds it difficult not to see a deliberate restriction of human freedom if the picture combines Davidson’s explanation of the energy challenges in the region…
Heating oil is too expensive for a lot of people, and natural gas isn’t available.
… with the EPA’s restrictions and President Barack Obama’s imperial ban on oil drilling along Alaska’s coast.
In The Titanic, one passenger laments that there aren’t enough lifeboats for half of the passengers, and the movie’s wealthy villain proclaims that it won’t be “the better half” who are stranded. Think of government as a crew both steering toward an iceberg and restricting access to escape and you’ll have something of the sense of how progressive policies function.
Much to the detriment of the state’s rate payers, Deepwater Wind began generating electricity on December 12. Less than three weeks later, one of its five turbines broke (oopsie). As though wind energy isn’t already expensive enough, now we have to add the cost of making repairs thirteen miles out on the ocean. (‘Cause the cost of water and seawater-related repairs is always very reasonable, right, boat owners …?)
It probably was not a coincidence that the company made this embarrassing admission on a day – the Friday before Christmas – sure to glean the absolute minimum amount of public attention.
A University of Rhode Island physics professor’s attempt to use environmentalism in Woonsocket to attack capitalism instead raises questions about his credibility and that of Marxist environmentalism worldwide.
The big dirty little secret about renewable energy is that it is very expensive. Pointing to the “extraordinarily poor value” of return BY THE EPA’S OWN STANDARD in carbon footprint reduction, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity earlier this year called on the State of Rhode Island to significantly roll back renewable energy mandates.
Fast forward to last week. The Empire Center for Public Policy’s Kenneth Girardin alertly spotted that the State of New York has done almost exactly that for 2017.
The state Public Service Commission has quietly reduced the amount of renewable energy that utilities will have to purchase next year by 94 percent, according to PSC documents.
Kudos to New York for quietly modifying their mandate to conform with reality, even if it’s just for one year. For the sake of their already over-burdened ratepayers who have no obligation to fund pointless, feel-good, very expensive energy sources, Rhode Island and all other states need to follow suit, and not just for one year.
By now, the Trump transition team has promised that it has “properly counseled” the staffer who asked for names of people involved in certain of the Environmental Protection Agency’s activities, but it remains a telling incident:
The official said questions about professional society memberships and websites that staff at the Energy Department’s national laboratories maintain or contribute to could raise questions about Trump’s commitment to scientific independence – a fundamental tenet at the agency. …
Democrats have called the questionnaire a modern-day political witch hunt that could have a chilling impact on federal workers.
Gee. If anything, that sounds less aggressive and presumptuous than the Obama administration’s treatment of Tea Party groups in the run-up to his reelection campaign. The main difference: Those were private citizens being harassed by the IRS on the president’s behalf. If there’s any harassment with the EPA request, it’s the people’s elected president harassing out-of-control agencies. That’s kind of how representative democracy ought to work.
Journalists put Republicans and conservatives on the record about a list of topics; why shouldn’t Democrats and progressives be challenged for association with racists who foment violence?
Most of the links I’ve collected over the last couple of days for further consideration and possible posting have had to do with national politics, and I’m not much in the mood to join the chorus, right now. I will say, though, that the implications of the election are encouraging, irrespective of the president elect (that is, if he stays out of their way).
A pivotal moment came for me the other evening when I heard Rudy Giuliani discussing possible appointments that might fill out the Trump administration. For most of them, it was a reminder that, before they backed Trump in the first place, I liked how most of these people approach policy issues. This positive reminder has been reinforced by talk from the other side. Here one clip from several local environmentalists’ press releases, which Alex Kuffner cut up and reprinted as a Providence Journal article:
“With an uncertain future and a federal government now determined to stop us at every turn, the innovative environmental work happening on the local and regional level is more important than ever,” said Josh Block, press secretary of the Conservation Law Foundation.
Sure, it’s a call to keep local funding going for crony projects and activism for economic deterioration, but if it’s not being pushed and largely funded from Washington, D.C., maybe Rhode Island can have an actual discussion of the policies. Similarly for education:
Tim Duffy, the executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Superintendents, worries that Republicans, who now control the House and Senate, will make good on their threats to cut federal spending on education, and possibly move to abolish the Department of Education in its entirety. …
Another area of uncertainty is school choice. Trump has proposed $20 billion to expand school choice for low-income children. Students could use the money to attend private, charter and traditional public schools of their choice.
Even the possibility that the federal government might put families first by skipping over the corrupt and inefficient educational bureaucracy to give federal education resources directly to families who need them is tantalizing. As is this, via email, from Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza:
These results, and the current state of our nation, present a new opportunity and responsibility for cities to play a much larger role in shaping our democracy. As the mayor of Providence, I commit to doubling down on my efforts to advance a society that is inclusive, compassionate, and forward-thinking.
Yes, yes, he’s talking about “doubling down” on a worldview that is destructive and inimical to freedom and self actualization, but maybe without the federal government imposing progressivism from above and funding activists with tax dollars, we can actually make key decisions at the local level, where they ought to be made.
Nobody should be surprised when our dishonest president-elect looks for ways to back out of difficult promises, but even if his administration only partially reins in the corrosion and abuse of our civic system, we’ll be entering a new era.
I’ve been meaning to note this American Interest post, providing more evidence that the way forward — even if climate change alarmists have a point — is not to slow the economy, but to let it loose to advance and bring technology with it:
… it was coal’s sharp decline—a drop of 18 percent in the first half of this year as compared to 2015—that really moved the needle on America’s energy emissions. And let’s not forget that Old King Coal isn’t being dethroned by onerous regulations, but rather by market forces. More specifically, coal’s demise has been precipitated by the sudden rise in domestic natural gas production that has led to an oversupply (and, as a result bargain prices). This, of course, comes to us courtesy of the great shale revolution.
Anybody who insists that the environment’s salvation must come through heavy public subsidies of a few favored technologies and restrictions of everything else, along with increasingly centralized power to restrict people’s behavior, isn’t in it for the environment, but for power and, very likely, for a cut of the subsidized profits from those favored technologies.
Over the past few decades, multiple movies and TV shows have used plot devices in which the money men invested in old energy sources conspired to undermine fashionable technologies like wind and solar. I don’t think I’ve ever seen show that portrayed “renewable” industrialists conspiring to prevent fossil fuels from becoming less of an environmental problem of themselves.
Ask yourself this: How would environmentalists and progressives respond if some technological innovation made coal less carbon-intensive than wind and solar and still less expensive? Would they shift their support to that new technology or continue insisting that “renewables” were the only hope for humanity?
For most, I suspect, the question is rhetorical, because they’re either on the take or in a cult.
Here’s the sort of news (via Instapundit) that keeps a lot of us skeptical of efforts to use warnings about “global warming,” “global cooling,” or “climate change” as justification for radical changes to our economy and society:
In a new twist to waste-to-fuel technology, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed an electrochemical process that uses tiny spikes of carbon and copper to turn carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into ethanol. Their finding, which involves nanofabrication and catalysis science, was serendipitous.
Sure, this is a long way from techniques for capturing atmospheric carbon; the only application mentioned in the article is the conversion of excess energy from periodic energy sources (like solar and wind) for storage. But in a world in which alarmists declare that it’s already too late to avoid the harmful effects of human activity in the past, any action taken that slows the economy in the name of the environment will inevitably restrict research and development that may — serendipitously — solve the very problems about which we’re being warned.
Three Brown faculty members traffic in questionable statistics in an apparent push to end the deadly scourge of days that are “merely warm.”
In America, we must all remain free to voice our opinions without fear of state-sponsored persecution. It is reprehensible for any political elitists to collude to prosecute those who disagree with them on policy. For this reason, the Center is assisting a national nonprofit organization in a lawsuit demanding that the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General release documents they have refused to make public. We believe that General Kilmartin, and his fellow enemies of debate, are seeking to maintain a cloak of invisibility over the national AG group’s attempt to crush dissent by those who disagree with their radical climate change agenda.
In June, the Center published an energy report that demonstrated how oppressive state renewable energy mandates, as part of the national climate change agenda, will cost taxpayers and ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. These mandates will cause job losses in the thousands, and artificially raise local electricity rates. It is research and advocacy such as this that Kilmartin and his AG group are seeking to muzzle and potentially prosecute as criminal. No matter where you stand in the climate change debate, citizens must have the right to speak freely.
This culture of silence in the Ocean State is chilling. Why do so many elected officials and prominent people want you to be quiet? The rigged system protects the corrupt insiders. As we saw in the recent 38 Studios political whitewash, the machine will do what it takes to keep you from knowing the truth. Rhode Islanders want a government that works for everyone not just the chosen few. Things do not have to be this way in our state. We can have an open state government that serves the real needs of our families, and protects our freedom to achieve our dreams.
Elected officials saying things are getting better in Rhode Island is not enough, they must take action. We need action. Unless the Ocean State adopts the proven free market reforms that can transform our state, we will continue to see the negative trends continue. You can change the status quo. You must not allow anyone to silence you. By speaking out on the issues that affect your family, you can make a powerful statement to the insiders that you have had enough. Now is the time to be bold, and have our public policy culture make a complete turnaround.
[Mike Stenhouse is the CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity.]
Kevin Mooney has picked up, for The Daily Signal, the story about an open-records-related lawsuit against Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. In brief, Kilmartin’s office has signed an agreement to work with other attorneys general and environmental activists to target companies and organizations on the other side of public debate about climate change and related public policy, with a further agreement to keep the larger agreement and correspondence secret. One problem with that:
If Kilmartin and the other attorneys general prevail in the deal to keep select details secret, the ordinary citizen will be the loser, Chris Horner, a leading critic of climate change orthodoxy, said.
“It will mean that they can create privilege for what are otherwise public records, even when shared with ideological activists and donors, so long as everyone who wants to keep their scheming secret agrees in advance,” Horner told The Daily Signal.
That’s not the only way for government officials to keep things secret. I’ve been writing about the efforts of the Employee Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI) and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner to withhold from me the total amount of pension promises to which the state is committed, efforts in which the attorney general’s office is now involved. In that case, the state government is making the ludicrous claim that, because a private actuary has the data, might have to perform a simple calculation, and might charge some price to produce the results, getting it would implicitly be an “undue burden,” thus creating an exemption from the law. That is, even if the costs would be small and the people requesting the information were willing to pay the fees, public agencies do not have to release public information as long as they use an outside company to process it.
With that massive loophole in mind, turn to an essay from May by Hans Von Spakovsky and Tiger Joyce. As part of this very same effort of state attorneys general to go after political opponents in the name of climate change alarmism:
Some state attorneys general are hiring profit-seeking, private-sector personal-injury lawyers to do their legal dirty work. Moreover, any contingency fees collected by these lawyers through settlements arising from these cases could be used, in part, to fund the campaigns of allied politicians who embrace the “one, true belief” of man-made global warming.
Unfortunately, the Department of Attorney General does not appear to be included in Rhode Island’s transparency portal, so there’s no immediate way to dig into Kilmartin’s expenditures with private firms, but even if the state has not yet reached the point of paying hired bounty hunters to track down those lawless climate change deniers, we can certainly include this whole corrupt effort on the list of ways in which government at the state and national levels has left the road along which the people can safely feel as if they are legitimately governed.
Mark Zaccaria suggests that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse should back away from his attacks on Constitutional rights and focus on making a positive difference in people’s lives.