Tag Archives: Environment

water fountain gargoyles fountain-197334_640

Examining Wichita’s water future

From Kansas Policy Institute.

water fountain gargoyles fountain-197334_640A proposal before the Wichita City Council would raise the sales tax in the city by 1% to fund several projects. The biggest piece of the proposal would be to fund additional water capacity for users of the city water system.

On Thursday 17 July, come hear from the City of Wichita and others on the scope of the problems, possible solutions, and the perspectives of several experts in the debate.

Click here to register for this event.

Date: Thursday 17 July
When: 7:30 a.m. registration and 8:00 a.m. start to presentations
Where: Wichita State University MetroPlex Room 132 ( 29th and Oliver)
Cost: Free with Advance Registration

A light breakfast will be served. The session will conclude by 12:15 p.m.

Speaker Line-up and Agenda:
7:30 a.m. — Registration and Breakfast
8:00 a.m. — Kansas Water Office on scope of water usage/needs in SCKS
9:00 a.m. — City of Wichita Proposal: Alan King, Dir. of Public Works, accompanied by Councilman Pete Meitzner
10:00 a.m. — Are Water Markets Applicable in Kansas?: Dr. Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at the University of Kansas
11:00 a.m. — Wichita Chamber of Commerce Water Task Force Findings: Karma Mason, president of iSi Environmental

KPI is not taking a position of the water proposal before the City Council. This event is to provide a forum for relevant parties to present their perspective on the issue with the public. Each presenter will have 30 minutes for a presentation followed by an Q&A.

This is the first in a series of KPI-sponsored forums of this nature on the different aspects of the sales tax proposal. Future forums will be held on the economic development and street and transit proposals.

For more information about this event contact Kansas Policy Institute at 316.634.0218. To register, click here.

Two street lights in downtown Wichita, June 20, 2014.

Forget the vampires. Let’s tackle the real monsters.

Public service announcements on Facebook and Wichita City Channel 7 urge Wichitans to take steps to stop “vampire” power waste. But before hectoring people to introduce inconvenience to their lives in order to save small amounts of electricity, the city should tackle the real monsters of its own creation.

Public service announcement crawler on Wichita's cable channel network, June 17, 2014.
Public service announcement crawler on Wichita’s cable channel network, June 17, 2014.
People are probably vaguely aware that many modern electrical and electronic devices consume electricity even when switched off. One source estimates that a cell phone charger consumes 0.26 watts of electrical power even when a phone is not plugged in. While in sleep mode, a flat panel computer display consumes 1.39 watts. A clock radio uses 2.01 watts. A microwave oven while not in use and with its door closed uses 3.08 watts. (These are average values.) A large Samsung smart television on standby uses 0.3 watts.

While appearing to be wasteful, this “vampire” power consumption often has a benefit. If you unplug your clock radio when you leave for work in the morning, you save a few dozen watts of power. But, you have to reset the clock when you want to use it again. If I unplug my Samsung smart television, I’ll probably have to reprogram it to my preferences. If I want save the power my microwave oven wastes, I’ll have to wrench my back lifting it out of the way so I can reach the outlet it plugs in to. That action, naturally, unleashes a cloud of dust bunnies to dirty my counters and floor.

Wichita city government Facebook page public service advice regarding "vampire" power waste.
Wichita city government Facebook page public service advice regarding “vampire” power waste.
Nonetheless, the City of Wichita uses its Facebook page and cable television network to urge its citizens take steps like these in order to save small amounts of electricity.

How much electricity do you suppose a city street light consumes? It depends on the type of light, but common street lights use from 100 to 200 watts. During the hours when the sun does not shine, we’re generally willing to pay for that in order to obtain the benefits of lighted streets and sidewalks.

But when street lights are burning in the middle of a day, they provide absolutely no value. Street lights turned on during the day provide none of the convenience of “vampire” power usage, such as not needing to reset your clocks and move your microwave oven every day.

Bench lights and street lights in downtown Wichita switched on in the middle of the day.
Bench lights and street lights in downtown Wichita switched on in the middle of the day.
So while the City of Wichita uses its television channel to hector citizens into adding inconvenience to their lives in order to save vanishingly small amounts of electricity, the city apparently has no misgivings about using large amounts of electricity to needlessly illuminate the noonday sky, week after week.

As I’ve shown, the city often has street lights turned on at noon on days with no clouds in the sky. (See here for examples.) Yesterday dozens of city street lights were turned on at 2:30 in the afternoon on a sunny day for many blocks in downtown Wichita. This is not an isolated mistake. It is a pattern. (Even if it is cloudy and raining, the street lights add no discernible illumination during daylight.)

There’s something else. Each of us can choose the balance between “vampire” power waste and inconvenience based on our own values. If we choose to use “vampire” power in order to add convenience to our lives, we have to pay for it.

Two street lights in downtown Wichita, June 20, 2014.
Two street lights in downtown Wichita, June 20, 2014.
But the Wichita city hall bureaucrats who burn street lights in the noonday sun week after week are spending your money, not theirs.

(Yes, city hall bureaucrats pay taxes to the city just like you and I, so their tax money is also wasted. But because the cost of this waste is spread over the entire city, the motivation for any one person to take steps to eliminate the waste is small. Especially if, like a city hall bureaucrat would, you’d have to actually work in order to achieve savings. But these same bureaucrats and politicians urge you to work harder in your home in order to save small amounts of “vampire” electricity.)

The wasteful expenditures on street lights I’ve been illustrating for several weeks are located in districts of the city represented by Janet Miller and Lavonta Williams. Both express concern for the environment and criticize the purported harm man has caused the earth by emitting greenhouse gases. Here’s an opportunity for them to act on their beliefs.

Misguided faith

Wind farm near Spearville, Kansas.
Wind farm near Spearville, Kansas.
A big “thank you” to Mike Smith for his rebuttal to an op-ed printed in today’s Wichita Eagle. In the commentary, which was signed by more than 60 members of the clergy from across the state, the writer states: “As people of faith, we believe it is our moral responsibility to care for all that has been entrusted to us.” I think the moral responsibility of people of faith is to refrain from telling lies. And while we’re at it, people of faith should stop using the coercive power of government to force others to conform to their prescriptions for life. God doesn’t do that, and neither should they.

Here’s what meteorologist Smith has to say:

Today’s Wichita Eagle has a terribly unfortunate editorial letter from the Kansas Interfaith Power & Light, an advocacy group on the subject of global warming. While everyone is entitled to their opinions, the quality of the science in the letter is dreadful. So, let’s compare the assertions to the science.

Continue reading at Misguided Faith.

Kansas wind turbines

Renewables portfolio standard bad for Kansas economy, people

Kansas wind turbinesA law that forces Kansans to buy expensive electricity is not good for the state and its people.

A report submitted to the Kansas House Standing Committee on Energy and Environment in 2013 claims the Kansas economy benefits from the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard, but an economist presented testimony rebutting the key points in the report.

RPS is a law that requires the state’s electricity utilities to generate or purchase a certain portion of their electricity from renewable sources, which in Kansas is almost all wind. An argument in favor of wind energy requirementy from the Polsinelli Shugart law firm is at The Economic Benefits of Kansas Wind Energy.

Michael Head, a Research Economist at Beacon Hill Institute presented a paper that examined each of Polsinell’s key findings. The paper may be read at The Economic Impact of the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard and Review of “The Economic Benefits of Kansas Wind Energy” or at the end of this article. An audio recording of Head speaking on this topic is nearby.

Michael Head, Beacon Hill Institute

Here are the five key findings claimed to be economic benefits to the Kansas economy, and portions of Head’s responses.

Key Finding #1: “New Kansas wind generation is cost-effective when compared to other sources of new intermittent or peaking electricity generation.”

The first observation to make from this key finding is that if it were true the state RPS policy is not necessary. If wind power is truly cost-effective compared to other sources of energy, state mandates that wind power be used should be repealed, allowing wind power to compete with other technologies to provide low cost electricity in Kansas.

This point is obvious. The actions of the wind power industry — insisting on mandates and subsidies — lets us know that they don’t believe their own claim.

Key Finding #2: “Wind generation is an important part of a well-designed electricity generation portfolio, and provides a hedge against future cost volatility of fossil fuels.”

Hedging has been, and will continue to be, a useful tool for utilities, and benefits the consumer. But the Kansas state government should not engage in this level of industrial policy by regulating just how much utilities can hedge, all for the sake of requiring wind power production. This is not a benefit in itself. Utilities will attempt to maximize profits by consistently analyzing the energy market and making the best decisions, often through long term purchasing agreements. … In short, hedging is a valuable tool when left to the discretion of the utility, but by utilizing a heavy-handed mandate, state lawmakers are actually constraining the ability of the utilities to make sound business decisions.

Key Finding #3: “Wind generation has created a substantial number of jobs for Kansas citizens.”

This key finding fails to take into consideration opportunity costs, a concept that Bastiat explained in his 1850 essay, and is a prime example of the reviewed paper only considering benefits. If a shopkeeper has a window broken, this creates work for a glazer to replace the window. However, this classic “broken window” fallacy mistakes breaking windows as job creation policy. At this point “The Economic Benefits of Kansas Wind Energy” is correct, wind generation does create jobs, just as a broken window creates jobs. But the report stops at this point and fails to provide a complete analysis of the effect of wind generation on total employment in Kansas.

As Bastiat showed, a consideration must be made to the opportunity cost. How would the shopkeeper have spent his money if he did not need to replace his window? He could use the money on capital investment, further growing his business, hire another worker or make various other purchases. Regardless of what it was, they would have all brought him more benefit, than replacing his window. If not, he would have broken the window himself.

This is one of the most important points: By forcing Kansans to pay for more expensive electricity, we lose the opportunity to use money elsewhere.

Key Finding #4: “Wind generation has created significant positive impact for Kansas landowners and local economics.”

This key finding makes a common mistake by assuming transfer payments are a benefit, a fallacy. The transfers of money via lease payments or property tax payments are not benefits. This transfer of money is a cost to one party and a benefit on the other, and can be illustrated easily.

What if Kansas wind farms vastly overpaid for their land and lease payments were valued at $1 billion a year. This report would place the benefit of wind power leasing this land at $1 billion a year. But the project has not changed, where did these new benefits come from?

In fact, there would not be any change to the net benefit of the project. Landowners would amass benefits equal to $1 billion minus the land value and utilities would amass costs equal to $1 billion minus the land value. These costs would in turn be passed along to rate payers in the form of higher utility costs. This illustrates the point that this policy is industrial policy. By dispersing the costs of a project to all citizens in the state, small, but powerful, groups with strong lobbying efforts are able to gather the rewards.

Key Finding #5 “The Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard is an important economic development tool for attracting new business to the state.”

This key finding is related closely with the analysis of the job benefits that wind power purportedly conveys. Of course, legally requiring that utilities use specific sources of electricity will attract new business in that sector to the state. But we need to see the whole picture. This policy has costs, which will be borne by state residents and businesses via higher utility prices.

In conclusion, Head asked the obvious question: “With all of these supposed benefits of wind power, why does it require a government mandate and taxpayer funding?”

charles-koch-wall-street-journal-2014-04-03

Cronyism is welfare for rich and powerful, writes Charles G. Koch

“The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism.”

That’s Charles G. Koch writing in the Wall Street Journal. The article is Charles Koch: I’m Fighting to Restore a Free Society, and is available to read without subscription or payment. In the article, Koch explains his involvement in public affairs:

Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs — even when we benefit from them. I believe that cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful, and should be abolished.

Koch Industries was the only major producer in the ethanol industry to argue for the demise of the ethanol tax credit in 2011. That government handout (which cost taxpayers billions) needlessly drove up food and fuel prices as well as other costs for consumers — many of whom were poor or otherwise disadvantaged. Now the mandate needs to go, so that consumers and the marketplace are the ones who decide the future of ethanol.

There, Charles Koch explains a big problem with the insidious nature of government. Even those who are opposed to government interventions in markets find themselves forced to participate in government subsidy programs. When they do, they are often label as hypocrites for accepting benefits from the government programs they oppose. Koch Industries, as a manufacturer of gasoline, blends ethanol with the gasoline it produces. Federal law requires that. Even though Koch Industries opposed subsidies for ethanol, the company accepted the payments. A company newsletter explained: “Once a law is enacted, we are not going to place our company and our employees at a competitive disadvantage by not participating in programs that are available to our competitors.” (As Koch explains in the current article, the subsidy program for ethanol has ended, but there is still the mandate requiring its use in gasoline.)

Learn how economic freedom creates prosperity and improves lives throughout the world.
Learn how economic freedom creates prosperity and improves lives throughout the world.
Walter Williams, as he often does, explains the core of the problem using his characteristically blunt imagery: “Once legalized theft begins, it pays for everybody to participate.” Williams says not only does it pay to participate, the reality is that it is often necessary to participate in order to stay in business. This is part of the treacherous nature of government interventionism: A business can be humming along, earning a profit by meeting the needs of its customers, when government radically alters the landscape. Perhaps government backs a competitor, or forces changes to business methods that have been working satisfactorily and harming no one. What is the existing business to do in response? Consent to be driven out of business, just to prove a point?

Existing firms, then, are usually compelled to participate in the government program — accepting subsidies, conforming to mandates, letting government pull the strings. This creates an environment where government intervention spirals, growing by feeding on itself. It’s what we have today.

It happens not only at the federal level, but at state and local levels. Referring to a City of Wichita incentive program for commercial real estate, Wichita developer Steve Clark said: “Once you condition the market to accept these incentives, there’s nothing someone else can do to remain competitive but accept them yourself. Like the things we’re working on with the city, now we have to accept incentives or we’re out of business.”

In Kansas, there are state income tax credit programs that award credits (economically equivalent to cash payments) to companies that meet certain requirements that were established by the legislature and are administered by bureaucrats. These corporate welfare programs, which represent cronyism, are more valuable than lower tax rates, at least to influential Kansas businesses.

All this leads to a country whose government stifles the potential of its people — or even worse, as Koch explains — causes actual and severe harm:

Instead of fostering a system that enables people to help themselves, America is now saddled with a system that destroys value, raises costs, hinders innovation and relegates millions of citizens to a life of poverty, dependency and hopelessness. This is what happens when elected officials believe that people’s lives are better run by politicians and regulators than by the people themselves. Those in power fail to see that more government means less liberty, and liberty is the essence of what it means to be American. Love of liberty is the American ideal.

Charles Koch: I’m Fighting to Restore a Free Society

Instead of welcoming free debate, collectivists engage in character assassination.

By Charles G. Koch

I have devoted most of my life to understanding the principles that enable people to improve their lives. It is those principles — the principles of a free society — that have shaped my life, my family, our company and America itself.

Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation’s own government. That’s why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.

Continue reading at Wall Street Journal (subscription not required). More about Koch Industries, including an interview with Charles Koch that covers some of these topics, is available in a recent issue of Wichita Business Journal. Click here for free access.

WichitaLiberty.TV set 2014-03-03 1200

WichitaLiberty.TV: For whose benefit are elections, school employment, wind power, unions, unemployment

Wichita City HallIn this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The controversy over the timing of city and school board elections provides an insight into government. Then: Can a candidate for governor’s claims about Kansas school employment be believed? Wind power is expensive electricity, very expensive. A Wichita auto dealer pushes back against union protests. Finally, what is the real rate of unemployment in America? Episode 36, broadcast March 23, 2014. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Why would the Washington Post do this?

Keystone XL pipeline map
Keystone XL pipeline map
John Hinderaker of Powerline reports on “sheer misinformation” found in a Washington Post newspaper story concerning Koch Industries, Canadian oil sands, and the Keystone pipeline. The article, The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers, is authored by Steven Mufson and Juliet Eilperin. Hinderaker concludes:

Why would the Washington Post embarrass itself by republishing a thoroughly discredited attempt to link the Koch brothers to the Keystone Pipeline? Because that is a Democratic Party talking point, and the Post is a Democratic Party newspaper. But the truth is a little worse than that.

Who is Post reporter Juliet Eilperin? Among other things, she is married to Andrew Light, who writes on climate policy for the Center for American Progress. The Center for American Progress is an Obama administration front group headed by John Podesta, who is a “special advisor” to the Obama administration. CAP’s web site, Think Progress, has carried out a years-long vendetta against the Koch brothers that has focused largely on the environment. Ms. Eilperin’s conflict in writing about environmental issues has already been a subject of controversy at the Post. The paper’s ombudsman should examine this latest example of Ms. Eilperin throwing facts to the winds in her eagerness to promote her (and her husband’s) far-left agenda.

Continue reading at Washington Post falls for left-wing fraud, embarrasses itself.

polar-bear-400

Are you worried about global warming?

polar-bear-400To the extent that global temperatures are rising, and the extent that mankind is the cause, we should be concerned about global warming. Climate change I meant to say, please excuse me.

It’s no wonder that the term global warming has been replaced by climate change. As the following two charts show, the models that are in common use by climate scientists have predicted rising temperatures, but actual observations of temperatures have not conformed to predictions. Temperatures have been level in recent years.

Here’s a simplified chart of the temperatures predicted by climate scientists compared to actual temperatures. A more complicated version follows. Click on either chart for a larger version.

As you can see, actual temperatures have not risen as they should have, if only the Mother Earth would conform to the predictions of climate scientists. Despite this lack of predictive power, global warming alarmists (oops, I meant climate change alarmists) insist we should radically restructure our economy in order to accommodate the predictions of climate models that have been shown to be not very predictive — if we are concerned about accuracy.

Temperatures v Predictions 1976-2013

Temperatures v Predictions 1976-2013 b

Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investment Plan logo.

Wichita planning documents hold sobering numbers

Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investment Plan logo.
Wichita/Sedgwick County Community Investment Plan logo.

This week the City of Wichita held a workshop where the Community Investments Plan Steering Committee delivered a progress report to the city council. The documents hold information that ought to make Wichitans think, and think hard. The amounts of money involved are large, and portions represent deferred maintenance. That is, the city has not been taking care of the assets that taxpayers have paid for.

The time frame of this planning process is the period 2013 to 2035. Under the heading “Trends & Challenges” we find some troubling information. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer hinted at the problem last year in his State of the City Address when he said the city would need to spend $2.1 billion over 30 years on maintenance and replacement of water and sewer systems. The city’s performance measure report also told us that our pavement condition index has been deteriorating, and is projected to continue to decline.

So if we’ve been paying attention, it should not have been a surprise to read this in the presentation: “Decades of under-investment in infrastructure maintenance … 38% of Wichita’s infrastructure is in ‘deficient/fair’ condition.”

The cost to remedy this lack of maintenance is substantial. The document says that on an annual basis, Wichita needs to spend $180 million on infrastructure depreciation/replacement costs. Currently the city spends $78 million on this, the presentation indicates.

The “cost to bring existing deficient infrastructure up to standards” is given as an additional $45 to $55 million per year.

This is a lot of money. To place these numbers in context, here are some figures that help illustrate Wichita city finances:

Property tax collected in 2013: $105 million
Budgeted 2014 expenditures for fire department: $44 million
Budgeted 2014 expenditures for police department: $79 million

It’s thought that an additional one cent per dollar city sales tax would generate around $80 million per year.

The amounts by which the city is deficient in maintaining its assets is staggering, compared to other expenses the city has. The size of the deficiency overwhelms possible sources of new revenue. A one cent per dollar increase in sales tax would not cover the deficiencies in maintaining our current assets. Then, remember the things Wichita wants to increase spending on — a new library, economic development, expanded public transit, new convention center, economic development, and perhaps other things.

The report lists three scenarios for future growth: Maintaining current trends, constrained suburban growth, and suburban and infill growth mix. Whenever we see words like “constrained” we need to be cautious. We need to be on guard. The Wichita Eagle reported this: “In the city’s recently completed series of 102 public meetings, citizens were clear, City Manager Robert Layton said: Redevelop the core. We’ve had enough suburban growth for awhile.”

It’s unclear how closely the findings from the public meetings reflects actual citizen preference. Cynics believe that these meetings are run in a way that produces a predetermined outcome aligned with what city officials want to hear. At any rate, when you ask people about their preferences, but there is no corresponding commitment to act on their proclaimed preferences, we have to wonder how genuine and reliable the results are.

There is a very reliable way to find out what people really want, however. Just let them do it. If people want to live downtown on in an inner city neighborhood, fine. If they want suburban-style living, that’s fine too. Well, it should be fine. But reading between the lines of city documents you get the impression that city planners don’t think people should live in suburban-style settings.

Sometimes we don’t have to read between the lines. Sometimes the attitude of planners is explicit. In 2010 the city — actually the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation — employed Goody Clancy, a Boston-based planning firm, to help plan the revitalization of downtown Wichita. In the article Goody Clancy market findings presented to Wichita audience I reported on some of what the planners said. For example, David Dixon, the Goody Clancy principal for this project, told how that in the future, Wichitans will be able to “enjoy the kind of social and cultural richness” that is found only at the core. “Have dinner someplace, pass a cool shop, go to a great national music act at the arena, and then go to a bar, and if we’re lucky, stumble home.”

This idea that only downtown people are socially and culturally rich is an elitist attitude that we ought to reject. By the way, when I presented to the Wichita City Council on this topic, I noted that no council members, except for possibly one, lived in neighborhoods that might be described as in “the core.”

Other speakers from Goody Clancy revealed a condescending attitude towards those who hold values different from this group of planners. One presenter said “Outside of Manhattan and Chicago, the traditional family household generally looks for a single family detached house with yard, where they think their kids might play, and they never do.”

This, again, is an elitist attitude. No, it’s worse than that. It’s condescending. It reveals that the professional planning class thinks that the ordinary people of Wichita can’t decide for themselves what they really want. Somehow, people are duped into buying homes that don’t really meet their needs, and they’re not smart enough to realize that. That is the attitude of the professional planning class. It’s an elitism that Wichitans ought to reject.

The planning process

The planners tells us that the process is based on data. “Data-driven” is a term they use. But when we look under the covers at the data, we realize that we need to be very skeptical of claims.

Returning to the Goody Clancy plan for downtown Wichita, the principal planner used Walk Score in a presentation delivered in Wichita. Walk Score is purported to represent a measure of walkability of a location in a city. Walkability is a key design element of the master plan Goody Clancy has developed for downtown Wichita.

Walk Score is not a project of Goody Clancy, as far as I know, and Dixon is not responsible for the accuracy or reliability of the Walk Score website. But he presented it and relied on it as an example of the data-driven approach that Goody Clancy takes.

Walk Score data for downtown Wichita, as presented by planning firm Goody Clancy. Click image for a larger version.
Walk Score data for downtown Wichita, as presented by planning firm Goody Clancy. Click image for a larger version.

The score for 525 E. Douglas, the block the Eaton Hotel and Wichita Downtown Development Corporation is located in and mentioned by Dixon as a walkable area, scored 91, which means it is a “walker’s paradise,” according to the Walk Score website.

But here’s where we can start to see just how bad the data used to develop these scores is. For a grocery store — an important component of walkability — the website indicates indicates a grocery store just 0.19 miles away. It’s “Pepsi Bottling Group,” located on Broadway between Douglas and First Streets. Those familiar with the area know there is no grocery store there, only office buildings. The claim of a grocery store here is false.

There were other claimed amenities where the data is just as bad. But the chairman of the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation at that time said that Walk Score has been updated. I should no longer be concerned with the credibility of this data, he told me through a comment left on my website.

He was correct in one regard: Walk Score had been updated. For the same location the walk score was revised to 85%, which is considered “very walkable.” The “grocery store” is no longer the Pepsi Bottling Group. It’s now “Market Place,” whose address is given as 155 N. Market St # 220.

Someone strolling by that location would notice that address, 155 N. Market number 220, is the management office for an office building whose name is Market Place.

Still no grocery store. Nothing even resembling a grocery store.

I looked this week at the Walk Score website. It’s been updated and redesigned. Now for the same block in the heart of downtown Wichita the walk score is 74, which is “very walkable,” according to the site. In a narrative explanation, the site says this: “The closest grocery stores are Ray Sales Co, Market Place and The Hot Spot Detox Shop.”

Ray Sales Co., in the shadow of Intrust Bank Arena.
Ray Sales Co., in the shadow of Intrust Bank Arena.

I don’t know if you’ve been to Ray Sales, but it’s a tiny store with a very limited product selection. It’s not the type of place that will attract people to downtown Wichita. We know that because officials say a grocery store is one of downtown’s most pressing needs, despite the existence of Ray Sales.

Market Place is listed again as evidence of a grocery store in downtown Wichita. Remember, Market Place is the name of an office building located on Market Street. It’s not a grocery store.

The third location listed as a grocery store is a shop that sells kits to help people pass drug tests. It’s nothing like a grocery store.

Again, David Dixon and Goody Clancy did not create the Walk Score data. But they presented it to Wichitans as an example of the data-driven, market-oriented approach to planning that they use. Dixon cited Walk Score data as the basis for higher real estate values based on the walkability of the area and its surrounding amenities. But anyone who relies on the evidence Dixon and Goody Clancy presented would surely get burnt unless they investigated the area on their own.

Keep in mind that the presentation of this Walk Score data was made after Goody Clancy staff had spent considerable time in Wichita. That someone there could not immediately recognize how utterly bogus the data is: That should give us cause for concern that the entire planning process is based on similarly shoddy data and analysis.

Constraining growth

Returning to the city’s presentation: How does the city “constrain” suburban growth? By taking away the freedom for people to live where they want. Why would the city want do that? City leaders say that suburban development is expensive. It’s not sustainable. Suburban living depends on the personal automobile. And remember the attitude of the professional planners Wichita Downtown Development Corporation hired: People can’t be trusted to know what they really want for themselves.

Special taxes paid on a residential home.
Special taxes paid on a residential home.

If it really is more expensive to develop new suburban areas, the city should simply charge what it costs. To some extent this already happens. Anyone who builds a new home in a new area will pay for the residential street and other infrastructure through special taxes. If the city feels it needs to charge for building arterial streets to serve new suburban areas, it should do so. But the city should realize that people spending their own money to buy or rent a residence — this is the best indication of their true preferences. What people say in focus groups or on paper survey forms is nowhere near as reliable.

Community input

The survey that Wichita used has its own problems. Here’s an example of a question respondents were asked to agree or disagree with: “Local government, the school district, community organizations and the business community should work together to create an investment climate that is attractive to business.”

The meaning of an attractive investment climate means different things to different people. Some people want an investment climate where property rights are respected, where government refrains from meddling in the economy and transferring one person’s property to another. An environment free from cronyism, in other words. But the Wichita way is, unfortunately, cronyism, where government takes an active role in managing economic development. We in Wichita never know when our local government will take from us to give to politically-favored cronies, or when city hall will set up and subsidize a competitor to your business.

Wichita flights compared to the nation.
Wichita flights compared to the nation.

Sometimes the questions are misleading. A question relating to the subsidy program at the Wichita airport read “I’m willing to pay increased taxes or fees to support investment … that uses public dollars to reduce the cost and increase the number of commercial flights at Mid-Continent Airport.”

This is an example of a question which has a false premise. Since the subsidy programs have been in place, the number of flights from the Wichita airport has declined, not increased as the question would lead readers to believe. See Wichita flight options decrease, despite subsidies and Wichita airfare subsidy: The negative effects.

Leadership of city fathers

On these and other issues, the Wichita Eagle quoted mayor Brewer: “We’ve put them off for too long. We didn’t want the challenges. We didn’t want the tax bills. But now, to maintain our quality of life, we’ve got to catch up.”

It’s almost as if the mayor is speaking as a bystander. But he’s been mayor for nearly seven years, and was on the city council before that time. During that time, he and other city leaders have boasted of not increasing property taxes. While the property tax rate has been stable, property tax revenue has increased due to development of new property and rising assessment values. In spite of this, the city has a huge backlog of deferred maintenance. The way to interpret this is that the city has really been engaging in deficit spending under Brewer’s leadership. We didn’t spend what was needed to maintain our assets, and now the mayor tells us we need to increase spending to make up for this.

The economist Milton Friedman told us that it’s more important to look at government spending rather than the level of taxation. That’s because spending must eventually be paid for, either through current taxes or future taxation. The federal government generate deficits and can pay for spending through creating inflation. Fortunately, cities and states can’t do that.

But, as we’ve seen, cities like Wichita can incur costs without paying for them. This is a form of deficit spending. By deferring maintenance of our infrastructure, the city has pushed spending to future years. The report released this week gives an idea of the magnitude of this deferred spending: It’s huge.

This form of deficit spending is “off the books” and doesn’t appear in city financial statements. But it’s real, as the mayor now admits. The threat to our freedom to live where we want is real, too. We must be watchful and diligent.

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American economy is more competitive and carbon-efficient, says economist

Stephen Moore. Credit: Willis Bretz/Heritage Foundation
Stephen Moore. Credit: Willis Bretz/Heritage Foundation

The oil and gas boom in America boosts our competitiveness in the world economy while at the same time reducing carbon emissions, says economist Stephen Moore.

Moore recently left the Wall Street Journal to accept a position at Heritage Foundation as chief economist. He presented to an audience at a conference titled “The Tax & Regulatory Impact on Industry, Jobs & The Economy, and Consumers” produced by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

A large portion of his presentation was on energy and its important role in the economy, and how radical environmentalists — the “green” movement — are harming our economy and people. An irony, he said, is that while President Barack Obama is in the “hip pocket” of radical environmentalists, he is presiding over the greatest oil and gas boom in American history. This boom is proceeding in spite of government, not because of it.

Moore emphasized the importance of energy costs to low-income people. Rising energy costs are like taxes on them, he said, while the wealthy can more easily absorb higher energy costs. “To be green is to be against capitalism, against progress, against poor people, against jobs.”

The boom in oil and gas production in America, made possible by horizontal drilling and fracking, is ahead of the rest of the world. While European countries have in the past embraced green energy technologies, these policies have failed, and the countries are retreating from them. Now, European countries want to use American drilling technologies, he said.

The lower electricity prices in America are a competitive advantage over Europe and China. German auto manufacturers are shutting plants in Europe and moving them to the United States, he said.

Of radical environmentalist groups. Moore said: “They don’t even care about global warming. If they really cared about global warming, they would be cheerleading fracking. Because fracking is making natural gas the new fuel for America. And guess what? Natural gas emits less carbon. It’s a great antidote to global warming.”

(According to the U.S. Energy information Administration, when generating electricity, coal emits from 2.08 to 2.18 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour electricity generated. Natural gas emits 1.22 pounds, or about 43 percent less carbon dioxide.)

Moore went on to tell the attendees that it is the United States that has reduced its carbon emissions the greatest amount in the last five years. He said this is remarkable in light of the fact that the U.S. didn’t sign the Kyoto Treaty, the U.S. didn’t implement cap-and-trade, and didn’t implement a carbon tax. “You would think these environmental groups would be applauding natural gas. Now these environmentalist groups have a new campaign called ‘beyond natural gas,’” he said.

Moore explained that at first, environmentalists said they could accept natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to solar power and wind. They were in favor of natural gas, he said, up until the time it became cheap and plentiful. Now, they are against gas. “My point is, the left and environmentalists are against any energy source that works.”

Over the past six years the U.S. has spent $100 billion promoting wind and solar power, but these two sources together account for just 2.2 percent of electricity generation. Even if the country were to quadruple the portion of electricity generated by these two renewable sources over the next 10 to 20 years, the nation would still need to get 90 percent of its electricity from other sources. Moore was doubtful that the country could quadruple the output from wind and solar.

Trends in carbon emissions

To further investigate the topics Moore raised, I gathered data from Global Carbon Atlas and prepared interactive visualizations using Tableau Public. You may access and use the visualizations by clicking here. Following are static excerpts from the visualizations. Click on each image for a larger version.

Click image for larger version.
Click image for larger version.

Looking at the amount of total carbon emissions, we see two important facts. First, after rising slowly, carbon emissions by the United States have declined in recent years. Second, carbon emissions by China are soaring. China surpassed the U.S. around 2005, and the gap between the two countries is increasing.

Click image for larger version.
Click image for larger version.

Note also that carbon emissions in India are rising. Emissions in most advanced economies are steady or falling. These trends are emphasized in the chart that shows carbon emissions for each country indexed from a common starting point. Emissions from China and India are rapidly rising, while emissions from countries with advanced economies have risen slowly or have declined.

Click image for larger version.
Click image for larger version.

A chart that shows the carbon emissions efficiency of countries, that is, the carbon emitted per unit of GDP, shows that in general, countries are becoming more efficient. Advanced economies such as the U.S., Japan, and Germany have an advantage in this metric. These countries emit about one-fourth as much carbon per unit GDP as does China.

Click image for larger version.
Click image for larger version.

The chart of carbon emissions per person in each country show that the United States leads in this measure. In 2011, the U.S. emitted about 17 tons of carbon dioxide per person. China was at 6.6, and India at 1.7. But, the trend in the U.S. is downward, that is, less carbon emitted per person. In China and India, the trend is up, and rising rapidly in China.

chart-rising-audience

Economic freedom, the key to improving lives

chart-rising-audience

Economic freedom, in countries where it is allowed to thrive, leads to better lives for people as measured in a variety of ways. This is true for everyone, especially for poor people.

This is the message presented in a short video based on the work of the Economic Freedom of the World report, which is a project of Canada’s Fraser Institute. Four years ago Robert Lawson, one of the authors of the Economic Freedom of the World report, lectured in Wichita on this topic. The current video is made possible by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

One of the findings highlighted in the presentation is that while the average income in free countries is much higher than that in the least-free countries, the ratio is even higher for the poorest people in these countries. This is consistent with the findings that economic freedom is good for everyone, and even more so for those with low incomes.

Civil rights, a clean environment, long life expectancy, low levels of corruption, less infant mortality, less child labor, and lower unemployment are all associated with greater levels of economic freedom.

What are the components or properties of economic freedom? The presentation lists these:

  • Property rights are protected under an impartial rule of law.
  • People are free to trade with others, both within and outside the country.
  • There is a sound national currency, so that peoples’ money keeps its value.
  • Government stays small, relative to the size of the economy.

Over the last eleven years, the United States’ ranking has fallen relative to other countries, and the presentation says our position is expected to keep falling. The question is asked: “Will our quality of life fall with it?”

Economic freedom is not necessarily the platform of any single political party. It should be noted that for about eight of the past twelve years — a period in which our economic freedom has been falling — there was a Republican president, sometimes with a Republican Congress. The size of government rose. In 2005 the Cato Institute studied the numbers and found that “All presidents presided over net increases in spending overall, though some were bigger spenders than others. As it turns out, George W. Bush is one of the biggest spenders of them all. In fact, he is an even bigger spender than Lyndon B. Johnson in terms of discretionary spending.” This was before the spending on the prescription drug program had started.

Critics of economic freedom

The defining of what economic freedom means is important. Sometimes you’ll see people write things like “Bernie Madoff was only exercising his personal economic freedom while he ran his investment firm.” Madoff, we now know, was a thief. He stole his clients’ money. That’s contrary to property rights, and therefore contrary to economic freedom.

Or, you’ll see people say if you don’t like government, go to Somalia. That country, one of the poorest in the world — but not the poorest — is used as an example of how bad anarchy is as a form of government. The evidence is, however, that Somalia’s former government was so bad that things improved after the fall of that government. See Peter T. Leeson, Better Off Stateless: Somalia Before and After Government Collapse and History of Somalia (1991–2006).

You’ll also encounter people who argue that some countries are poor because they have no natural resources. But there are many countries with few natural resources that have economic freedom and a high standard of living. Most countries that are poor are that way because they are run by corrupt governments that have no respect for economic freedom, and follow policies that stifle it.

Some will argue that economic freedom means the freedom to pollute the environment. But it is in wealthy countries that the environment is respected. Poor countries, where people are struggling just to find food for each day, don’t have the time or wealth to be concerned about the environment.

Economic freedom improves our lives

economic-chart-upwards-01Economic freedom, in countries where it is allowed to thrive, leads to better lives for people as measured in a variety of ways. This is true for everyone, especially for poor people.

This is the message presented in a short video based on the work of the Economic Freedom of the World report, which is a project of Canada’s Fraser Institute. Two years ago Robert Lawson, one of the authors of the Economic Freedom of the World report, lectured in Wichita on this topic. The current video is made possible by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

One of the findings highlighted in the presentation is that while the average income in free countries is much higher than that in the least-free countries, the ratio is even higher for the poorest people in these countries. This is consistent with the findings that economic freedom is good for everyone, and even more so for those with low incomes.

Civil rights, a clean environment, long life expectancy, low levels of corruption, less infant mortality, less child labor, and lower unemployment are all associated with greater levels of economic freedom.

What are the components or properties of economic freedom? The presentation lists these:

  • Property rights are protected under an impartial rule of law.
  • People are free to trade with others, both within and outside the country.
  • There is a sound national currency, so that peoples’ money keeps its value.
  • Government stays small, relative to the size of the economy.

Over the last eleven years, the United States’ ranking has fallen relative to other countries, and the presentation says our position is expected to keep falling. The question is asked: “Will our quality of life fall with it?”

Economic freedom is not necessarily the platform of any single political party. It should be noted that for about eight of the past twelve years — a period in which our economic freedom has been falling — there was a Republican president, sometimes with a Republican Congress. The size of government rose. In 2005 the Cato Institute studied the numbers and found that “All presidents presided over net increases in spending overall, though some were bigger spenders than others. As it turns out, George W. Bush is one of the biggest spenders of them all. In fact, he is an even bigger spender than Lyndon B. Johnson in terms of discretionary spending.” This was before the spending on the prescription drug program had started.

Critics of economic freedom

The defining of what economic freedom means is important. Sometimes you’ll see people write things like “Bernie Madoff was only exercising his personal economic freedom while he ran his investment firm.” Madoff, we now know, was a thief. He stole his clients’ money. That’s contrary to property rights, and therefore contrary to economic freedom.

Or, you’ll see people say if you don’t like government, go to Somalia. That country, one of the poorest in the world — but not the poorest — is used as an example of how bad anarchy is as a form of government. The evidence is, however, that Somalia’s former government was so bad that things improved after the fall of that government. See Peter T. Leeson, Better Off Stateless: Somalia Before and After Government Collapse and History of Somalia (1991–2006).

You’ll also encounter people who argue that some countries are poor because they have no natural resources. But there are many countries with few natural resources that have economic freedom and a high standard of living. Most countries that are poor are that way because they are run by corrupt governments that have no respect for economic freedom, and follow policies that stifle it.

Some will argue that economic freedom means the freedom to pollute the environment. But it is in wealthy countries that the environment is respected. Poor countries, where people are struggling just to find food for each day, don’t have the time or wealth to be concerned about the environment.

The real free lunch: Markets and private property

As we approach another birthday of Milton Friedman, here’s his article where he clears up the authorship of a famous aphorism, and explains how to really get a free lunch. Based on remarks at the banquet celebrating the opening of the Cato Institute’s new building, Washington, May 1993.

I am delighted to be here on the occasion of the opening of the Cato headquarters. It is a beautiful building and a real tribute to the intellectual influence of Ed Crane and his associates.

I have sometimes been associated with the aphorism “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” which I did not invent. I wish more attention were paid to one that I did invent, and that I think is particularly appropriate in this city, “Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.” But all aphorisms are half-truths. One of our favorite family pursuits on long drives is to try to find the opposites of aphorisms. For example, “History never repeats itself,” but “There’s nothing new under the sun.” Or “Look before you leap,” but “He who hesitates is lost.” The opposite of “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” is clearly “The best things in life are free.”

And in the real economic world, there is a free lunch, an extraordinary free lunch, and that free lunch is free markets and private property. Why is it that on one side of an arbitrary line there was East Germany and on the other side there was West Germany with such a different level of prosperity? It was because West Germany had a system of largely free, private markets — a free lunch. The same free lunch explains the difference between Hong Kong and mainland China, and the prosperity of the United States and Great Britain. These free lunches have been the product of a set of invisible institutions that, as F. A. Hayek emphasized, are a product of human action but not of human intention.

At the moment, we in the United States have available to us, if we will take it, something that is about as close to a free lunch as you can have. After the fall of communism, everybody in the world agreed that socialism was a failure. Everybody in the world, more or less, agreed that capitalism was a success. The funny thing is that every capitalist country in the world apparently concluded that therefore what the West needed was more socialism. That’s obviously absurd, so let’s look at the opportunity we now have to get a nearly free lunch. President Clinton has said that what we need is widespread sacrifice and concentrated benefits. What we really need is exactly the opposite. What we need and what we can have — what is the nearest thing to a free lunch — is widespread benefits and concentrated sacrifice. It’s not a wholly free lunch, but it’s close.

Let me give a few examples. The Rural Electrification Administration was established to bring electricity to farms in the 1930s, when about 80 percent of the farms did not have electricity. When 100 percent of the farms had electricity, the REA shifted to telephone service. Now 100 percent of the farms have telephone service, but the REA goes merrily along. Suppose we abolish the REA, which is just making low-interest loans to concentrated interests, mostly electric and telephone companies. The people of the United States would be better off; they’d save a lot of money that could be used for tax reductions. Who would be hurt? A handful of people who have been getting government subsidies at the expense of the rest of the population. I call that pretty nearly a free lunch.

Another example illustrates Parkinson’s law in agriculture. In 1945 there were 10 million people, either family or hired workers, employed on farms, and the Department of Agriculture had 80,000 employees. In 1992 there were 3 million people employed on farms, and the Department of Agriculture had 122,000 employees.

Nearly every item in the federal budget offers a similar opportunity. The Clinton people will tell you that all of those things are in the budget because people want the goodies but are just too stingy to pay for them. That’s utter nonsense. The people don’t want those goodies. Suppose you put to the American people a simple proposition about sugar: We can set things up so that the sugar you buy is produced primarily from beets and cane grown on American farms or so the sugar in addition comes without limit from El Salvador or the Philippines or somewhere else. If we restrict you to home-grown sugar, it will be two or three times as expensive as if we include sugar from abroad. Which do you really think voters would choose? The people don’t want to pay higher prices. A small group of special interests, which reaps concentrated benefits, wants them to, and that is why sugar in the United States costs several times the world price. The people were never consulted. We are not governed by the people; that’s a myth carried over from Abraham Lincoln’s day. We don’t have government of the people, by the people, for the people. We have government of the people, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats.

Consider another myth. President Clinton says he’s the agent of change. That is false. He gets away with saying that because of the tendency to refer to the 12 Reagan-Bush years as if they were one period. They weren’t. We had Reaganomics, then Bushonomics, and now we have Clintonomics. Reaganomics had four simple principles: lower marginal tax rates, less regulation, restrained government spending, noninflationary monetary policy. Though Reagan did not achieve all of his goals, he made good progress. Bush’s policy was exactly the reverse of Reaganomics: higher tax rates, more regulation, more government spending. What is Clinton’s policy? Higher tax rates, more regulation, more government spending. Clintonomics is a continuation of Bushonomics, and we know what the results of reversing Reaganomics were.

On a more fundamental level, our present problems, both economic and noneconomic, arise mainly from the drastic change that has occurred during the past six decades in the relative importance of two different markets for determining who gets what, when, where, and how. Those markets are the economic market operating under the incentive of profit and the political market operating under the incentive of power. In my lifetime the relative importance of the economic market has declined in terms of the fraction of the country’s resources that it is able to use. And the importance of the political, or government, market has greatly expanded. We have been starving the market that has been working and feeding the market that has been failing. That’s essentially the story of the past 60 years.

We Americans are far wealthier today than we were 60 years ago. But we are less free. And we are less secure. When I graduated from high school in 1928, total government spending at all levels in the United States was a little over 10 percent of the national income. Two-thirds of that spending was state and local. Federal government spending was about 3 percent of the national income, or roughly what it had been since the Constitution was adopted a century and a half earlier, except for periods of major war. Half of federal spending was for the army and the navy. State and local government spending was something like 7 to 9 percent, and half of that was for schools and roads. Today, total government spending at all levels is 43 percent of the national income, and two-thirds of that is federal, one-third state and local. The federal portion is 30 percent of national income, or about 10 times what it was in 1928.

That figure understates the fraction of resources being absorbed by the political market. In addition to its own spending, the government mandates that all of us make a great many expenditures, something it never used to do. Mandated spending ranges from the requirement that you pay for antipollution devices on your automobiles, to the Clean Air Bill, to the Aid for Disability Act; you can go down the line. Essentially, the private economy has become an agent of the federal government. Everybody in this room was working for the federal government about a month ago filling out income tax returns. Why shouldn’t you have been paid for being tax collectors for the federal government? So I would estimate that at least 50 percent of the total productive resources of our nation are now being organized through the political market. In that very important sense, we are more than half socialist.

So much for input, what about output? Consider the private market first. There has been an absolutely tremendous increase in our living standards, due almost entirely to the private market. In 1928 radio was in its early stages, television was a futuristic dream, airplanes were all propeller driven, a trip to New York from where my family lived 20 miles away in New Jersey was a great event. Truly, a revolution has occurred in our material standard of living. And that revolution has occurred almost entirely through the private economic market. Government’s contribution was essential but not costly. Its contribution, which it’s not making nearly as well as it did at an earlier time, was to protect private property rights and to provide a mechanism for adjudicating disputes. But the overwhelming bulk of the revolution in our standard of living came through the private market.

Whereas the private market has produced a higher standard of living, the expanded government market has produced mainly problems. The contrast is sharp. Both Rose and I came from families with incomes that by today’s standards would be well below the so-called poverty line. We both went to government schools, and we both thought we got a good education. Today the children of families that have incomes corresponding to what we had then have a much harder time getting a decent education. As children, we were able to walk to school; in fact, we could walk in the streets without fear almost everywhere. In the depth of the Depression, when the number of truly disadvantaged people in great trouble was far larger than it is today, there was nothing like the current concern over personal safety, and there were few panhandlers littering the streets. What you had on the street were people trying to sell apples. There was a sense of self-reliance that, if it hasn’t disappeared, is much less prevalent.

In 1938 you could even find an apartment to rent in New York City. After we got married and moved to New York, we looked in the apartments-available column in the newspaper, chose half a dozen we wanted to look at, did so, and rented one. People used to give up their apartments in the spring, go away for the summer, and come back in the autumn to find new apartments. It was called the moving season. In New York today, the best way to find an apartment is probably to keep track of the obituary columns. What’s produced that difference? Why is New York housing a disaster today? Why does the South Bronx look like parts of Bosnia that have been bombed? Not because of the private market, obviously, but because of rent control.

Despite the current rhetoric, our real problems are not economic. I am inclined to say that our real problems are not economic despite the best efforts of government to make them so. I want to cite one figure. In 1946 government assumed responsibility for producing full employment with the Full Employment Act. In the years since then, unemployment has averaged 5.7 percent. In the years from 1900 to 1929 when government made no pretense of being responsible for employment, unemployment averaged 4.6 percent. So, our unemployment problem too is largely government created. Nonetheless, the economic problems are not the real ones.

Our major problems are social — deteriorating education, lawlessness and crime, homelessness, the collapse of family values, the crisis in medical care, teenage pregnancies. Every one of these problems has been either produced or exacerbated by the well-intentioned efforts of government. It’s easy to document two things: that we’ve been transferring resources from the private market to the government market and that the private market works and the government market doesn’t.

It’s far harder to understand why supposedly intelligent, well-intentioned people have produced these results. One reason, as we all know, that is certainly part of the answer is the power of special interests. But I believe that a more fundamental answer has to do with the difference between the self-interest of individuals when they are engaged in the private market and the self-interest of individuals when they are engaged in the political market. If you’re engaged in a venture in the private market and it begins to fail, the only way you can keep it going is to dig into your own pocket. So you have a strong incentive to shut it down. On the other hand, if you start exactly the same enterprise in the government sector, with exactly the same prospects for failure, and it begins to fail, you have a much better alternative. You can say that your project or program should really have been undertaken on a bigger scale; and you don’t have to dig into your own pocket, you have a much deeper pocket into which to dig, that of the taxpayer. In perfectly good conscience you can try to persuade, and typically succeed in persuading, not the taxpayer, but the congressmen, that yours is really a good project and that all it needs is a little more money. And so, to coin another aphorism, if a private venture fails, it’s closed down. If a government venture fails, it’s expanded.

We sometimes think the solution to our problems is to elect the right people to Congress. I believe that’s false, that if a random sample of the people in this room were to replace the 435 people in the House and the 100 people in the Senate, the results would be much the same. With few exceptions, the people in Congress are decent people who want to do good. They’re not deliberately engaging in activities that they know will do harm. They are simply immersed in an environment in which all the pressures are in one direction, to spend more money.

Recent studies demonstrate that most of the pressure for more spending comes from the government itself. It’s a self-generating monstrosity. In my opinion, the only way we can change it is by changing the incentives under which the people in government operate. If you want people to act differently, you have to make it in their own self-interest to do so. As Armen Alchan always says, there’s one thing you can count on everybody in the world to do, and that’s to put his self-interest above yours.

I have no magic formula for changing the self-interest of bureaucrats and members of Congress. Constitutional amendments to limit taxes and spending, to rule out monetary manipulation, and to inhibit market distortions would be fine, but we’re not going to get them. The only viable thing on the national horizon is the term-limits movement. A six-year term limit for representatives would not change their basic nature, but it would change drastically the kinds of people who would seek election to Congress and the incentives under which they would operate. I believe that those of us who are interested in trying to reverse the allocation of our resources, to shift more and more to the private market and less and less to the government market, must disabuse ourselves of the notion that all we need to do is elect the right people. At one point we thought electing the right president would do it. We did and it didn’t. We have to turn our attention to changing the incentives under which people operate. The movement for term limits is one way of doing that; it’s an excellent idea, and it’s making real progress. There have to be other movements as well.

Some changes are being made on the state level. Wherever you have initiative, that is, popular referendum, there is an opportunity to change. I don’t believe in pure democracy; nobody believes in pure democracy. Nobody believes that it’s appropriate to kill 49 percent of the population even if 51 percent of the people vote to do so. But we do believe in giving everybody the opportunity to use his own resources as effectively as he can to promote his own values as long as he doesn’t interfere with anybody else. And on the whole, experience has shown that the public at large, through the initiative process, is much more attuned to that objective than are the people they elect to the legislature. So I believe that the referendum process has to be exploited. In California we have been working very hard on an initiative to allow parental choice of schools. Effective parental choice will be on the ballot this fall. Maybe we won’t win it, but we’ve got to keep trying.

We’ve got to keeping trying to change the way Americans think about the role of government. Cato does that by, among other things, documenting in detail the harmful effects of government policies that I’ve swept over in broad generalities. The American public is being taken to the cleaners. As the people come to understand what is going on, the intellectual climate will change, and we may be able to initiate institutional changes that will establish appropriate incentives for the people who control the government purse strings and so large a part of our lives.

Southeast High School decision a test of beliefs

One aspect of the decision whether Wichita High School Southeast should be moved or renovated in place is this: What about the environment?

We haven’t heard much about this, however. But there are many in Wichita that advocate against urban sprawl. The proposal to move Southeast High from its present location to a proposed site on the fringes of Wichita: This defines urban sprawl.

There are also many in Wichita who support the sustainable communities initiative. A core tenet is that we’re spending too much on carbon-spewing transportation. The language is couched as “energy use and climate change,” but the clear meaning is that we’re burning too much gasoline and diesel fuel.

Which is, of course, what powers school buses and cars. It’s undeniable that moving Southeast High Schools will result in increased transportation by auto and bus, and fewer students commuting to school by foot.

moving-southeast-high-school

Moving a school from a high-density urban location to a low-density suburban area: Isn’t this contrary to good urban planning? At least good urban planning as defined by the anti-sprawl, pro-sustainable communities crowd?

To be sure, the Southeast decision is up to the board members of USD 259, the Wichita public school district. Many of them subscribe to the “green” agenda.

Then, where are the members of the Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Commission who voted for the sustainable communities initiative? The bureaucrats from the Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs at Wichita State University who are managing the process?

If these people really believe in their anti-sprawl, anti-fossil fuel, pro-sustainable communities agenda, they need to make themselves heard on this issue.

How did Wichita water situation develop?

It’s vitally important that Wichita develop a plan for an abundant water supply. At the same time, we ought to be asking, as does Johnny Stevens, how this problem developed. Wichita Business Journal:

Wichita officials — thanks to a couple of weeks of rain — said they were able this week to dodge possible water restrictions and punitive measures as a means of coping with the ongoing drought.

But Wichita developer Johnny Stevens voiced to me today something I have heard from others in the community recently.

“How did it even get to this point?” Stevens said. “It shouldn’t have gotten this far.”

Continue reading at Developer Johnny Stevens on water issue: How did it get to this?

Other material on Wichita’s water situation is at Wichitans taxed into a lower standard of living, Wichita begins rebates and regulation, and Wichita water, a few thoughts.

Wichitans taxed into a lower standard of living

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
– H.L. Mencken

Toilet plunger, animated

This week the Wichita City Council voted to force Wichitans to spend $1 million to help their fellow citizens reduce their standard of living.

I’m not kidding. $100 rebates will be paid to the purchasers of up to 10,000 low-flush toilets. To the extent that these toilets replace fully-functional toilets, civilization takes a step backwards.

(The rebate program covers other appliances besides toilets, so we don’t know how many low-flush toilets will be purchased. But it could be up to 10,000.)

Whatever the number is, Wichita is spending a lot of other peoples’ money to accomplish a vanishingly small goal, and at the cost of convenience. In net, it is a huge loss.

One of the most interesting books I’ve almost read is a collection of essays by Jeffrey A. Tucker titled Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo. Chapter 4 is titled “The Relentless Misery of 1.6 Gallons,” which refers to the amount of water modern toilets are allowed to use per flush. They used to use 3.5 to 5 gallons per flush. Here’s Tucker’s take on this “advancement” and what more Wichitans can look forward to:

We have all gotten used to a reduced standard of living — just as the people living in the Soviet Union became accustomed to cold apartments, long bread lines, and poor dental care. There is nothing about our standard of living that is intrinsic to our sense of how things ought to be. Let enough time pass and people forget things.

So let us remember way back when:

Toilets did not need plungers next to them, and thank goodness. Used plungers are nasty, disease carrying, and filthy. It doesn’t matter how cute the manufacturer tries to make them or in how many colors you can buy them. In the old days, you would never have one exposed for guests. It was kept out in the garage for the rare occasion when someone threw a ham or something stranger down the toilet. …

You never had any doubt about the capacity of the toilet to flush completely, with only one pull of the handle. The toilet stayed clean thanks to five gallons of rushing water pouring through it after each flush.

Then, Congress passed the 1.6 gallons per flush law. The result?

The result is an entire society of poorly working toilets and a life of adjustment to the omnipresence of human feces, all in a short 15 years. Thanks so much, Congress!

Of course the environmentalists are in on the whole project. They started telling us back in the 1970s that our large tanks were sheer waste. We should put bricks in them to save and conserve. If you didn’t have a brick in your toilet, you were considered irresponsible and a social misfit. Eventually of course the brick became, in effect, a mandate, and finally toilet tanks were reduced to one third of their previous size.

Back then, it was just assumed that toilet manufacturers cared nothing at all about wasting water. Surely there was no rationale at all for why they consumed five gallons per flush as opposed to 1.6 gallons. This is just capitalist excess and down with it!

Well, think again: there was wisdom in those old designs. The environmentalists didn’t account for the present reality in which people typically flush twice, three times, or even four times during a single toilet event. Whether this ends up using more or less in the long run is entirely an empirical question, but let us just suppose that the new microtanks do indeed save water. In the same way, letting people die of infections conserves antibiotics, not brushing teeth conserves toothpaste, and not using anesthesia during surgery conserves needles and syringes.

Here is the truth that environmentalists do not face: Sometimes conserving is not a good idea. There are some life activities that cry out for the expenditure of resources, even in the most generous possible way. I would count waste disposal as one of those.

It is also possible that some people just like to get their kicks out of spreading misery and making it impossible for us to enjoy a clean and prosperous life. Like Puritans of old, they see virtue in suffering and would like to see ever more of it. It sounds perverse, but such an ethos does exist. And clearly, government doesn’t care in the slightest.

Wichtans need to remember this: That instead of working to increase water supply, the mayor and all city council members voted to force people to pay taxes so that others can buy lower-performing appliances. This is the government we live under.

Wichita water, a few thoughts

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” — Thomas Sowell

Water faucetAs Wichita grapples with water issues, it’s important that the city realize that abundance is better than austerity and punishment. Life in Wichita is nicer and more attractive to outsiders when we are able to use a lot of water at a reasonable price. Under an austerity program, for example, our $3.5 million investment in Waltzing Waters sits idle. With abundance, we have “liquid fireworks” and “a significant public improvement intended to encourage further WaterWalk development and give people another reason to come downtown,” according to Wichita city officials.

The strategy we need, therefore, is to increase supply rather than restrict usage. But when officials asked for citizen input, according to city documents, “The public strongly supported water restrictions.” So city officials are likely to implement austerity programs that will be expensive and do little good compared to their costs.

As an example, tomorrow city staff will recommend that the council approve a rebate program for those who install clothes washers, dish washers, and toilets that use less water. Smart irrigation controls are included in the recommendation. The rebate, according to city documents, is “anticipated” to be $100, with a total of $1,000,000 allocated to the rebate program. This means that up to 10,000 appliance purchases could receive the rebate.

How much water will this save, and at what cost? According to Energy Star, a program of the Environmental Protection Agency, a new clothes washer saves eight gallons of water per load compared to an older washer. The same article also says the average family washes 300 loads of laundry per year. Based on these figures, switching to the new washer saves 2,400 gallons per year.

To place this number in context, 2,400 gallons of Wichita water costs: 2,400 gallons times $1.63 per thousand gallons water purchase price, plus 2,400 gallons times $2.88 per thousand gallons sewer usage price, equals $10.82.

(We’re not really concerned with sewer plant capacity at this time, so perhaps we shouldn’t consider that cost. The water cost for 2,400 gallons is $3.91.) With this in mind, the city is considering paying someone $100 to save a resource valued less than $4 per year. This assumes, of course, that the city prices water what it is actually worth.

Another context: If 10,000 of these washers were purchased, the savings would be 24,000,000 gallons of water per year. This is about one-half of Wichita’s average daily usage. This program, then, would save a inconsequentially small amount of water, at the large cost of $1 million. A single extra-hot day in the summer would cancel this entire year’s savings.

Remember too that this cost will not be paid voluntarily. Who wants to pay taxes so that someone else can get a discount on a new washing machine? Those who want their money used for this purpose may do so charitably. A government program is not needed.

Past city initiatives

When Bob Knight spoke to Pachyderm last week, he told the audience that experts told him that we had water for 50 years.

In 1998, the Wichita Eagle reported: “By the end of 1999, the city will have spent $7.6 million trying to determine whether excess flow from the Little Arkansas River can be diverted into the underground aquifer northwest of Wichita. If it works as planned, the city will build the recharge system for $7.2 million, completing the work in 2005 — a year, it estimates, after it will begin experiencing water shortages during extended dry periods.”

The recharge system described in the article is the ASR program, described on its website as “The city of Wichita’s Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) program is designed to restore the invaluable Equus Beds aquifer and ensure that it remains a bountiful and clean source of water for future generations.”

Phase I of the ASR was completed for $27 million. Phase II was completed for $220 million. So far the city has spent a quarter billion dollars on this project, and we rarely hear it mentioned as a solution to the current water shortage. Citizens ought to insist the city explain the status of the ASR project and why it is not playing a prominent role in solving our water supply problems.

Recognize economic behavior

In discussions on issues like this, people are susceptible to disregarding economic behavior, that is human nature and how people react to the world. As example is this remark gathered during citizen participation: “Restrict watering, but not through rates or watering bans.”

I wonder: How else do we influence behavior? Persuasion? Here’s how well that works, according to another citizen snippet of wisdom: “People love the idea of conservation, as long as it does not affect them.”

Many of the comments lambasted those who waste water, with lawn irrigation mentioned frequently: “People water their yards every day. And they water way too much. Most of the water runs off into the gutters. More water wasted on yards than showers or toilets by far.”

But if these people who water their yard every day are acting with any rationality, we have to conclude that they don’t think they’re wasting water. Someone else may call it waste, but the every-day irrigator is making a trade off as to the value of a nice lawn, the water bill, the cost or hassle of conservation measures, the effort it takes to learn to conserve, and other factors. Each of us does this many times every day in our economic lives. It’s important that the city price water properly so that people are motivated — through their own self-interest — to use water wisely. The decision as to wise use of water needs to be left to each person and family.

Some comments seem to be at cross-purposes: “Clamp down on private outdoor users. We can get through this by appealing to the community spirit.” Which is it this this writer recommends: the carrot or the stick?

Finally, we need to be on the watch for those who want to control the behavior of others in the name of saving the earth through soft environmental terrorism. An example comment of this type: “Control urban sprawl — builders and developers are interested in expansion only — their income. Encourage leveling of population growth an judicious use of resources.”

I wonder if it has occurred to this person that builders and developers can earn income only if they build what people want to buy. Furthermore, warnings of overpopulation have been issued for decades. The desire to control the production of new people is anti-human. And as we’ve seen, “judicious use” is in the eye of the beholder.

Recycling debate short on reason

Responses to a news story on recycling indicate that the issue is driven more by emotion and misinformation than reason.

Children recycling

Recently I was interviewed by Carla Eckels of KMUW radio for a story titled Recycling: Is It Really Necessary? (Audio is available at that link.)

The story was based on my research and opinion that in some cases, recycling is an economically beneficial activity. But for the household setting, it is not.

(One point I meant to make, but forgot to, was that how wonderful it is that we have enough wealth that we don’t have to recycle household waste. We are free to recycle if we want, but also free to make a personal decision to spend time on activities other than recycling.)

Comments left to the story illustrate just how difficult it is to think about and debate issues of public policy. Here’s one example:

It takes absolutely no extra water to rinse cans for recycling. Just rinse them in your dishwater after washing your last dish. After all, if one is truly concerned about water conservation, handwashing uses less water than a dishwasher. As for the abundant landfill space, I suggest we open a landfill in Mr. Weeks’ backyard. Most people would object to a landfill next door, but apparently Mr. Weeks would welcome it.

This writer has a good idea — if you want to wash dishes by hand. For me, a dishwashing machine is a sign of tremendous progress by civilization, reducing drudgery and producing cleaner dishes. And, it’s a machine that nearly everyone can afford.

After that, the writer makes a ridiculous argument about landfill space. I note that this writer uses a profile name that is anonymous. While anonymous speech is important, it leads to people making patently ridiculous statements that they probably wouldn’t make if their friends and neighbors knew they said that.

Here’s another comment:

I would have to disagree with Mr Weeks. The benefits far outweigh the “costs” he was mentioning. It only take a moment to look up evidence that recycling is not only beneficial for our planet but also as a business model. Single stream recycling has made this process very easy.

A point I made in the article is that households have to pay for people to collect their recyclables. Using scare quotes around “costs” is inappropriate, as the costs are real and large. This is a clue as to the economic value of recycling, which is that it works in certain instances, but not for households.

Part of another comment is this:

And Mr. Weeks’ comments this morning on the air regarding having plenty of landfill space in places like Kansas just made me angry. Landfills the size of Sedgwick County? —- Seriously.

In the article, I mentioned that someone calculated that a landfill 100 yards tall and 30 miles on a side could hold all trash for the entire country for the next 1,000 years. How someone makes a leap from that to multiple landfills the size of Sedgwick County shows that people just aren’t thinking closely.

For Gasland 2, there will be no dissent allowed

The maker of FrackNation writes “Our mistake was to believe the Tribeca Film Festival’s claims to want diversity of opinion and people who are passionate about film.”

Natural gas

Documentary filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney made FrackNation in response to the errors and lies in the anti-fracking film Gasland. Now there is Gasland 2, and McAleer and a group of farmers tried to see the film. It didn’t go well.

In January, as FrackNation was being released, I interviewed McAleer. You can read my report at FrackNation to tell truth about fracking. I asked this question: “So why are progressives and liberals opposed to fracking?” Perhaps tellingly, McAleer replied “Fracking brings economic boom to rural America, and many people view rural America as a backdrop, as something to be used.” The elitists don’t really like farmers, he said. But they will gladly use them to make a political point. The idea that they would become independent from their largess is their concern.

Following is McAleer’s article as it appeared in the New York Post.

This was supposed to be a column about “Gasland 2,” the sequel to the anti-fracking documentary by activist Josh Fox, which premiered Sunday afternoon at the Tribeca Film Festival. Instead, it’s about my exclusion, along with maybe 20 farmers from upstate New York and Pennsylvania, from the screening despite having tickets for a theater with lots of empty seats.

Our mistake was to believe the Tribeca Film Festival’s claims to want diversity of opinion and people who are passionate about film.

As a journalist who made a documentary looking at the factual deficiencies in the first “Gasland,” I put some inconvenient questions to Josh Fox as he was speaking to the media on the red carpet.

The farmers milling around nearby decided to join in with pointed but respectful questions of their own. After all, they know their land better than anyone, and they felt aggrieved that their lives and communities had been misrepresented by the first “Gasland.”

They asked Fox if he now accepted that the water in Dimock, Pa., is clean. He’d claimed that Dimock was one of the most contaminated areas in the United States because of fracking. But state scientists and then the EPA investigated and found the water clean.

The farmers asked Fox if he’d accept the science and apologize for calling their community a wasteland. He didn’t reply.

There was silence also when they asked Fox if he’s going to withdraw his claim that fracking has caused a spike in breast cancer. That’s been debunked by the country’s top cancer experts, but Fox has remained silent, allowing the fears to linger.

Given that Josh Fox had misrepresented their lives so badly in the past, the farmers were interested in what was going to be in “Gasland 2.” Many got up at 4:30 a.m. to travel to New York.

Sherry Hart, a mother of three and the wife of a gas worker, was particularly excited to be there. She lives in Pennsylvania and had never been to New York City, but she felt that it was important to make the journey to see what was being said about her and her life.

But she was not to find out. As the red carpet cleared and the farmers went to take their seats, they and I were informed that we weren’t being allowed in. No amounts of appealing or complaining did any good.

It seems that inconvenient questions aren’t welcome at the Tribeca Film Festival.

It was devastating for the people who’d traveled so far. They were upset and bewildered.

Several hours after the media became interested in the exclusion, the Tribeca Film Festival issued a statement claiming that the screening was at capacity; the problem was simply a lack of seats.

But the farmers, like everyone else these days, have cameras, and they recorded film festival staff giving very different reasons for excluding them from the screening.

One staffer said they were not allowed in “because you’re making trouble.” Another was more honest: “We just don’t feel comfortable letting them into the movie,” she explained.

The festival organizers called the police just in case the farmers didn’t get the message that they weren’t welcome.

Julia Mineeva, a Russian journalist who’s covered the film festival for five years, thought she’d stumbled across a great story and started interviewing the various groups. When she went in to see the movie she was asked to leave, followed, put in handcuffs, arrested and charged with trespassing.

It seems that covering both sides of a story is an arrestable offense at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Festival founder Robert De Niro says he wants a festival that is controversial, but there was nobody more passionate than those farmers who made a round trip of hundreds of miles just to see a movie. But the message Sunday was that their passion was not welcome.

And at the first sign of real controversy from real people, the festival closed its doors and called the cops.

The message is clear: They want “controversy,” but only of the kind they agree with, and it can only come from people who look and sound like them.

The rest of America can just stay on the sidewalk.

Renewables portfolio standard: Good or bad for the Kansas economy?

Kansas wind turbines

A report submitted to the Kansas House Standing Committee on Energy and Environment claims the Kansas economy benefits from the state’s Renewables Portfolio Standard, but an economist presented testimony rebutting the key points in the report.

RPS is a law that requires the state’s electricity utilities to generate or purchase a certain portion of their electricity from renewable sources, which in Kansas is almost all wind. An argument in favor of wind energy requirementy from the Polsinelli Shugart law firm is at The Economic Benefits of Kansas Wind Energy.

Michael Head, a Research Economist at Beacon Hill Institute presented a paper that examined each of Polsinell’s key findings. The paper may be read at The Economic Impact of the Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard and Review of “The Economic Benefits of Kansas Wind Energy” or at the end of this article. An audio recording of Head speaking on this topic is nearby.

Michael Head, Beacon Hill Institute

Here are the five key findings claimed to be economic benefits to the Kansas economy, and portions of Head’s responses.

Key Finding #1: “New Kansas wind generation is cost-effective when compared to other sources of new intermittent or peaking electricity generation.”

The first observation to make from this key finding is that if it were true the state RPS policy is not necessary. If wind power is truly cost-effective compared to other sources of energy, state mandates that wind power be used should be repealed, allowing wind power to compete with other technologies to provide low cost electricity in Kansas.

This point is obvious. The actions of the wind power industry — insisting on mandates and subsidies — lets us know that they don’t believe their own claim.

Key Finding #2: “Wind generation is an important part of a well-designed electricity generation portfolio, and provides a hedge against future cost volatility of fossil fuels.”

Hedging has been, and will continue to be, a useful tool for utilities, and benefits the consumer. But the Kansas state government should not engage in this level of industrial policy by regulating just how much utilities can hedge, all for the sake of requiring wind power production. This is not a benefit in itself. Utilities will attempt to maximize profits by consistently analyzing the energy market and making the best decisions, often through long term purchasing agreements. … In short, hedging is a valuable tool when left to the discretion of the utility, but by utilizing a heavy-handed mandate, state lawmakers are actually constraining the ability of the utilities to make sound business decisions.

Key Finding #3: “Wind generation has created a substantial number of jobs for Kansas citizens.”

This key finding fails to take into consideration opportunity costs, a concept that Bastiat explained in his 1850 essay, and is a prime example of the reviewed paper only considering benefits. If a shopkeeper has a window broken, this creates work for a glazer to replace the window. However, this classic “broken window” fallacy mistakes breaking windows as job creation policy. At this point “The Economic Benefits of Kansas Wind Energy” is correct, wind generation does create jobs, just as a broken window creates jobs. But the report stops at this point and fails to provide a complete analysis of the effect of wind generation on total employment in Kansas.

As Bastiat showed, a consideration must be made to the opportunity cost. How would the shopkeeper have spent his money if he did not need to replace his window? He could use the money on capital investment, further growing his business, hire another worker or make various other purchases. Regardless of what it was, they would have all brought him more benefit, than replacing his window. If not, he would have broken the window himself.

This is one of the most important points: By forcing Kansans to pay for more expensive electricity, we lose the opportunity to use money elsewhere.

Key Finding #4: “Wind generation has created significant positive impact for Kansas landowners and local economics.”

This key finding makes a common mistake by assuming transfer payments are a benefit, a fallacy. The transfers of money via lease payments or property tax payments are not benefits. This transfer of money is a cost to one party and a benefit on the other, and can be illustrated easily.

What if Kansas wind farms vastly overpaid for their land and lease payments were valued at $1 billion a year. This report would place the benefit of wind power leasing this land at $1 billion a year. But the project has not changed, where did these new benefits come from?

In fact, there would not be any change to the net benefit of the project. Landowners would amass benefits equal to $1 billion minus the land value and utilities would amass costs equal to $1 billion minus the land value. These costs would in turn be passed along to rate payers in the form of higher utility costs. This illustrates the point that this policy is industrial policy. By dispersing the costs of a project to all citizens in the state, small, but powerful, groups with strong lobbying efforts are able to gather the rewards.

Key Finding #5 “The Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standard is an important economic development tool for attracting new business to the state.”

This key finding is related closely with the analysis of the job benefits that wind power purportedly conveys. Of course, legally requiring that utilities use specific sources of electricity will attract new business in that sector to the state. But we need to see the whole picture. This policy has costs, which will be borne by state residents and businesses via higher utility prices.

In conclusion, Head asked the obvious question: “With all of these supposed benefits of wind power, why does it require a government mandate and taxpayer funding?”

FrackNation to tell truth about fracking

Documentary filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney have produced a feature film that will help America understand the truth about fracking.

Fracking — short for hydraulic fracturing — is a method of oil and gas production by injecting pressurized fluid into rock formations. Along with horizontal drilling, this technology has lead to a rise in the production of natural gas, leading to much lower prices for consumers, and to the possibility of U.S. exports.

FrackNation, the film that McAleer and McElhinney made, is set for premier on AXS TV on January 22, 2013 at 9:00 pm eastern.

I spoke to McAleer on the telephone last week. I asked is fracking really a big deal for America? He answered:”The word game changer is much overused, but this really is a game changer. It’s going to make America an energy producer. Natural gas is no longer tied to the price of oil. Anywhere there’s fracking in America, there’s no recession.”

“I’d almost go as far as to say fracking is maybe the reason President Obama was reelected. The reason he won Ohio because there’s a fracking boom going on there. People have money in their pockets. … If you live in a fracking area or near where there is going to be fracking you’re feeling good.”

So why are progressives and liberals opposed to fracking? “Fracking brings economic boom to rural America, and many people view rural America as a backdrop, as something to be used.”

The elitists don’t really like farmers, he said. But they will gladly use them to make a political point. The idea that they would become independent from their largess is their concern. He added that opposition to fracking is anti-fossil fuel, anti-progress, and anti-modernity, but above all it is anti-American.

Those opposed to fracking spread fear of environmental damage such as spilling the chemicals or polluting ground water. Is this fear real? McAleer said fracking has been going on since 1947. How long can you fear something that hasn’t happened, he asked.

On the new Matt Damon movie Promised Land, described by the New York Times as “an earnest attempt, sometimes effective, sometimes clumsy, to dramatize the central arguments about fracking and its impact,” I asked what’s wrong with that movie?

McAleer said “It’s not fair, I suppose, to fact check a work of fiction. Having said that, it is pretending to be in a real world situation. There are lots of allegations, lots of multimillion dollar lawsuits, but no scientific evidence. There’s no scientific evidence about what Matt Damon talks about in promised land. The biggest lie of all is that the fraudulent environmentalists — of which there are many — are somehow in the pay of oil and gas companies to smear environmentalists. That’s just ludicrous. Yes there are fraudulent environmentalists — many of them — but they work for the environmental movement, not for oil and gas.”

I mentioned an incident in an advertisement for the movie that shows a family receiving the results from testing their water. The tests showed that the water was clean and not dirty, like illustrated in a dirty brown milk jug. The reaction of the family was anger. McAleer explained that these people were suing the oil and gas companies. They demanded that the EPA come in and test their water, and the EPA said their water is safe. They watched their multimillion dollar lawsuit flushed down the drain, along with their celebrity status.

Your movie FrackNation that’s coming out in January: What will it tell Americans?

McAleer said the film will show there is absolutely no evidence that fracking has ever contaminated groundwater. But there is plenty of evidence that people have lied, exaggerated, and misrepresented fracking.

I asked about the famous example in the movie Gasland of a family being able to light their drinking water on fire, the implication being that this was possible due to methane gas leaking into their water supply, with fracking being the cause. McAller said that people have been able to like their water on fire for many years before fracking started. Native Americans called certain places “burning springs.” These are naturally occurring events. The director of Gasland knew that, but he told me he left it out because it wasn’t relevant. It’s unethical journalism.

Special interests will capture south-central Kansas planning

Special interest groups are likely to co-opt the government planning process started in south-central Kansas as these groups see ways to benefit from the plan. The public choice school of economics and political science has taught us how special interest groups seek favors from government at enormous costs to society, and we will see this at play over the next few years.

Sedgwick County has voted to participate in a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. While some justified their votes in favor of the plan because “it’s only a plan,” once the planning process begins, special interests plot to benefit themselves at the expense of the general public. Once the plan is formed, it’s nearly impossible to revise it, no matter how evident the need.

An example of how much reverence is given to government plans comes right from the U.S. Supreme Court in the decision Kelo v. New London, in which the Court decided that government could use the power of eminent domain to take one person’s property and transfer it to someone else for the purposes of economic development. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Stevens cited the plan: “The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community.” Here we see the importance of the plan and due reverence given to it.

Stevens followed up, giving even more weight to the plan: “To effectuate this plan, the City has invoked a state statute that specifically authorizes the use of eminent domain to promote economic development. Given the comprehensive character of the plan, the thorough deliberation that preceded its adoption, and the limited scope of our review, it is appropriate for us, as it was in Berman, to resolve the challenges of the individual owners, not on a piecemeal basis, but rather in light of the entire plan. Because that plan unquestionably serves a public purpose, the takings challenged here satisfy the public use requirement of the Fifth Amendment.”

To Stevens, the fact that the plan was comprehensive was a factor in favor of its upholding. The sustainable communities plan, likewise, is nothing but comprehensive, as described by county manager Bill Buchanan in a letter to commissioners: “[the plan will] consist of multi-jurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic prosperity, social equity, energy use and climate change, and public health and environmental impact.”

That pretty much covers it all. When you’re charged with promoting economic prosperity, defending earth against climate change, and promoting public health, there is no limit to the types of laws you might consider.

Who will plan?

The American Planning Association praised the Court’s notice of the importance of a plan, writing “This decision underscores the importance for a community to have a comprehensive development plan formulated through a democratic planning process with meaningful public participation by everyone.”

But these plans are rarely by and for the public. Almost always the government planning process is taken over and captured by special interests. We see this in public schools, where the planning and campaigning for new facilities is taken over by architectural and construction firms that see school building as a way to profit. It does not matter to them whether the schools are needed.

Our highway planning is hijacked by construction firms that stand to benefit, whether or not new roads are actually needed.

Our planning process for downtown Wichita is run by special interest groups that believe that downtown has a special moral imperative, and another group that sees downtown as just another way to profit at taxpayer expense. Both believe that taxpayers across Wichita, Kansas, and even the entire country must pay to implement their vision. As shown in Kansas and Wichita need pay-to-play laws the special interests that benefit from public spending on downtown make heavy political campaign contributions to nearly all members of the Wichita City Council. They don’t have a political ideology. They contribute only because they know council members will be voting to give them money.

In Wichita’s last school bond election, 72 percent of the contributions, both in-kind and cash, was given by contractors, architects, engineering firms and others who directly stand to benefit from new school construction, no matter whether schools are actually needed. The firm of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture led the way in making these contributions. It’s not surprising that this firm was awarded a no-bid contract for plan management services for the bond issue valued at $3.7 million. This firm will undoubtedly earn millions more for those projects on which it serves as architect.

The special interest groups that benefit from highway construction: They formed a group called Economic Lifelines. It says it was formed to “provide the grassroots support for Comprehensive Transportation Programs in Kansas.” Its motto is “Stimulating economic vitality through leadership in infrastructure development.”

A look at the membership role, however, lets us know whose economic roots are being stimulated. Membership is stocked with names like AFL-CIO, Foley Equipment Company, Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City, Kansas Aggregate & Concrete Associations, Kansas Asphalt Pavement Association, Kansas Contractors Association, Kansas Society of Professional Engineers, and PCA South Central Cement Promotion Association. Groups and companies like these have an economic interest in building more roads and highways, whether or not the state actually needs them.

The planners themselves are a special interest group, too. They need jobs. Like most government bureaucrats, they “profit” from increasing their power and sphere of influence, and by expansion of their budgets and staffs. So when Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Skelton asks a professional planner questions about the desirability of planning, what answer does he think he will get? It’s not that the planners are not honest people. But they have a vested economic and professional interest in seeing that we have more government planning, not less.

And we have evidence that planners watch out for themselves. It is not disputed that this planning grant benefits Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP). Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau says that John Schlegel, Wichita’s Director of Planning, told him that “acceptance of this grant will take REAP to another level, because right now they are struggling, and this will help plot the course for REAP.” He said that REAP, which is housed at the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs at Wichita State University, needs to expand its role and authority in order to give it “something to do.”

We see that REAP is another special interest group seeking to benefit itself. In this case, our best hope is that REAP engages in merely make-work, that the plan it produces is put on a shelf and ignored, and that the only harm to us is the $1.5 million cost of the plan.

By the way, did you know that Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh, who voted in favor of the plan that benefits REAP, is now chairman of REAP? Special interest groups know how to play the political game.

Municipal stormwater regulation on White House agenda

Some scoff at those who raise warnings about overreaching federal regulation. But even though the national economy is suffering and we are drowning in debt, the administration of President Barack Obama can find time to meddle in the regulation of municipal stormwater.

Following is an email from NACo, the National Association of Counties, to county commissioners, presumably across the nation. The email, which presumes that “green” stormwater management practices are most desirable, asks for suggestions from commissioners to present at a national conference on the topic, hosted by the White House.

The agenda for the conference is White House Conference Municipal Stormwater Infrastructure: Going From Grey to Green. Following is the email commissioners received.

From: Julie Ufner [mailto:jufner@naco.org]
Subject: Green Infrastructure Information Request

Next week, I will be representing NACo at the White House’s Stormwater Infrastrucutre [sic] event. The White House asked participants to be prepared to discuss the questions below. If you have any comments or responses to the questions, please feel free to forward those responses no later than COB on Wednesday, September 19th.

1. What do you see as the most significant barriers to the wider use of green infrastructure practices to manage municipal stormwater?

2. What steps should federal agencies, communities, or others take to promote the use of green infrastructure practices in municipal stormwater management?

3. Are there specific infrastructure practices, or categories of practices, that you believe are most effective, provide the greatest benefits, or are most easily implemented?

4. Are there funding strategies for municipal green infrastructure that you have employed and would recommend?

Thank you in advance for any comments you may have.

Julie Ufner
Associate Legislative Director
Environment, Energy and Land Use
National Association of Counties
202-942-4269
jufner@naco.org

Farm bill contains energy spending

The Obama Administration’s politically-driven energy spending (think Solyndra) has illustrated for Americans that government should not be in the business of selecting and subsidizing energy sources. But the farm bill currently under consideration contains more of this wasteful spending. The bill has advanced from a Senate committee.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the “Energy Title” (the section of the bill that addresses energy) will result in additional spending of $780 million over the next ten years, with $550 million of that in the first five years. This additional spending is over the “baseline” spending. Total spending on energy in the farm bill would be $1.5 billion over ten years.

One of the programs in the farm bill is Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), which, according to the USDA, “provides financial assistance to owners and operators of agricultural and non-industrial private forest land who wish to establish, produce, and deliver biomass feedstocks.” In other words, it pays farmers to grow and deliver crops. This program was cited by the USDA Inspector General for problems including improper payments and administration problems.

Another energy-related program in the farm bill is Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP). This program has had its share of failures along the lines of Solyndra. Range Fuels, for example, was formed to produce cellulosic ethanol. It received a $76 million grant from the Department of Energy (during the Bush Administration), and later a $80 million loan under BAP during the Obama Administration. The plant produced one batch of methanol — not the type of alcohol that cars use as fuel — and then shut down. For more, see the Wall Street Journal The Range Fuels Fiasco: A case study in the folly of politically directed investment.

There’s also the Rural Energy for America Program, which provides loan guarantees and grants for rural America to install renewable energy systems such as wind and solar power, as well as more exotic technologies like geothermal.

There’s other energy-related spending in the bill, but you get the idea. Some of this spending is government choosing winners and losers in the energy marketplace, rather than letting markets work out which technologies are worthwhile investment subjects. Some of it is simply welfare spending on special interest groups. This energy-related spending is happening where you might not think to look for it: the farm bill. (The total cost of the farm bill over ten years is estimated by the CBO to be $969 billion.)

There’s other spending on biofuels that’s not in the farm bill. Last year a cellulosic ethanol plant in western Kansas received a $132 million loan guarantee. All this spending is in spite of the fact that there has been no commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol production.

Spending on these rural energy programs provides an opportunity for politicians to engage in what U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo has termed “photo-op economics.” Those who have fought for these spending programs get to participate in groundbreaking ceremonies and other highly visible new events. The lobbyists who fight for them earn large fees. But this type of spending represents cronyism at its fullest, where the public at large is taxed to provide benefits for the few. We need to end this type of spending, whether it be hidden in the farm bill or elsewhere.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday April 25, 2012

Income growth in Kansas and Sedgwick County. Emily Behlmann of Wichita Business Journal reports: “Personal income in Kansas grew by 2.71 percent from 2009 to 2010, or by 1.76 percent per capita, according to estimates released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s slower than the national growth rate of 3.7 percent overall, the bureau reports. And as the database below shows, Sedgwick County’s growth rate was slower than both the national and state averages.” (Database: Kansas counties post slower-than-average personal income growth). This is more evidence that our current economic development policies in Wichita and Sedgwick County are failing. See Wichita economic development isn’t working.

Tax reform is needed in Kansas. A message from Americans for Prosperity, Kansas: “Kansas has the second highest top marginal individual income tax rate amongst neighboring states. Is it any wonder that the state had a net loss of over 17,000 taxpayers between 2000 and 2009? Americans for Prosperity is advocating for aggressive tax reform that includes two key elements: An aggressive and immediate reduction in the individual income tax rate, and a ‘trigger’ that sets aside future state tax revenue growth above three percent to fund future reductions in the income tax. Passage of a tax bill containing these two ingredients will help slow government spending and encourage investment and job-creation. … The economic indicators show that our state needs aggressive tax reform. Key measurements of Kansas’ stagnant growth show: From 2001 to 2010, Kansas ranked 40th in the country in net domestic population migration, representing the smallest growth amongst neighboring states. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau). Kansas lost more than 39,000 private sector jobs from 2001 to 2010. (Source: Bureau of Labor & Statistics). From 2000 to 2009, Kansas ranked 43rd in the United States in taxpayer net migration, resulting in a net loss of 17,574 tax filers. (Source: Bureau of Labor & Statistics). … The longer Kansas waits to enact meaningful tax reform, the further we’ll fall behind. Kansas legislators have a tremendous opportunity to pass a tax bill that lowers the individual income tax burden and establishes a growth trigger to fund future reductions.” AFP has a system to help citizens to contact their legislators by clicking here.

Protect us from onion prices. Specifically, volatility in onion prices, as according to CNN the onion is the only commodity for which futures trading is banned. Futures contracts are the mechanism by which speculation is accomplished. Tim Cavanaugh explains in How Will Obama Protect Us From Onion Speculators? at Reason.

Silencing ALEC. Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute contributes this letter to the Wall Street Journal, criticizing those who attempt to shut down debate through intimidation, the target being American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): “The attack on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is part of a broader attack by those seeking to drive all market voices from the marketplace of ideas. (“Shutting Down ALEC,” Review & Outlook, April 18). As the Founders realized, ‘factions’ — what we now call ‘special interests’ — are an unavoidable aspect of democracy. The Founders’ solution was not to suppress factions, but to ‘set faction against faction’ to ensure vigorous debate. The attack on ALEC runs counter to that spirit. It is a concerted effort to silence one faction by driving productive economic voices from the policy debate. … When businesses seek to expose and reduce the harmful consequences of capricious legislation, that is both their right and good for democracy. When market voices are excluded from the policy debate, the only voices left are those motivated purely by ideology. And as history shows, the greatest harm to nations comes from ideologues who believe they know what’s best for everybody. … Our Founders gave us a system based on the battle of ideas. If critics of the free market believe they have a strong case, they should seek to win that battle openly, rather than by silencing the opposition through intimidation. What ALEC’s opponents seek is nothing less than the sabotage of democracy. It is especially unfortunate when businesses retreat from backing free-market groups like ALEC when they come under pressure. America needs more CEOs willing to stand up for free enterprise. Readers who agree should let those CEOs know now.”

TSA in Wichita, and in general. Wichita meteorologist Mike Smith mentions an incident at the Wichita airport involving TSA handling of a young girl. It’s a nationwide story now. See Latest TSA Outrage — In Wichita This Time . … Speaking of TSA, John Stossel recently had a segment on his television show. Did you know that the security screening at the San Francisco airport is not handled by the TSA? Makes me want to go there. Stossel reports: “A leaked 2007 TSA study found that San Francisco’s private screeners were twice as good at detecting fake bombs as TSA screeners.” More from him at The TSA Just Won’t Let Go: Governments cling to power even when private solutions work best.

An extra comma. A recent article in the Lawrence Journal-World illustrates the harm of using too many commas, a problem, I fear, I have, myself. The article started with this sentence: “A proposal to reduce the Kansas Earned Income Tax Credit would throw thousands of working families into poverty, religious and social service, advocates said Tuesday.” A literal reading of this sentence would indicate a boom in people participating in “religious” and “social service.” That’s not what happened. The unintended use of the last comma changed the meaning of the sentence.

If I wanted America to fail. Americans for Limited Government has a new site named FreeMarketAmerica. Its video If I wanted America to fail is being viewed thousands of times, and is the subject of some controversy. I suggest viewing this powerful statement. In a press release, ALG writes: “The success of Free Market America’s launch shows that Americans are still very interested in the ideals of free markets and limited government, and stopping the Big Government environmentalists nationwide. Our video, ‘If I wanted America to fail,’ has more than half a million views on YouTube in just a few days,’ said Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government. … ‘The widespread success of this project shows that Americans are willing to stand up and fight for freedom and prosperity and against the heavy hand of big government. With many in the conservative media and conservative bloggers spreading this message and taking our content viral, the Big Green agenda will soon be facing an uphill battle.’”

In Kansas, planning will be captured by special interests

The government planning process started in south-central Kansas will likely be captured by special interest groups that see ways to benefit from the plan. The public choice school of economics and political science has taught us how special interest groups seek favors from government at enormous costs to society, and we will see this at play again over the next few years.

This week the Sedgwick County Commission voted to participate in a HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. While some justified their votes in favor of the plan because “it’s only a plan,” once the planning process begins, special interests plot how to benefit themselves at the expense of the general public. Then once the plan is formed, it’s nearly impossible to revise it, no matter how evident the need.

An example of how much reverence is given to government plans comes right from the U.S. Supreme Court in the decision Kelo v. New London, in which the Court decided that government could use the power of eminent domain to take one person’s property and transfer it to someone else for the purposes of economic development. In his opinion for the Court, Justice Stevens cited the plan: “The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community.” Here we see the importance of the plan and due reverence given to it.

Stevens followed up, giving even more weight to the plan: “To effectuate this plan, the City has invoked a state statute that specifically authorizes the use of eminent domain to promote economic development. Given the comprehensive character of the plan, the thorough deliberation that preceded its adoption, and the limited scope of our review, it is appropriate for us, as it was in Berman, to resolve the challenges of the individual owners, not on a piecemeal basis, but rather in light of the entire plan. Because that plan unquestionably serves a public purpose, the takings challenged here satisfy the public use requirement of the Fifth Amendment.”

To Stevens, the fact that the plan was comprehensive was a factor in favor of its upholding. The sustainable communities plan, likewise, is nothing but comprehensive, as described by county manager Bill Buchanan in a letter to commissioners: “[the plan will] consist of multi-jurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic prosperity, social equity, energy use and climate change, and public health and environmental impact.”

That pretty much covers it all. When you’re charged with promoting economic prosperity, defending earth against climate change, and promoting public health, there is no limit to the types of laws you might consider.

Who will plan?

The American Planning Association praised the Court’s notice of the importance of a plan, writing “This decision underscores the importance for a community to have a comprehensive development plan formulated through a democratic planning process with meaningful public participation by everyone.”

But these plans are rarely by and for the public. Almost always the government planning process is taken over and captured by special interests. We see this in public schools, where the planning and campaigning for new facilities is taken over by architectural and construction firms that see school building as a way to profit. It does not matter to them whether the schools are needed.

Our highway planning is hijacked by construction firms that stand to benefit, whether or not new roads are actually needed.

Our planning process for downtown Wichita is run by special interest groups that believe that downtown has a special moral imperative, and another group that sees downtown as just another way to profit at taxpayer expense. Both believe that taxpayers across Wichita, Kansas, and even the entire country must pay to implement their vision. As shown in Kansas and Wichita need pay-to-play laws the special interests that benefit from public spending on downtown make heavy political campaign contributions to nearly all members of the Wichita City Council. They don’t have a political ideology. They contribute only because they know council members will be voting to give them money.

In Wichita’s last school bond election, 72 percent of the contributions, both in-kind and cash, was given by contractors, architects, engineering firms and others who directly stand to benefit from new school construction, no matter whether schools are actually needed. The firm of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture led the way in making these contributions. It’s not surprising that this firm was awarded a no-bid contract for plan management services for the bond issue valued at $3.7 million. This firm will undoubtedly earn millions more for those projects on which it serves as architect.

The special interest groups that benefit from highway construction: They formed a group called Economic Lifelines. It says it was formed to “provide the grassroots support for Comprehensive Transportation Programs in Kansas.” Its motto is “Stimulating economic vitality through leadership in infrastructure development.”

A look at the membership role, however, lets us know whose economic roots are being stimulated. Membership is stocked with names like AFL-CIO, Foley Equipment Company, Heavy Constructors Association of Greater Kansas City, Kansas Aggregate & Concrete Associations, Kansas Asphalt Pavement Association, Kansas Contractors Association, Kansas Society of Professional Engineers, and PCA South Central Cement Promotion Association. Groups and companies like these have an economic interest in building more roads and highways, whether or not the state actually needs them.

The planners themselves are a special interest group, too. They need jobs. Like most government bureaucrats, they “profit” from increasing their power and influence, and by expansion of their budgets and staffs. So when Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Skelton asks a professional planner questions about the desirability of planning, what answer does he think he will get? It’s not that the planners are not honest people. But they have a vested economic and professional interest in seeing that we have more government planning, not less.

And we have evidence that planners watch out for themselves. It is not disputed that this planning grant benefits Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP). Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau says that John Schlegel, Wichita’s Director of Planning, told him that “acceptance of this grant will take REAP to another level, because right now they are struggling, and this will help plot the course for REAP.” He said that REAP, which is housed at the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs at Wichita State University, needs to expand its role and authority in order to give it “something to do.”

We see that REAP is another special interest group seeking to benefit itself. In this case, our best hope is that REAP engages in merely make-work, that the plan it produces is put on a shelf and ignored, and that the only harm to us is the $1.5 million cost of the plan.

By the way, did you know that Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh, who voted in favor of the plan that benefits REAP, is a board member of REAP, and may become the next chairman? Special interest groups know how to play the political game, that’s for sure.

Wind tax credits are government spending in disguise

Recently Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas made the case for extending the production tax credit (PTC) for the production of electrical power by wind.

The PTC pays generators of wind power 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour produced, a high rate of subsidy for a product that sells for 9.5 cents, according to a March 2010 illustration provided by Westar.

Brownback and Moran contend that this tax credit is necessary to let the industry “complete its transformation from being a high tech startup to becoming cost competitive in the energy marketplace.” But wind is not a new industry. The PTC has been in place for twenty years. If an industry can’t get established in that period, when will it be ready to stand in its own?

The authors also contend that canceling the PTC will result in a “tax hike on wind energy companies.” To some extent this is true — but only because the industry has enjoyed preferential tax treatment that it should never have received.

The proper way to view the PTC is as a government spending program in disguise. That’s the true economic effect of tax credits. They are equivalent to grants of money.

Amazingly, Brownback and Moran do not realize this — at least if we take them at their written word as they describe the PTC: “These are not cash handouts; they are reductions in taxes that help cover the cost of doing business.” (Emphasis added.)

It is the mixing of spending programs with taxation that leads these politicians to wrongly claim that tax credits are not cash handouts. But not everyone falls for this seductive trap. In an article in Cato Institute’s Regulation magazine, Edward D. Kleinbard explains:

Specialists term these synthetic government spending programs “tax expenditures.” Tax expenditures are really spending programs, not tax rollbacks, because the missing tax revenues must be financed by more taxes on somebody else. … Tax expenditures dissolve the boundaries between government revenues and government spending. They reduce both the coherence of the tax law and our ability to conceptualize the very size and activities of our government. (The Hidden Hand of Government Spending, Fall 2010)

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita recognized the cost of paying for tax credit expenditures when he recently wrote: “Moreover, what about the jobs lost because everyone else’s taxes went up to pay for the subsidy and to pay for the high utility bills from wind-powered energy? There will be no ribbon-cuttings for those out-of-work families.”

This is an example of the seen and unseen, where thinking is confined only to what is easily seen. Many years ago Frederic Bastiat explained this problem in his famous parable of the broken window. More recently the school of public choice economics has warned us the problem of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. Politicians hope we won’t notice.

When Brownback and Moran write of the loss of income to those who profit from wind power, we should remember that these profits do not arise from transactions between willing partners. Instead, they result from politicians who override the judgment of free people and free markets with their own political preferences — along with looking out for the parochial interests of the home state. We need less of this type of wind power.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Thursday March 29, 2012

Sustainable development. Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau writes that next week the commission will vote on the issue of sustainable development, and whether Sedgwick County should participate in a planning process. Writes Ranzau: “Sedgwick County will be voting on this issue next Wednesday, April 4th, 2012. Those of you that have concerns about this need to speak up now. Please email and call the commissioners and encourage them to vote NO on this. If you are a property owner, business owner, home owner, builder, developer, farmer, or taxpayer you should strongly oppose this agenda. Now is the time to stop this. This is President Obama’s plan to use HUD, DOT, and EPA to implement Sustainable Development/Smart Growth/UN Agenda 21.” Ranzau has written on this issue. His paper is at Sustainable Development and U.N. Agenda 21: Economic Development or Economic Destruction? Contact information for commissioners may be found at Board of County Commissioners. As of this writing the agenda and explanatory material for the April 4th meeting is not available. When it is, it can be found at the same page.

Pachyderms to feature talk on sustainable development. On a related matter, this Friday (March 30rd) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Tom DeWeese, President, American Policy Center, speaking on the topic “U.N. Agenda 21: Sustainable Development.” DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence. … The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.

Climate models. William Happer, professor of physics at Princeton, calls attention to the problems of modern climate science in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. He asks: “What is happening to global temperatures in reality? The answer is: almost nothing for more than 10 years. … The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade has made it more difficult for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters to demonize the atmospheric gas CO2 which is released when fossil fuels are burned.” While there has been warming over the past two centuries, Happer warns of linking this to the activity of mankind: “There has indeed been some warming, perhaps about 0.8 degrees Celsius, since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age in the early 1800s. Some of that warming has probably come from increased amounts of CO2, but the timing of the warming — much of it before CO2 levels had increased appreciably — suggests that a substantial fraction of the warming is from natural causes that have nothing to do with mankind.” While we need high-quality science regarding the earth’s climate, the current climate models are not providing that: “It is easy to be confused about climate, because we are constantly being warned about the horrible things that will happen or are already happening as a result of mankind’s use of fossil fuels. But these ominous predictions are based on computer models. It is important to distinguish between what the climate is actually doing and what computer models predict. The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with model predictions.” … The complete article in the Wall Street Journal (no subscription required) is Global Warming Models Are Wrong Again: The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with predictions. … Some will discount this article because Happer’s specialty is modern optics, optical and radiofrequency spectroscopy of atoms and molecules, and spin-polarized atoms and nuclei — not climate science. But, we see the problems with modern climate science and its predictive abilities.

Shy regulators. The Obama administration is so out of touch with the public that it appears shy about publicity over its actions. The Hill reports: “The Obama administration announced landmark carbon emissions standards for new power plants Tuesday, but hardly shouted from the rooftops about them. The administration rolled out the proposal with relatively little fanfare, and President Obama — who was in South Korea at nuclear security summit — did not issue a statement about the regulation. In contrast, when the Environmental Protection Agency issued final rules to control power plant mercury emissions in December, Obama praised them as major public health protections while touting White House efforts to ensure they don’t affect power grid reliability.” … More at White House, rather quietly, advances climate change agenda.

Just say no to taxes. Those who reject tax increases under all conditions are often described unflatteringly. The New York Times house conservative David Brooks has called them “fanatics” with “no sense of moral decency.” William Voegeli, writing in City Journal explains why we should not consider higher taxes as a solution to problems. “In rejecting tax hikes, Republicans aren’t trading in fanaticism. Rather, they’re confronting a governing failure — an abiding lack of candor about what our welfare state costs — that voters grasp but Democrats refuse to admit.” … The problem is soaring spending, growing faster than the economy: “What we can say is that over the last 40 years, government revenues have kept pace with economic growth while government spending has run steadily ahead of it. … Gross Domestic Product and federal revenues, both expressed in per-capita terms and adjusted for inflation, were about two and a half times as large at the end of the period as at the beginning. Federal expenditures were three times as large.” It is welfare-state expenditures that have grown the fastest, and by far. … Voegeli lays the problem at the feet of the Democrats: “For years, the Democratic Party’s raison d’être has been to establish, defend, and expand the welfare state. The Democrats could have told us all along — forthrightly, scrupulously, and unambiguously — that their project would cost a lot of money and that, should economic growth be insufficient to pay for it, big tax increases would be necessary. Had they done so, they would be in a strong position to argue that the terms of the deal they struck with yesterday’s voters oblige today’s Americans to pay higher taxes. But that’s not what they did.” … Much more to read at Not a Penny More: The case for antitax absolutism.

Brownback, Moran wrong on wind tax credits

In the following commentary, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas make the case for extending the production tax credit (PTC) for the production of electrical power by wind.

The PTC pays generators of wind power 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour produced. To place that in context, a typical Westar customer in Kansas that uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours in the summer pays $95.22 (before local sales tax), for a rate of 9.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. (This is the total cost including energy charge, fuel charge, transmission charge, environment cost recovery rider, property tax surcharge, and franchise fee, according to a March 2010 illustration provided by Westar.) So 2.2 cents is a high rate of subsidy for a product that sells for 9.5 cents.

The authors contend that the PTC is necessary to let the wind power industry “complete its transformation from being a high tech startup to becoming cost competitive in the energy marketplace.” The problem with this line of argument is that wind is not an industry in its infancy. The PTC has been in place since 1992, a period of twenty years. If an industry can’t get established in that period, when will it be ready to stand in its own?

The authors also contend that canceling the PTC is, in effect, a “tax hike on wind energy companies.” To some extent this is true — but only because the industry has enjoyed preferential tax treatment that it should never have received, coupled with a misunderstanding of the tax credit mechanism.

The proper way to view the PTC is as a government spending program. That’s the true economic effect of tax credits. Only recently are Americans coming to realize this, and as a result, the term “tax expenditures” is coming into use to accurately characterize the mechanism of tax credits.

Amazingly, Brownback and Moran do not realize this, at least if we take them at their written word when they write: “But the wind PTC is a winning solution because it allows companies to keep more of their own dollars in exchange for the production of energy. These are not cash handouts; they are reductions in taxes that help cover the cost of doing business.” (Emphasis added.)

It is the mixing of spending programs with taxation that leads these politicians to wrongly claim that tax credits are not cash handouts. Fortunately, not everyone falls for this seductive trap. In an excellent article on the topic that appeared in Cato Institute’s Regulation magazine, Edward D. Kleinbard explains:

Specialists term these synthetic government spending programs “tax expenditures.” Tax expenditures are really spending programs, not tax rollbacks, because the missing tax revenues must be financed by more taxes on somebody else. Like any other form of deficit spending, a targeted tax break without a revenue offset simply means more deficits (and ultimately more taxes); a targeted tax break coupled with a specific revenue “payfor” means that one group of Americans is required to pay (in the form of higher taxes) for a subsidy to be delivered to others through the mechanism of the tax system. … Tax expenditures dissolve the boundaries between government revenues and government spending. They reduce both the coherence of the tax law and our ability to conceptualize the very size and activities of our government. (The Hidden Hand of Government Spending, Fall 2010)

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita recognized the cost of paying for tax credit expenditures when he recently wrote: “Moreover, what about the jobs lost because everyone else’s taxes went up to pay for the subsidy and to pay for the high utility bills from wind-powered energy? There will be no ribbon-cuttings for those out-of-work families.” See Mike Pompeo: We need capitalism, not cronyism.

So when Brownback and Moran write of the loss of income to those who profit from wind power, we should remember that these profits do not arise from transactions between willing partners. Instead, they result from politicians like these who are willing to override the judgment of free people and free markets with their own political preferences — along with looking out for the parochial interests of the home state. We need less of this type of wind power.

Strengthening our Nation’s Domestic Energy Supply

By Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and U.S. Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas.

The increasing cost of conducting business in the United States threatens innovation and investment in new technologies. In today’s unstable business environment, American industries are understandably reluctant to invest the time and resources necessary to grow their businesses. This is especially true for domestic energy production.

Energy production is one of the most highly regulated markets in the United States today. Government policies are hurting our country’s ability to compete within the global economy, limiting our domestic energy supply and driving up the cost of energy for consumers. To ensure Kansans have access to a reliable and affordable supply of energy, we must develop more of our nation’s natural resources.

One resource that is plentiful in Kansas is wind. Our state has the second highest wind resource potential in our country and leads the nation in wind production capacity currently under construction. If we expect the wind energy industry to provide for our country’s future energy needs and make long-term investments in their businesses, Congress must reauthorize the wind production tax credit (PTC) that expires this year. By extending the wind PTC, Congress will allow the wind industry to complete its transformation from being a high tech startup to becoming cost competitive in the energy marketplace. Failure to do so will result in a tax hike on wind energy companies and will only further delay this industry’s ability to compete.

There are those who view government intervention in the energy sector as picking winners and losers. But the wind PTC is a winning solution because it allows companies to keep more of their own dollars in exchange for the production of energy. These are not cash handouts; they are reductions in taxes that help cover the cost of doing business. Unlike President Obama’s failed stimulus plan that rewards individual, unproven companies like Solyndra with cash handouts, the wind PTC is an industry tax credit that has led to $20 billion in annual private investment in our energy infrastructure.

Today, the American wind industry includes more than 400 manufacturing facilities in 43 states. In 2005, just 25 percent of the value of a wind turbine was produced in the United States compared to more than 60 percent today. Because of their close proximity to wind farms, American workers can produce the critical components at a lower cost than their European and Asian counterparts. As more components are manufactured in the United States and not overseas, the cost to produce electricity from wind farms will be further driven down.

If the wind PTC is allowed to expire, local economies across our state will suffer. Kansas counties will lose $3.7 million in annual payments from wind companies. Kansas landowners will lose nearly $4 million annually in additional income they earn from leasing or selling their land for wind farms. And every Kansan will ultimately be affected because the power generated by these wind facilities contributes to our supply of electricity. By eliminating additional sources of electricity, utility rates will climb.

To meet our country’s energy needs and remain competitive in the global market, Congress must develop a national energy policy. Recent events in the Middle East have demonstrated once again the importance of having access to an ample domestic energy supply so we are less dependent on foreign sources. If Congress fails, Kansans will soon be paying much higher energy prices — for the gas to fill up our cars, for the fuel to power our farm equipment, and for the electricity to turn on our lights.

Temporarily extending the wind PTC is not about picking winners and losers — it is about preparing our country to meet our growing energy demand. Rather than make it more difficult for the private sector to develop energy sources, we should lower taxes, reduce regulations, and allow the private sector to succeed in the free market. In turn, the wind industry will grow and become fully competitive — no longer needing the wind PTC. By strengthening American energy production, our country’s future will be stronger and more secure.

Wind energy split in Kansas

Despite the promise as a temporary subsidy when it started twenty years ago, wind energy is reliant on government handouts. Today’s Wall Street Journal brings this into focus, writing: “The truth is that those giant wind turbines from Maine to California won’t turn without burning through billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars. In 2010 the industry received some $5 billion in subsidies for nearly every stage of wind production.” (See Republicans Blow With the Wind: Another industry wants to keep its taxpayer subsidies..)

The piece also properly refutes the argument that oil and gas receives the same type of tax credits as does wind and other renewable energy forms. “The most dishonest claim is that wind and solar deserve to be wards of the state because the oil and gas industry has also received federal support. That’s the $4 billion a year in tax breaks for oil and gas (which all manufacturers receive), but the oil and gas industry still pays tens of billions in federal taxes every year.” There’s a difference between tax deductions, which reduce taxable income, and tax credits, which are government spending programs in disguise.

Despite this: Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas has joined with five other senators in urging the Senate to pass an extension of the subsidy program for wind power. Kansas, it should be noted, has a lot of wind. Our former governors Sebelius and Parkinson bought into the green energy fantasy, and current governor Kansas Governor Sam Brownback agrees, having penned op-eds in support of wind energy subsidy programs and usage mandates. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer has been busy promoting Wichita as a site for wind energy-related industry, despite its failing economics based on government handouts.

(By the way, it’s not only wind that is receiving subsidy on Kansas. Recently the Department of Energy announced the award of a $132.4 million loan guarantee to a cellulosic ethanol plant in southwest Kansas. At the time of the award, no commercial cellulosic ethanol had been produced in America. See Kansas and its own Solyndra.)

Contrast this with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita, who has introduced legislation to end all tax credits related to energy production. Writes the Journal: “Here’s a better idea. Kill all energy subsidies– renewable and nonrenewable, starting with the wind tax credit, and use the savings to shave two or three percentage points off America’s corporate income tax. Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo has a bill to do so. This would do more to create jobs than attempting to pick energy winners and losers. Mandating that American families and businesses use expensive electricity doesn’t create jobs. It destroys them.”

Republicans Blow With the Wind

Another industry wants to keep its taxpayer subsidies.

Congress finally ended decades of tax credits for ethanol in December, a small triumph for taxpayers. Now comes another test as the wind-power industry lobbies for a $7 billion renewal of its production tax credit.

The renewable energy tax credit — mostly for wind and solar power — started in 1992 as a “temporary” benefit for an infant industry. Twenty years later, the industry wants another four years on the dole, and Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico has introduced a national renewable-energy mandate so consumers will be required to buy wind and solar power no matter how high the cost.

The truth is that those giant wind turbines from Maine to California won’t turn without burning through billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars. In 2010 the industry received some $5 billon in subsidies for nearly every stage of wind production.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Occupy Koch Town protestors ignore facts

Below, Paul Soutar of Kansas Watchdog provides more evidence that the campaign against Wichita-based Koch Industries regarding their alleged involvement in the Keystone XL pipeline is not based on facts. Besides this article, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita has also written on this issue in The Democrats continue unjustified attacks on taxpayers and job creators.

Another inconvenient fact is that if the Canadian oil is not sold to the U.S., it will be sold to and consumed in China. If we are concerned about greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate change, it should be noted that it doesn’t matter where the greenhouse gases are produced. The effect is worldwide. But as we know, the radical environmental movement cares nothing for facts in their war on capitalism and human progress.

Facts Refute Environmentalist Claims About Keystone XL Pipeline

By Paul Soutar. Originally published at Kansas Watchdog.

Protesters are gathering on the Wichita State University campus this weekend for a Sierra Club-sponsored Occupy Koch Town protest against the Keystone XL oil pipeline and Koch Industries, Inc. Koch and its subsidiaries are involved in a wide array of manufacturing, trading and investments including petroleum refining and distribution.

Many Keystone XL opponents have focused on Koch, claiming its Flint Hills Resources Canada subsidiary’s status as an intervener in the regulatory approval process in Canada proves Koch is a party to the pipeline project. Keystone XL would carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to the U.S. Gulf coast.

In a Jan. 25 House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, California U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-District 30, demanded that the Koch brothers, Charles and David, or a representative of Koch Industries appear before the committee to explain their involvement in the pipeline.

Philip Ellender, president of Koch Cos. Public Sector, which encompasses legal, communication, community relations and government relations, responded to Waxman on a Koch Industries website:

Koch has consistently and repeatedly stated (including here, here, here, and here) that we have no financial interest whatsoever in the Keystone pipeline. In addition, this fact has been verified by TransCanada’s CEO here.

Russ Girling, CEO of TransCanada, owner and builder of the Keystone pipelines, addressed criticism of the pipeline and supposed collusion with the Koch brothers in a Nov. 1 conference call to discuss TransCanada’s earnings. “I can tell you that Koch (Industries Inc.) isn’t a shipper and I’ve never met the Koch brothers before.”A March 2010 document from Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) approving the pipeline does not mention Koch or its subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources Canada, on any of its 168 pages.

The report does note that on June 16, 2009, TransCanada Corporation became the sole owner of the Keystone Pipeline System, acquiring ConocoPhillips’ interest in the pipeline.

A map of the existing Keystone and planned Keystone XL pipelines shows that Koch’s two refineries in the 48 contiguous states at Pine Bend, Minn., and Corpus Christi, Texas, are not on or near the pipeline routes. Koch also has a refinery in North Pole, Alaska.

Koch does have substantial interests in Canadian oil though, including the thick oil sands mined in Alberta. Those interests are precisely why Flint Hills Resources Canada requested intervener status in the pipeline approval process in 2009.

Flint Hills’ application to Canada’s National Energy Board for intervener status said, “Flint Hills Resources Canada LP is among Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters, coordinating supply for its refinery in Pine Bend, Minnesota. Consequently, Flint Hills has a direct and substantial interest in the application.”

Critics have claimed that statement is a smoking gun proving Koch is a party to the pipeline or will benefit from its construction.

Greg Stringham, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) vice president of markets and oil sands, told KansasWatchdog, “Their intervention itself is not a trigger that says aha, they have a commercial interest or are a shipper on this pipeline.”

The US Legal, Inc. definitions website says an intervener is, “A party who does not have a substantial and direct interest but has clearly ascertainable interests and perspectives essential to a judicial determination and whose standing has been granted by the court for all or a portion of the proceedings.”

US Legal, Inc. provides free legal information, legal forms and help with finding an attorney for the stated purpose of breaking down barriers to legal information.

Stringham said anyone — business, organization or individual — can be an intervener in NEB regulatory proceedings as long as they can show some potential impact, good or bad, from the proposed action. “Then they make a decision whether they’re going to actively engage through evidence and cross examination or whether they’re just there for interest, to get materials and monitor the situation.”

Market interest

Like Koch, Stringham said CAPP is an intervener in the pipeline approval process, because the pipeline will have a direct impact on the Canadian oil market. Stringham said:

The fact that it’s an intervention for interest does not mean that there is a financial ownership or shipping interest. It’s really to make sure that they understand what’s going on in the process and that they have some connection to the project that can be either positive and beneficiary or potentially negative to them. That’s why I believe Koch has intervened in this process.

The Canadian pipeline company Enbridge, Inc.; Marathon Oil Corp. and Britain’s oil giant BP are also among the 29 interveners in the pipeline application. So is the environmental activist organization Sierra Club.

Keystone XL would compete with the Enbridge pipeline that carries the thick bitumen oil from Hardisty, Alberta, for delivery to Koch’s Pine Bend, Minn., refinery. If supplies prove insufficient for both pipelines, Stringham said, Koch could be at a competitive disadvantage since it is not a shipper on the Keystone pipelines.

The National Energy Board’s approval document noted:

Keystone XL shippers have indicated that they are seeking competitive alternatives, and by providing access to a new market, Keystone XL would be expanding shipper choice. The Board places considerable weight on the fact that Keystone XL shippers have made a market decision to enter into long-term shipping arrangements negotiated through a transparent competitive process. New pipelines connecting producing regions with consuming regions change market dynamics in ways that cannot easily be predicted.

Political motivation

On Feb.10, 2011 Reuters published an Inside Climate News article that started the Koch-Keystone explosion. The third paragraph put a political spin on the Koch claims.

What’s been left out of the ferocious debate over the pipeline, however, is the prospect that if President Obama allows a permit for the Keystone XL to be granted, he would be handing a big victory and great financial opportunity to Charles and David Koch, his bitterest political enemies and among the most powerful opponents of his clean economy agenda.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olsen, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, highlighted the political dimension of attacks on the Kochs and recent attempts to compel their testimony before Congress.

When Joseph McCarthy engaged in comparable bullying, oppression and slander from his powerful position in the Senate, he was censured by his colleagues and died in disgrace. “McCarthyism,” defined by Webster’s as the “use of unfair investigative and accusatory methods to suppress opposition,” will forever be synonymous with un-Americanism.

In this country, we regard the use of official power to oppress or intimidate private citizens as a despicable abuse of authority and entirely alien to our system of a government of laws. The architects of our Constitution meticulously erected a system of separated powers, and checks and balances, precisely in order to inhibit the exercise of tyrannical power by governmental officials.

Market and environmental realities

Canada produces about 2.7 million barrels of oil per day with about 1.6 million going to the United States. “About a million of that comes from the oil sands,” Stringham said. “All of that moves through the existing pipeline systems.”

Two Kansas refineries, the Holly Frontier refinery in El Dorado and National Cooperative Refinery Association’s facility in McPherson, refine Canadian oil, including from oil sands, delivered over existing pipelines.

With or without the Keystone XL, oil from Canada’s oil sands will continue to go to markets, according to Stringham. “We have been investigating a number of alternatives. Keystone XL clearly is the most direct route to get to the gulf coast and that’s why the market really spoke up and said this is what we want,” he said.

In a 2010 op-ed in the National Journal, Charles T. Drevna, president of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, presciently said, “Canada’s leaders have made clear that if the U.S. won’t buy their oil, they won’t abandon development of their oil sands. Instead, they have said they will ship Canadian oil across the Pacific to China and other Asian nations. That will result in America having to import more oil from other countries. Sending Canadian oil to Asia would actually increase global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a 2010 study by Barr Engineering.”

The Barr study, Low Carbon Fuel Standard “Crude Shuffle” Greenhouse Gas Impacts Analysis (pdf), concluded that transporting oil to Asia for refining would mean not just a lost opportunity for the U.S., but increased greenhouse gas emissions because of transportation by ship instead of by pipeline and less stringent refinery emission standards.

TransCanada has said it will continue to seek approval of the Keystone XL and work is proceeding on alternatives to Keystone XL, Stringham said. “There are other pipeline routes being investigated by Enbridge and BP and a number of others as well to move this oil,” he said.

He said Canada’s oil market is looking at diverse opportunities beyond the United States. “We are looking to the West Coast, which could move it on to tankers. We looked at Asia, it is one of the options, but once it gets to the West Coast, it can also move to the California market,” he said.

Stringham said a proposal for Enbridge to build a pipeline carrying oil to the West Coast has more than 4,000 interveners.

Occupy Koch Town promotional materials say they’ll also protest against the Kansas Policy Institute. KPI helped launch KansasWatchdog.org in 2009 but is no longer affiliated with this site.

An ill wind blows in Kansas: The politics of renewable energy

Kansas Representative Charlotte O’Hara, who represents Kansas House District 27 in southern Johnson County, offers a look at the politics surrounding wind power in Kansas. Besides O’Neal, other prominent supporters of renewable energy in Kansas include Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who has been vocal in his support of wind power. So too has been Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, who has been busy promoting Wichita as a site for wind energy-related industry. Contrast this with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita, who has introduced legislation to end all tax credits related to energy production.

An ill wind blows in Kansas: The politics of renewable energy

By Kansas Representative Charlotte O’Hara

The world of Topeka politics continue to amaze, frustrate, entertain and humor me in my second year of representing the 27th District. Case in point:

On Tuesday of this week during the Republican Caucus discussion of HB 2446 (concerning the expansion of definition of alternative energy to include storage facilities/devices) this fact came to light: The Kansas Legislature, in 2009, passed the Renewable Energy Standards Act (KSA 66-1258), which requires 10 percent of our power companies’ capacity to be from renewable energy sources by 2011, 15 percent in 2016 and 20 percent in 2020.

So, being the conservative that I am, I suggested an amendment that would freeze renewable energy standards to the current 10 percent. Rep. Dennis Hedke carried the amendment on the floor. The amendment received 43 votes.

Only 43 out of 125 representatives voted to stop strangling the Kansas economy and burdening consumers with high energy costs of these draconian requirements. According to the Heritage Foundation, just a 15% renewable energy mandate would increase electricity prices for consumers by as much as 11.3 percent!

After the defeat of the amendment, Rep. Forrest Knox introduced an amendment that would tie the freeze to licensing of the Holcomb Power Plant, which currently has been stopped by federal court and another environmental impact study has been ordered. The Knox amendment received 65 votes, a majority. However Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal (who voted against both amendments) interceded and referred the amended bill, HB 2446, back to committee (with the approval of the House members) and removing it from final action.

So, why would Speaker O’Neal oppose a freeze at the current 10% on the Kansas Renewable Standard Act? Well, let’s see. Could it possibly be that these required increased standards in Kansas law is why Siemens chose Hutchinson (O’Neal’s district) in 2009 to locate a $35 million wind turbine plant? Is this the type of crony capitalism we want to build our economic future on in Kansas?

Another wrinkle in the future of renewable energy is that extension of federal tax credits is in doubt. Those credits currently subsidize renewables by 2.1 cents per kw. Without the federal, state and local tax incentives, abatements and exemptions, the economics of renewable energy collapses.

Here is a link to Heritage Foundation on this issue of renewable energy subsidies: No More Energy Subsidies: Prevent the New, Repeal the Old.

It always puzzles me why after the fall of the Soviet Union, government mandated / subsidized / incentivized industries continue to flourish in the U.S. and, in particular, here in our own Kansas backyard.

So, if you would like to register your concerns about the Speaker’s action to circumvent final action on HB 2446, which as amended would freeze Kansas Renewable Energy Act requirement at 10 percent and stop it from going to 20 percent, call his office: 785-296-2302 or e-mail at Mike.ONeal@house.ks.gov

Fracking movie proposed

Americans are just starting to become aware of the tremendous potential of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a method of producing oil, and especially, natural gas. Kansas has recently seen a flurry of activity in this area, and fracking is expected to provide many thousands of jobs for Kansas, along with cheaper energy.

Filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer produced the 2009 film Not Evil Just Wrong that uncovered the myths and misinformation spread by radical environmental extremists.

Now the two have looked at fracking and hope to produce a documentary film on this topic. They hope to use a new method of financing the film — crowdfunding. Following is a press release announcing this effort. The link to the funding page is FrackNation: A documentary project in Los Angeles, CA by Ann and Phelim Media LLC.

Controversial filmmakers announce crowdfunding campaign for documentary to “expose the truth about fracking”

“FrackNation” investigates the alarming and apparently misleading claims made about fracking, and looks at the benefits the process can bring to some of the poorest communities in the U.S. and across the planet.

Los Angeles (February 8, 2012) — Controversial filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer announced a crowdfunding campaign today for their new documentary, FrackNation.

The feature-length film looks at the process of fracking for natural gas, demolishing much of the scaremongering surrounding the process and featuring the millions whose lives have been positively transformed by this emerging industry. FrackNation investigates the health claims surrounding the process, and reveals the startling lack of scientific evidence to substantiate them.

Controversially, McAleer and McElhinney are fundraising for FrackNation on Kickstarter.com.

“Normally, Kickstarter projects are pro-radical environmentalism,” said McAleer. “FrackNation will be the first documentary funded through Kickstarter to challenge the environmental establishment. It will appeal to the workers and small farmers who know the truth, but never see it represented in modern documentaries.”

In a unique fundraising move, McAleer and McElhinney, a husband and wife filmmaking team, have announced that everyone who helps pay for FrackNation will become an executive producer on the film. “This will be a documentary funded by the people for the people,” said McAleer.

FrackNation comes on the heels of a new anti-fracking film is due to be released by activist filmmaker Josh Fox. Fox made Gasland, an Oscar-nominated film, which propelled fears about fracking into the public arena. Fox is now planning a HBO-funded Gasland sequel. Fox has received $750,000 to make the new documentary.

“The Hollywood/environmental establishment has wheeled out big bucks to tell its story,” said Ann McElhinney. “We’re just asking for $150,000. Ours will be a grassroots film telling real stories about real people across America and the world.”

The filmmakers say the documentary was inspired when they encountered journalistic censorship. McAleer questioned Fox at a Q&A following a screening of the film, during which Fox admitted the people could light their tap water long before fracking was introduced. The “lighting water” scene is one of the most famous parts of Gasland, and led to many of the scares surrounding the process.

“I was shocked when Fox said he this had existed in these areas decades before fracking. However, I was doubly shocked when Fox’s lawyers contacted me to take down my video of our Q&A which I posted on YouTube,” said McAleer. “Fox was trying to censor another journalist and that got me interested: What was he trying to hide?”

McAleer and McElhinney have already filmed in Pennsylvania, New York, California, Poland, and the U.K.

FrackNation will feature small farmers, the working class and others who are benefiting from this economic boom. We will also look at the backgrounds and motives of those opposing fracking,” said McElhinney.

Contact: Mary Elizabeth Margolis
mary.margolis@storypartnersdc.com
(202) 706-7800

Sustainable planning: The agenda and details

Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau has produced a document that explains the dangers contained with the “sustainable development” movement that is spreading across the country. Recently both the City of Wichita and Sedgwick County voted to participate in a planning grant devoted to starting the implementation of this ideology that government can plan better than markets can.

In the document Ranzau writes: “Proponents of these grants often speak in general terms that make it difficult to disagree. But as they say, the devil is in the details. It is very important for you to know what they are not telling you. We all need to look beyond the fancy talk and find out what the agenda is really about. … The intent of this paper is to share information and insight about ‘sustainable development’ so that citizens and elected officials can have a more complete understanding of what the planning grants will entail and what possible consequences our communities may face if these policies are implemented.”

One of the concerns Ranzau identifies is the attack on the automobile-based suburban lifestyle that many in Wichita and the surrounding area prefer, based on their revealed choices: “One of the most important reasons to be concerned about the agenda behind these grants is the effect it could have on housing costs and property rights. Smart Growth supporters decry suburban development (single family home with a yard) as unsustainable and work to push people into high density housing (and government transportation).”

This attitude is creeping into Wichita. At a January 2010 presentation by Goody Clancy, the planning firm that developed the plan for downtown Wichita, I reported on the attitudes expressed by planners and how they believe they know what people should want, if only the people were as smart as the planners:

At a presentation in January, some speakers from Goody Clancy revealed condescending attitudes towards those who hold values different from this group of planners. One presenter said “Outside of Manhattan and Chicago, the traditional family household generally looks for a single family detached house with yard, where they think their kids might play, and they never do.

David Dixon, who leads Goody Clancy’s Planning and Urban Design division and was the principal for this project, revealed his elitist world view when he told how that in the future, Wichitans will be able to “enjoy the kind of social and cultural richness” that is only found at the core.

The document holds many links to valuable resources, a timeline of sustainable planning activities, and contact information for local officials.

Sustainable Planning Grants and UN Agenda 21

CSAPR not friendly, not a ghost

The following piece by Kansas Representative Dennis Hedke (district 99, Andover and parts of far east Wichita) illustrates another way in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) overreaches. Hedke is a geophysicist by training and profession.

Every citizen on the planet bears a responsibility toward stewardship of the environment. In the United States we have been blessed by much improved air and water quality over many decades of dedicated effort. There are, however, practical limits as to how far to push the envelope of “clean.”

The article presented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Wichita Eagle on December 4, 2011 spoke to newly created rules placed on utilities, primarily targeted at coal-burning power plants. These new regulations fall within the “Cross-State Air Pollution Rule,” or CSAPR.

EPA claims it will “protect hundreds of million of Americans, providing up to $280 billion in benefits by preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths, asthma and heart attacks, and millions of lost days of school or work due to illness,” due to the cleanup of mercury, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and other emissions.

Exactly where did the EPA come up with these incredible health benefits?

According to a Wall Street Journal citation on December 6, 2011, “… the EPA estimates that the benefits to society from mercury reductions in the utility rule max out at $6.1 million, total, while imposing $11 billion in compliance costs annually.”

Can the EPA cite for me, and the rest of Kansans who wish to know, evidence for any individual living within a 25 mile radius of the Jeffrey Energy Center near St. Mary’s, KS, who has experienced respiratory illness as a direct result of the emissions coming from that plant? Has there been a single lost day of school for any student in the St. Mary’s district due to the emissions coming from that plant? Has anyone lost a day of work as a direct result of emissions coming from that plant?

If and when EPA conducts an epidemiologic study to answer those questions, I predict the answers will be no, no, and no. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed that no such studies have been conducted anywhere in Kansas.

Yet, the EPA would have us believe that they will be protecting hundreds of millions of Americans from multiple hazardous substances being emitted, and carried ‘downwind’ to Chicago, Pittsburgh, and of course New York City and EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC. I submit they would love to have our air quality. There is something very wrong with this picture.

Jeffrey Energy Center (through Westar ratepayers) has invested in excess of $600 million within the past decade to retrofit and materially reduce sulfur oxides by 82% and nitrogen oxides by 48%, and other particulates that may be in some way challenging the health profiles of residents proximate to the plant. Not enough according to the EPA.

Behind the scenes, EPA claims their models conflict with models of other entities, and that rolling brownouts and blackouts won’t happen next summer, as a result of mandatory plant shutdowns. That’s not what has been publicly reported by Westar and many others.

I’ll go with Westar, and the others.

Casper, please lend us a hand.

Pompeo: Obama, EPA not to be trusted on regulation

U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, wrote this op-ed to warn us of the many ways in which President Barack Obama seeks to implement his radical agenda through regulation, this time through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The remedy in this case is in the form of legislation, H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. The bill was voted on today in the House of Representatives and passed 268 to 150.

While Pompeo focuses primarily on the direct impact of this regulation on farmers and ranchers, anything that makes these activities more difficult and expensive will drive up food costs for everyone, and many complain that these costs have been rising rapidly. Part of that rise, we might note, is due to regulations that require the use of ethanol in fuel, which diverts corn production away from food.

A version of this appeared in the Washington Examiner.

EPA must stop playing in the dust

By U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would like to regulate farm dust all across the nation. I know it sounds ridiculous, but given the Obama Administration’s demonstrated hostility toward rural America, it should not come as a huge surprise. Although EPA has verbally reversed course in recent weeks and said it has “no intention” of regulating farm dust, my 11 months in Washington have taught me quickly that we must pay attention to what politicians do and not what they say. EPA’s actions continue to show that radical environmentalists desire to regulate dust. To stop the EPA in its tracks, I have worked to advance H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act, through the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. I look forward to final passage on the House Floor later this week.

In Kansas and across the country, businesses are struggling to stay afloat. At best, EPA is oblivious to this fact. At worst, it deliberately presses forward in spite of the damaging consequences of new regulations. Rather than helping farmers, ranchers, business owners and other entrepreneurs, EPA continually bombards these job creators with undue and costly new regulations. The agriculture sector is now holding its collective breath as EPA considers new air quality standards, which it revises every five years. Under the Clean Air Act, the Agency asserts the authority to regulate farm dust as “coarse particulate matter.” This dust is known very well to rural Kansans. It is merely the dust created from driving down unpaved roads, moving livestock, and working the fields.

As it is, the current standard already imposes costs and restrictions on farmers, ranchers, agribusiness entities, and small businesses, particularly in arid parts of the West where dust is easily kicked up. Earlier this year, EPA staff suggested tightening standards to levels that would push most of the West — including Kansas — out of compliance.

In a recent House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing, we heard from individuals who live in these areas, including Arizona farmer Kevin Rogers, who is already threatened by strict dust regulations. Because parts of Arizona already struggle to meet the current dust standards, he and other farmers may be required to halt tillage, drive at a snail’s pace on unpaved roads, stop work entirely on windy days, or take other expensive measures to reduce dust. If the dust standards are actually tightened to the levels suggested by EPA staff, other parts of the country would have to implement similar policies that will destroy the efficiency and productivity our farmers and ranchers are known for.

Opponents of our efforts call the desire to regulate farm dust a ‘myth’ and liken these concerns to worrying about regulation of fairy dust. While these theatrics garnered some snickers, I was not amused — and neither were the 500 plus Kansas Farm Bureau members I met with just before Thanksgiving who agree that this is a real problem. We need the bipartisan Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and over 180 other organizations also agree that this valid concern with what EPA might do is more than fairy dust, and they know that this bill is vitally important to the survival of their industry.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has announced that the agency has “no intention” of further regulating dust. But that announcement sounds more like political rhetoric designed to appease opponents as the 2012 election cycle nears, rather than a genuine promise rural Americans can count on. Given what I know, I would be letting farmers and ranchers down if I simply trusted the Obama Administration on their stated farm dust intentions. Besides, there is also a threat that an environmental group could sue and persuade a pliant EPA to regulate farm dust as a settlement condition. We need smart and clear laws set by Congress — not unelected bureaucrats. The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act is one. We must ensure that the federal government creates a positive atmosphere for businesses to prosper — including farming and livestock operations. It’s time to forget about regulating farm dust and give rural America some breathing room from the crushing regulations of which this Administration is so fond.

‘Sustainable planning’ not so sustainable

By Randal O’Toole, Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A version of this appeared in the Wichita Eagle.

The vast majority of Americans, surveys say, aspire to live in a single-family home with a yard. The vast majority of American travel — around 85 percent — is by automobile. Yet the Obama administration thinks more Americans should live in apartments and travel on foot, bicycle, or mass transit.

To promote this idea, the administration wants to give the south central Regional Economic Area Partnership (REAP) the opportunity to apply for a $1.5 million grant to participate in “sustainable communities.” Also sometimes called “smart growth,” the ideas promoted by these programs are anything but sustainable or smart. (As members of REAP, the governing bodies for both Wichita and Sedgwick County endorsed this grant.)

The urban plans that come out of these kinds of programs typically call for:

  • Redesigning streets to increase traffic congestion in order to discourage people from driving;
  • Increasing subsidies to transit, bike paths, and other “alternative” forms of travel even though these alternatives are used by few people;
  • Denying owners of land on the urban fringes the right to develop their property in order to make single-family housing more expensive;
  • Subsidizing high-density, developments that combine housing with retail shops in the hope that people will walk to shopping rather than drive;
  • Rezoning neighborhoods of single-family homes for apartments with zoning so strict that, if someone’s house burns down, they will have to replace it with an apartment.

My former hometown of Portland, Oregon has followed these policies for two decades, and the results have been a disaster. In their zeal to subsidize transit and high-density developments, the region’s officials have taken money from schools, libraries, fire, and police, leaving those programs starved and in disarray.

Since 1980, Portland has spent more than $3 billion building light-rail lines. Far from improving transit, the share of commuters taking transit to work has fallen from 9.8 percent in 1980 to 7.5 percent today, mainly because the region cut bus service to pay for the trains. Traffic congestion quadrupled between 1984 and 2004, which planners say was necessary to get people to ride transit.

The region’s housing policies made single-family homes so expensive that most families with children moved to distant suburbs where they can afford a house with a yard. Residents of subsidized high-density housing projects drive just about as much as anyone else in the Portland area, and developers have learned to their sorrow that if they follow planners’ guidelines in providing less parking for these projects, they will end up with high vacancy rates.

Despite these problems, Portland has received lots of positive publicity. The reason for this is simple: by forcing out families with children, inner Portland is left mainly with young singles and childless couples who eat out a lot, making Portland a Mecca for tourists who like exciting new restaurants. This makes Portland a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there unless you like noisy, congested streets.

The idea of “sustainable communities” is that planners can socially engineer people into changing their travel behavior by redesigning cities to favor pedestrians and transit over automobiles. Beyond the fact that this is an outrageous intrusion of government into people’s lives, it simply doesn’t work. Such experts as University of California economist David Brownstone and University of Southern California planning professor Genevieve Giuliano have shown that the link between urban design and driving is too weak to make a difference.

To protect livability and avoid unsustainable subsidies to transit and high-density development, Wichita, Sedgwick County, and other REAP members of south central Kansas should reject the $1.5 million grant offered by the federal government.

Randal O’Toole (rot@cato.org) is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute and author of The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future.

For more about the local grant, see Sedgwick County considers a planning grant.

NAT GAS Act: Markets are better able to decide

The real lesson to be learned from Solyndra is that government is not equipped to act as entrepreneur. We need to apply that lesson to natural gas powered vehicles before it is too late.

This lesson is important to learn at the present, as legislation called the NAT GAS Act, formally known as H.R. 1380: New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011, is working its way through Congress.

Thomas J. Pyle of the American Energy Alliance does an excellent job tracing through the secondary effects of passing the NAT GAS act. He shows that when considering large legislation like this, we need to really think hard about all the markets and people that will be impacted.

Furthermore, some of the goals of this legislation, such as decreasing reliance on imported oil from unfriendly sources, could be accomplished with government simply getting out of the way and letting more oil production occur domestically.

We need to trust people, that is, people and investors trading freely, using their collective wisdom, as to which forms of energy are best for each purpose, Pyle writes: “The market and consumers have proven over and over — “déjà vu all over again,” but in a positive way — to be the best arbiters of what energy technologies succeed or fail. To put it simply, if natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are superior to gas or diesel, and they may be some day, consumers will figure that out on their own.”

Pyle also offers what he thinks is the real motive of two of the bill’s backers, energy investor T. Boone Pickens and left-wing cause financier George Soros: “Why compete in the free market when it’s more profitable to have Congress do your bidding for you?””

The full article by Pyle is available on The Hill at NAT GAS Act: Déjà vu all over again. More coverage of this issue is at Pickens criticism illustrates divide between free markets and intervention, Pickens: It’s all about me, and MSNBC doesn’t notice, and Pompeo on energy tax simplification.

NAT GAS Act: Déjà vu all over again

By Thomas J. Pyle

When it comes to unchecked government spending and misguided energy policies, it seems that Congress cannot escape channeling Yogi Berra’s oft-quoted remark, “it’s deja vu all over again.” The latest Congressional boondoggle concerns the NAT GAS Act, which will be addressed at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on September 22.
Some background first: the proposed law offers between $5 billion and $9 billion in tax subsidies — although there is no cap on maximum spending in the law — to encourage businesses to convert their vehicles to natural gas, despite the fact that many companies are already doing this doing on their own. Proponents of the law argue that using cleaner burning natural gas will help the environment and that it will improve the nation’s energy security, but a closer look reveals these demand-centric subsidies will lead to expensive consequences for consumers, taxpayers, workers and employers across the board.

Continue reading at The Hill

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Friday September 23, 2011

Downtown Wichita site launched. As part of an effort to provide information about the Douglas Place project, a proposed renovation of a downtown Wichita office building into a hotel, a group of concerned citizens has created a website. The site is named Our Downtown Wichita, and it’s located at dtwichita.com.

Keystone pipeline hearing, bus trip. On Monday the United States Department of State will hold hearings in Topeka concerning a proposed petroleum pipeline. Says Americans for Prosperity: “Our great country has an opportunity to complete a project that would provide billions of dollars in economic activity, create thousands of high-paying manufacturing and construction jobs, and at the same time take a significant step toward providing for greater U.S. energy security and independence. … Because the project originates in Canada and would provide a pipeline extension to the Gulf Coast, through Kansas, the project requires State Department approval. TransCanada owns the Keystone pipeline, which currently runs from Canada to Oklahoma. … It has finally received tentative approval from the Environmental Protection Agency and now sits before the State Department. The State Department is holding a hearing in Topeka on Monday, September 26th from noon to 3:30pm and 4:00pm to 8:00pm at the Kansas ExpoCentre, located at the corner of Topeka Blvd. and 17th Street South.” … To help citizens attend this unusual hearing, AFP has organized a free bus trip from Wichita. The bus will load from 7:30 am to 8:00 am at the Lawrence Dumont Stadium Parking Lot. It will return to Wichita around 7:00 pm. Lunch is provided. For more information on this event contact John Todd at john@johntodd.net or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at sestes@afphq.org or 316-681-4415.

Health care reform. “Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer spent nearly two hours with the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Policy Oversight Monday explaining the imperative and complexity of solving problems with government health care he likened to a Rubik’s Cube. The challenge of the 1974 puzzle and the current Medicaid and health care debate is finding a way to align multiple facets of each side without upsetting another side.” More from Kansas Watchdog at Public Health Care System Reform a Governmental Rubik’s Cube .

Pompeo defends against Obama’s attack on aviation. “Rep. Mike Pompeo (KS-04) spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives in defense of the general aviation community, which is so important to job sustainability and job growth in South Central Kansas.” Video from C-Span is at Pompeo House speech on aviation.

Wichita corporate welfare opposed. This week the Wichita City Council granted another forgivable loan. Thank you to John Todd for appearing and offering testimony opposing the loan. In his remarks, Todd said: “Over the past few months, I have watched a majority of this council fall into the trap of trying to buy customer business with free-money economic development schemes out of the public treasury. This program might work if the public treasury held unlimited funds and the public gifts were offered to every business owner on an equal basis. … In 1887 President Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill that would have given $10,000 for seed to farmers in drought-stricken Texas saying something to the effect that he could not be a party to taking money out of the treasury to benefit one group of people at the expense of another group, no matter how worthy the cause, stating that it is the responsibility of citizens to support the government and not the responsibility of government to support the people. Cleveland further issued a challenge for private charitable giving for the farmers. A number of newspapers adopted the relief campaign and in the end Americans voluntarily donated not $10,000 but $100,000 to the afflicted farmers. I would suggest a similar publicly driven voluntary relief campaign in lieu of the forgivable loan you are considering today to see if there is public sentiment to charitably fund this local economic development project.” … I’ve been told what the target company really needs is relief from a regulatory trap.

The trap of job creation. Today on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal program, Rhone Resch of the Solar Energy Industries Association appeared. He promoted solar energy as great for creating jobs, telling viewers that solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other form of power generation. This illustrates the trap that politicians and those who benefit from government subsidy usually fall into: that more jobs is a good thing. Wouldn’t it be much better if we could generate all the electricity we wanted using fewer jobs? Then these surplus employees could be put to work on something else — or simply enjoy leisure. … A few years ago an editorial written by a labor union official appeared in Kansas, praising the job-creating power of wind energy. In response, I wrote “After all, if we view our energy policy as a jobs creation program, why not build wind turbines and haul them to western Kansas without the use of machinery? Think of the jobs that would create.” … In a video produced by the Cato Institute, Caleb Brown explains the problems with relying on government and its spending for jobs: “Politicians and entrepreneurs face different problems. Entrepreneurs care about creating wealth, both for their customers and themselves. This means getting more output with fewer inputs. Politicians often care more about maximizing inputs like labor, even when that job creation could make all of us materially worse off. It would be easy for the president and Congress to create new jobs: They could simply ban the use of computers, farm machinery, or any other labor-saving device. But that would clearly raise prices … It’s hard to see how that improves anyone’s standard of living.”

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback on wind energy

Recently Kansas Governor Sam Brownback wrote an editorial praising the benefits of wind power. (Gov. Sam Brownback: Wind offers clean path to growth, September 11, 2011 Wichita Eagle) Brownback has also been supportive of another form of renewable energy, ethanol.

But not everyone agrees with the governor’s rosy assessment of wind power. Paul Chesser of American Tradition Institute offers a rebuttal of Brownback’s article, which first appeared in a Bloomberg publication.

Chesser writes: “Apparently Gov. Brownback has overlooked the horrid results of efforts in recent years to spur the economy and employment with government renewable energy ‘stimulation’ from taxpayer dollars. … The lessons of failure with government mandates in pursuit of a renewable energy economy are not hard to find.”

Chesser goes on to describe ATI’s study which illustrates the negative economic consequences of renewsable energy standards, which Brownback has supported. The study is The Effects of Federal Renewable Portfolio Standard Legislation on the U.S. Economy.

Following is Chesser’s response to Governor Brownback.

Kansas Gov., Former Sen. Brownback Incorrect on Promise, Economics of Renewable Energy

By Paul Chesser

American Tradition Institute today called attention to the many fallacies in a column written by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and published yesterday in the Bloomberg Government newsletter (subscription required), in which the former U.S. Senator touted the “long-term benefits” and “job creation” ability of renewable energy, predominantly with wind power.

Apparently Gov. Brownback has overlooked the horrid results of efforts in recent years to spur the economy and employment with government renewable energy “stimulation” from taxpayer dollars. He wrote for Bloomberg, “Experience has taught us that investments in the renewable energy economy is creating jobs across all employment sectors, including construction, engineering, operations, technology and professional services, in both rural and urban communities.”

“Unlike most of his fellow Republicans, it sounds like the governor continues to support President Obama’s failed initiatives to create ‘Green jobs’ in a hopeless attempt to save the U.S. economy,” said Paul Chesser, executive director of American Tradition Institute.

Continue reading at ATI Release: Kansas Gov., Former Sen. Brownback Incorrect on Promise, Economics of Renewable Energy.