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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To 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.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: The City of Wichita held a workshop where the Community Investments Plan Steering Committee delivered a progress report to the city council. The document holds some facts that ought to make Wichitans think, and think hard. Then: What is the purpose of high tax rates on high income earners? Finally: Advances in producing oil and natural gas make for a more competitive and carbon-efficient economy. Episode 33, broadcast March 2, 2014. View below, or click here to view on YouTube.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
Much of the Commissioner’s article simply described the program and the need for it in vague generalities that are neither correct or incorrect, and which do little to advance understanding of what is really likely to happen.
But Norton did write something useful when he attempted to deflect the fact that this is a government plan, backed by the ability of government to compel compliance (or make it very expensive to avoid). He wrote: “This is not about any one governing body or level of government imposing or mandating what we should do. It is about what we decide collectively is best for our region and then choosing to make it happen.”
This meme of “it’s only a plan” that can be shelved is likely to be repeated. Watch for it.
Except: By shelving time, millions will have been invested in the plan. Reputations like Norton’s will depend on adopting the plan. Bureaucratic jobs will be at stake (See Sedgwick County considers a planning grant for an explanation of how planning helps make work for bureaucrats and academics.)
Besides boosting the interests of politicians and bureaucrats, 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 years.
Once the planning process begins, special interests plot to benefit themselves at the expense of the general public. We saw this at work in the first project to emerge after the Wichita downtown planning process (Project Downtown), where public policy was shaped on the fly to meet the needs of politically-connected special interests, at detriment to the public.
Most importantly: The very existence of a government plan is dangerous, as the plan itself becomes a reason to proceed, contrary to reason and harm to liberty and economic freedom.
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. This likely to be the argument to follow whatever emerges from Commissioner Norton’s planning process.
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.
The Times editorialists write that now the president “can make real progress on issues neglected in the first.” I wonder: Why did he neglect these issues?
Then: Obama intends to “build on and improve the significant accomplishments of the last four years.” The problem is that these accomplishments are harmful to our country. They harm our economy, they extinguish liberty and freedom, they will lead to less prosperity for everyone.
Here’s what a second Obama term might attempt, according to the Times
“Address climate change with more vigor, going beyond auto-mileage standards and renewable-energy jobs to possibly advocating tougher carbon emissions standards.” I’d like to think that the Obama Administration learned from debacles like Solyndra, but there’s no evidence it has.
“Working with Republicans to fix the immigration system.” We’re long overdue for this, and I think I can support what the president is likely to propose. We’ll see.
“He also hinted that combating poverty might move higher on his priority list.” But Obama’s vision of fighting poverty is likely more of the same: direct payments, government job training, more spending on public schools, etc. None of this supports what is really needed: a vibrant economy.
“In coming months, after he persuades Congress to keep taxes from rising on the middle class, he should push to restore a fair estate tax and raise the low capital gains rate to the level of ordinary income.” A pro-growth policy, one that would create prosperity for everyone, would be to eliminate taxes on capital. Raising this tax means that there will be less investment in the United States as investors seek to find more attractive grounds for investment. This is so important. Ask yourself this: Who earns the higher wage — the man digging a ditch with a shovel, or the worker operating a power backhoe? The backhoe is capital. Someone had to defer current consumption in order to save to buy the backhoe. As taxes on capital rise, people have less incentive to save and invest.
The Times says Obama’s victory was decisive. At least they didn’t say it was a mandate, as some have said. We’ve suffered through a campaign, won by a man who showed that he would do anything to hold on to power.
We’ve heard President Obama tell Russia that he can be more “flexible” after the election. Some might interpret this — considering domestic policy — as meaning that Obama will govern more to the left, seeking to expand government spending even more than he did in his first term.
But there’s a possibility — small, I’m sad to reckon — that flexibility might mean that the president disregards the radical left and embraces principles of economic freedom and personal liberty. This is the way Barack Obama could rescue our economy and build a legacy that he and the country could be proud of.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
A press release from Earthjustice, the legal advocacy arm of the Sierra Club, proclaimed “A new report reveals Sunflower Electric (Sunflower) enjoyed a cozy relationship with Kansas regulators during the permitting process for the highly controversial coal-fired power plant Sunflower seeks to build in Holcomb.”
This incident — the details are not important for understanding the broad lesson — may be looked on as an example of regulatory capture. As defined in Wikipedia, “regulatory capture occurs when a state regulatory agency created to act in the public interest instead advances the commercial or special interests that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.”
In more detail, the Wikipedia article explains: “For public choice theorists, regulatory capture occurs because groups or individuals with a high-stakes interest in the outcome of policy or regulatory decisions can be expected to focus their resources and energies in attempting to gain the policy outcomes they prefer, while members of the public, each with only a tiny individual stake in the outcome, will ignore it altogether. Regulatory capture refers to when this imbalance of focused resources devoted to a particular policy outcome is successful at ‘capturing’ influence with the staff or commission members of the regulatory agency, so that the preferred policy outcomes of the special interest are implemented.”
Regulatory capture — or at least the heavy-handed attempt by special interest groups to influence public policy to fit their interests — is a non-partisan sport. We shouldn’t be surprised to see this form of government failure taking place at all times, no matter which party or politicians are in power.
Radical environmentalists rejoiced. Sebelius was invited to speak at an Earthjustice conference held in Denver in June, 2008. Here are a portion of her written remarks, as supplied to me at that time by her press office, thanking Earthjustice for all it had done in Kansas to help Sebelius and mold her regulatory regime:
When Big Coal pumped their money and politics into Kansas, EarthJustice was there to fight back:
Provided litigation and public support
Helped shape the media messaging and outreach
Rallied supporters and engaged the public to get involved
It was a victory for all of us and I appreciate their help.
Ann McElhinney. Speaking at last week’s free market-based RightOnline conference in Minneapolis, filmmaker Ann McElhinney addressed the general session and spoke against CINOs: Conservatives In Name Only, which she defined as anyone who thinks we should subsidize industry, anyone who believes that humans control the weather, anyone who thinks we should not explore and exploit ANWR, anyone who thinks we should not be drilling for oil off our coasts, anyone who thinks it’s okay to terrorize schoolchildren that the world is about to end, anyone who is talking nonsense about fracking, anyone who is against exploiting the oil sands in Alberta — bringing oil from a country that doesn’t believe in stoning women, and anyone who believes we can power our incredible dream with wind or the sunshine. … She criticized those feminists who talk about solar panels and windmills, saying that across Africa and India there are women who “devote a lifetime to washing clothes … a complete waste of time when you could have a washing machine.” She said it is a human rights abuse to deprive a woman of a washing machine. … Video is at Ann McElhinney at 2011 RightOnline.
Presidential candidate white papers.Club For Growth is an organization that works to “promote public policies that encourage a high growth economy,” believing — as do I — that “prosperity and opportunity come through economic freedom.” To advance this end, it has created a “white paper” for most of the declared Republican presidential candidates, and it’s working on papers for the rest. The papers draw on a variety of sources for data, and seem to be balanced — and tough, too. They’re available by clicking on Club For Growth’s Presidential White Papers: How do the candidates rate as pro-growth economic conservatives.
Budget briefing book, volume one.Bankrupting America, “an educational project that explores the policies hindering economic opportunity and growth in America,” has released the first volume of its budget briefing book. It’s full of useful information: fact and figures, how much is spent on what, what does “debt ceiling” mean, what is the Ryan budget plan, etc. Volume one is available at Budget Briefing Book: Volume One, with further volumes to come. (sign up for an email notification, if you want.) I found the book easiest to read in full-screen mode.
Pompeo events. This Sunday (June 26) U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Wichita Republican serving his first term, will hold a public forum at Tri-City Senior Center, 6100 N. Hydraulic in Park City. This event starts at 2:00 pm, and based on my past experience, will last one hour and maybe a little more. … On Tuesday, June 28, 2011, Representative Pompeo and Mrs. Pompeo, along with staff, will host an open house at his congressional district office in Wichita from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm. The address is 7701 E. Kellogg, Suite 510. It’s the tall office building near the southwest corner of Kellogg and Rock Road.
Kansas tax competitive position slipped in 2011.Kansas Reporter: “Kansas current tax policies dropped one gauge of the state’s economic competiveness two spots this year, to 27th place among the nation’s 50 states, according to a new survey to be formally unveiled this week in Topeka. The latest reading marks the third time since the annual survey began four years ago, that Kansas has slipped in the rankings, which are compiled by researchers Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams for the Rich States Poor States rankings on behalf of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a group of 2,000 state legislators that generally advocates for free-market legislative approaches. Kansas’ economic competitiveness, as measured by a blend of 15 indicators of higher or lower tax burdens, was rated 25th best in the nation last year, down from 24 in 2009, but higher than 29th, which the researchers calculated the first year the three compiled their list.” … Jonathan Williams, one of the authors of Rich States, Poor States: The ALEC-Laffer Economic Competitiveness Index made a presentation in Wichita today. A report is forthcoming.
Redistricting in Kansas.Chapman Rackaway: “This week one of the most contentious processes in politics began in Kansas: redrawing the lines of our U.S. House, State House, State Senate, and State Board of Education districts. After each census, every state must redraw its legislative boundaries to ensure a roughly equal population.” It’s an important process. John Fund of the Wall Street Journal says redistricting is when politicians get to choose their voters. Rackaway believes it will be a struggle in Kansas: “The only certainty is that redistricting will be as contentious a fight in the 2012 legislative session as the budget has been for the last few years. Every constituent group will have a chance to be angered, because the process is a twisty one with numerous stops. The legislature is responsible for drawing and passing redistricting plans, and the Governor has the opportunity to veto.” Concluding, he writes: “Redistricting isn’t the most exciting thing to follow for most people, but the elections they influence are. The research clearly tells us that the best way to ensure safe or competitive legislative districts is to design them that way.” The full article is Insight Kansas: Drawing a Line.
The price system. A short video explains how prices work in free markets and how important is the information conveyed by prices. This is part one; I’m looking forward to part two. This video is from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, and many other informative videos are available.
Wichita City Council. This week the Wichita City Council considers these items: The council will deliberate a contract in the amount of $50,000 with the Kansas World Trade Center for economic development services. KWTC’s mission is to “promote and facilitate international trade through education, communication and research.” … The council will be asked to approve cultural funding allocations approved by the Cultural Funding Committee. The source of these funds is the city’s dedicated property tax for the arts, which is estimated to bring in $3,165,897 next year. The best thing the council could do for citizens is to forgo this funding, reduce taxes, and let citizens choose how to allocate their funds based on their own preferences. Instead, we have a committee deciding which arts Wichitans should be taxed to pay for. … The council will be asked to approve spending $194,849 on a contract with a firm to produce the Wichita bicycle master plan. … Another contract to be considered spends $87,253 to produce a transit community outreach and input study. … As always, the agenda packet is available at Wichita city council agendas.
American politics, viewed from down under.James Paterson, an Australian, writes about the inability of left-wing media to understand a conservative grassroots political movement: “Ever since the rise of the Tea Party in the United States and the community revolt against the Gillard Government’s carbon tax, progressive journalists and commentators have struggled to grapple with the idea of a grassroots political movement that isn’t left wing. More used to anti-war moratoriums and union-led protests for equal pay or refugee rights, many left-leaning journalists appear to be on a mission to uncover the ‘real’ cause of public dissent from their favoured big-government agenda, particularly regarding climate change.” Paterson notes how the media has latched on to Charles and David Koch as the driving force behind this political movement. But, he writes: “But political movements can’t just be conjured up at the behest of billionaire businessmen, media moguls or talk-show hosts. And they certainly can’t be directed exclusively by them to serve their commercial interests. If that were the case, what took them so long? Why did the Koch brothers — who were involved in libertarian activism as early as the 1970s — not ‘create’ the Tea Party to tackle US President Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton, decades ago?” A good question, I might add. Concluding: “As much as it might disappoint some commentators, most conservative philanthropists are simply passionate about the philosophy of individual liberty and personal freedom, just as others are committed to human rights or finding a cure for cancer. Surprisingly, even ordinary people can subscribe to these beliefs, and they don’t need to be told by a reclusive billionaire or wacky media personality how to think.”
California parent trigger attacked. California has a new and innovative school reform law called the “parent trigger.” If a majority of the parents for a school sign a petition calling for the trigger to be invoked, the school must undergo one of several reform measures, such as, as described in Locking the Parent Trigger: “close the school and let the students enroll in a higher-performing campus nearby; convert the school to an independent charter; fire half the teaching staff and replace the administration; extend school hours and revise the curriculum under a federally recommended turnaround plan; or adopt an ‘alternative governance’ model, which could include anything from establishing a school-site council to handing over the school to the local district superintendent.” The City Journal article tells of an effort by the state’s anti-choice education establishment to interfere with and overturn the law.
Medical board’s powers. Many are not aware of the role of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, which was established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This board is charged with holding down the costs of medical care under ObamaCare. In his column Government by the ‘experts’ George Will describes some of this board’s extreme powers, such as the board’s proposals becoming law unless Congress takes action to oppose, and that action requires three-fifths majority vote. He quotes U.S. Supreme CourtJustice Antonin Scalia: “I anticipate that Congress will find delegation of its lawmaking powers much more attractive in the future. … I foresee all manner of ‘expert’ bodies, insulated from the political process, to which Congress will delegate various portions of its lawmaking responsibility. How tempting to create an expert Medical Commission … to dispose of such thorny, ‘no-win’ political issues as the withholding of life-support systems in federally funded hospitals.” … This topic of Congress brushing aside its responsibility to make tough decisions came up in my recent interview with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita, in which I reported: “Pompeo said that over the last 25 or 30 years Congress has been unwilling to create ‘substantive markers’ in legislation. Instead, it creates vague laws and funds administrative agencies to implement them. These agencies are less accountable than elected officials, and Congress has handed over much authority to them.”
Chief Justice to speak in Wichita. This Friday (June 17th) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Honorable Lawton R. Nuss, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice, speaking on the topic “The State of the Kansas Courts.” The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: On June 24, Jim Mason, Naturalist at the Great Plains Nature Center will have a presentation and book signing. Mason is author of Wichita’s Riverside Parks, published in April 2011. On July 1 there will be no meeting due to the Independence Day holiday. On July 8, Dave Trabert, President, Kansas Policy Institute, on “Stabilizing the Kansas Budget.”
Climate change resource launched.The Heartland Institute has launched an online resource dedicated to providing information about climate change and related topics. Titled ClimateWiki, Heartland writes that the website “covers an immensely complicated subject with hard scientific facts, not the scare-mongering and politicization found at Wikipedia, other ‘alarmist’ climate research sites and the mainstream media.” … Heartland will host the International Conference on Climate Change later this month.
Wichita City council. As it is the fourth Tuesday of the month, the Wichita City Council handles only consent agenda items. The council will also hold a workshop. Consent agendas are usually reserved for items thought to be of non-controversial nature. Today’s Wichita Eaglespotlights one item where the city is proposing to hire an outside firm to inspect the roof of the airport for damage from last September’s storm. Some, including Council Member Michael O’Donnell (district 4, south and southwest Wichita) wonder why the city can’t do the inspection with it’s own engineering staff and resources. … Of further note is that the city proposes to use general obligation bonds to borrow the funds to pay for this inspection. This is similar to last December, when the city decided to also use bonds to borrow money to pay for an analysis of nine aging fire stations and what repairs and upgrades they might require. While borrowing to pay for long-term capital projects is fine, this is borrowing for thinking about long-term projects. … The workshop will cover Century II parking meters, something involving the North Industrial Corridor, and a presentation on next year’s budget. The detailed agenda packet is at Wichita City Council May 24, 2011. No similar information is available for the workshop topics. … Next week is the fifth Tuesday of a month and the day after a holiday, so there’s two reasons to explain why there won’t be a city council meeting next week.
Kobach on voter reform in Wall Street Journal. Today’s Wall Street Journal opinion section carries a piece by Kris W. Kobach, who is Kansas Secretary of State. The title is The Case for Voter ID: You can’t cash a check, board a plane, or even buy full-strength Sudafed over the counter without ID. Why should voting be different? In it, Kobach writes Kansas is the only state with all of these elements of voter ID reform: “(1) a requirement that voters present photo IDs when they vote in person; (2) a requirement that absentee voters present a full driver’s license number and have their signatures verified; and (3) a proof of citizenship requirement for all newly registered voters.” In support of the need for these reforms, Kobach provides evidence of the prevalence of election fraud. He also cites evidence that there is already widespread possession of the documents necessary to vote: “According to the 2010 census, there are 2,126,179 Kansans of voting age. According to the Kansas Department of Motor Vehicles, 2,156,446 Kansans already have a driver’s license or a non-driver ID. In other words, there are more photo IDs in circulation than there are eligible voters. The notion that there are hundreds of thousands of voters in Kansas (or any other state) without photo IDs is a myth.” … Some critics of these reforms fear that they will suppress voter turnout, and primarily that of Democratic Party voters. Kobach counters: “If election security laws really were part of a Republican scheme to suppress Democratic votes, one would expect Democrats to fight such laws, tooth and nail. That didn’t happen in Kansas, where two-thirds of the Democrats in the House and three-fourths of the Democrats in the Senate voted in favor of the Secure and Fair Elections Act. They did so because they realize that fair elections protect every voter and every party equally. No candidate, Republican or Democrat, wants to emerge from an election with voters suspecting that he didn’t really win. Election security measures like the one in my state give confidence to voters and candidates alike that the system is fair.” … The bill is HB 2067, and is the easiest way to understand it is by reading the supplemental note.
Tiahrt, former Congressman, to address Pachyderms. This week the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Todd Tiahrt, Former Congressman for the fourth district of Kansas, speaking on the topic “Outsourcing Our National Security — How the Pentagon is Working Against Us.” I suspect the prolonged decision process of selecting where the build the Air Force refueling tanker will be a topic. After the Pentagon awarded to contract to AirBus in 2008, which Boeing protested, the Wall Street Journal wrote: “The Pentagon’s job is to defend the country, which means letting contracts that best serve American soldiers and taxpayers, not certain companies. Defense Department rules explicitly state that jobs cannot be a factor in procurement and that companies from certain countries, including France, must be treated as if they are U.S. firms in contract bids. Such competition ensures that taxpayers get the best value for their money and soldiers get the best technology.” More on this decision is here. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club.
Blue Ribbon Commission coming to Wichita. “Local residents will have an opportunity to voice concerns and offer suggestions on how to improve the state’s court systems during two public meetings next week in Wichita. A panel from the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC), which was appointed by the Kansas Supreme Court to review the state’s court systems, will listen to public comments during the meetings at 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm, Thursday, May 26, 2011 at Century II, in Room 101, in Wichita. The BRC will examine ways to assure proper access to justice, the number of court locations, services provided in each location, hours of operation, the use of technology, possible cost reductions, and flexibility in the use of court personnel and other resources, and any other topic that may lead to the more efficient operation of our courts.” For more information, see the Blue Ribbon Commission Website.
School choice cast as civil rights issue.Star Parker, after citing the case of a homeless mother who falsified an address so her child could get into a good school: “Public school reality today for black kids is one that overwhelmingly keeps them incarcerated in failing, dangerous schools. It’s evidence of the indomitable human spirit that, despite horrible circumstances, many poor unmarried black mothers understand the importance of getting their child educated and will do whatever it takes to get their kid into a decent school. … But let’s not forget the bigger picture that the NAACP has consistently opposed school choice and voucher initiatives and has been a stalwart defender of the public school system that traps these kids and prohibits the freedom and flexibility that these mothers seek. … Generally, black establishment politicians and organizations such as the NAACP have defended government public schools and education status quo and sadly have hurt their own communities. Nothing contributes more to the growing income gaps in the country than disparities in education, and the impact continues to grow.” … A common choice of allowing widespread school choice is that poor and uneducated parents aren’t capable of making wise selections of schools for their children.
Medicare reform necessary.Wall Street Journal in Republicans and Mediscare: Paul Ryan’s GOP critics are ObamaCare’s best friends: “With ObamaCare, Democrats offered their vision for Medicare cost control: A 15-member unelected board with vast powers to set prices for doctors, hospitals and other providers, and to regulate how they should be organized and what government will pay for. The liberal conceit is that their technocratic wizardry will make health care more rational, but this is faith-based government. The liberal fallback is political rationing of care, which is why Mr. Obama made it so difficult for Congress to change that 15-member board’s decisions. Republicans have staunchly opposed this agenda, but until Mr. Ryan’s budget they hadn’t answered the White House with a competing idea. Mr. Ryan’s proposal is the most important free-market reform in years because it expands the policy options for rethinking the entitlement state.” The unelected board referred to is the Independent Payment Advisory Board. With its mission to reduce spending, some have aid this board is the feared “death panel.”
Science, public agencies, and politics.Cato Institute Senior Fellow Patrick J. Michaels explains the reality of cap-and-trade proposals in this ten minute video. If the Waxman-Markey bill was implemented, world temperature would be reduced by 0.04 degrees. That compares to a forecast increase of 1.584 degrees. If implemented worldwide by the Kyoto nations, the reduction would be 0.08 degrees worldwide. … Michaels says the growth in emissions by China eclipses anything we in America can do. … Michaels echos Dwight Esienhower’s warning that “we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.” He goes on to explain some of the dangers of “public choice science.”
Why not school choice in Kansas?WhyNotKansas.com is a website that holds information about the benefits of giving families the freedom of school choice. The site is new this week, and is a project of Kansas Policy Institute and Foundation for Educational Choice. Innovation in school choice programs is common in many states. Kansas, however, still grants the education bureaucracy a monopoly on the use of public dollars in education.
Economics in one lesson this Monday. On Monday (May 9), four videos based on Henry Hazlitt’s classic work Economics in One Lesson will be shown in Wichita. The four topics included in Monday’s presentation will be The Curse of Machinery, Disbanding Troops & Bureaucrats, Who’s “Protected” by Tariffs?, and “Parity” Prices. The event is Monday (May 9) at 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at the Lionel D. Alford Library located at 3447 S. Meridian in Wichita. The library is just north of the I-235 exit on Meridian. The event’s sponsor is Americans for Prosperity, Kansas. For more information on this event contact John Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 316-312-7335, or Susan Estes, AFP Field Director at email@example.com or 316-681-4415.
Sowell on government intervention. Must government intervene to fix the economy? Politicians face tremendous pressure to be seen as active, writes Thomas Sowell: “It is not politically possible for either the Federal Reserve or the Obama administration to leave the economy alone and let it recover on its own. Both are under pressure to ‘do something.’ If one thing doesn’t work, then they have to try something else. And if that doesn’t work, they have to come up with yet another gimmick. … The idea that the federal government has to step in whenever there is a downturn in the economy is an economic dogma that ignores much of the history of the United States. During the first hundred years of the United States, there was no Federal Reserve. During the first one hundred and fifty years, the federal government did not engage in massive intervention when the economy turned down. No economic downturn in all those years ever lasted as long as the Great Depression of the 1930s, when both the Federal Reserve and the administrations of Hoover and of FDR intervened. The myth that has come down to us says that the government had to intervene when there was mass unemployment in the 1930s. But the hard data show that there was no mass unemployment until after the federal government intervened. Yet, once having intervened, it was politically impossible to stop and let the economy recover on its own. That was the fundamental problem then — and now.”
Charles on energy and stuff. “We are making it cool to use less stuff,” says Charles, Prince of Wales, KG KT GCB OM AK QSO CD SOM PC AdC(P) FRS. Irish documentary film makers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer have a new short film that looks at the activities of England’s Prince Charles as compared to what he wants the rest of us to do. Write the documentariasts: “Prince Charles is the latest to be exposed as an eco-Hypocrite in our short film series. The Prince is coming to the US this week to speak at Georgetown University about ‘sustainability’ so we decided to see just how he lives up to his own standards. We’ve made a short film that exposes just how hypocritical the Prince is as he lives a fabulous, luxury life whilst lecturing the rest of us that we have to live with less. Prince Charles — Hypocrite exposes the double standard that is at the center of so much environmentalism. … He is coming to the US to lecture on sustainability and tells people they must live with less in order to save the planet but tells us we must end our ‘age of convenience.’ He wants to make our lives more inconvenient to save the planet from alleged climate change but the Prince refuses to make any changes in his own life.”
Government and entrepreneurship. From an essay by Dane Stangler titled Entrepreneurship and Government, contained in Back on the Road to Serfdom: The Resurgence of Statism, edited by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.: “The third way in which the state can intrude on entrepreneurship is through distorted incentives: either with misguided regulations or unintended consequences, the government could end up creating the wrong incentives for entrepreneurs. Will Baumol discussed such institutional incentives in a famous article in which he argued. ‘How the entrepreneur acts at a given time and place depends heavily on the rules of the game — the reward structure in the economy — that happen to prevail.’ Problems arise when these rules of the game encourage ‘unproductive’ entrepreneurial behavior. The principal example of such unproductive behavior is rent seeking, which occurs when companies pursue a bigger slick of economic activity by means other than market competition — that is, when they graduate to seeking favors from Washington rather than seeking a competitive edge by means of innovation. A company’s entreaties to government for protective action often indicate a returns curve that has already turned negative.” … While the article mentions “favors from Washington,” we can easily substitute state capitols, city halls, or county courthouses. For example, Wichita’s economic development policy is firmly rooted in the belief that the city can direct entrepreneurial activity with no wrong incentives or ill consequences. Listening to the recent summit of aviation industry leaders with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, it is apparent that this industry thrives on, and will continue to expect, large doses of incentives and special treatment and favor from government. But is the aviation industry best for the future of Wichita? While government leaders across Kansas pledge not to lose most important industry, we know it can happen (see Detroit). We have to be careful to make sure that our government policies don’t hasten this loss.
While those who advocate cap and trade legislation charge that conservatives, particularly Charles and David Koch, have outspent them, a study finds the opposite.
According to American University Professor Matthew Nisbet, in 2009 environmental groups spent $394 million on climate change and energy policy efforts such as promoting cap and trade. Opposition groups spent $259 million. Information like this helps place the reports of conservative spending, including that of Charles and David Koch, in perspective. Without this, we’re left with the one-sided reports from Greenpeace and the New Yorker magazine, in which numbers are mentioned without — or with little — context.
The report also looks at expenditures on lobbying. In this area, it’s less clear how much was spent lobbying for or against cap and trade legislation, as companies and organizations report their total spending on all lobbying activity, not the amount spent on specific bills. In this light, Nisbet reports that “environmental groups were able to forge a network of organizations that spent a combined $229 million on lobbying across all issues. In comparison, the network of prominent opponents of cap and trade legislation spent $272 million lobbying across all issues.”
Spending on elections is mixed. Considering contributions to members of Congress, proponents of cap and trade legislation outspent opponents. But in independent expenditures, the situation is reversed. But on Proposition 23 in California, environmental groups spent the most.
In conclusion to its chapter on spending, the report states: “… propelled by a wealthy donor base and key alliances with corporations and other organizations, the environmental movement appears to have closed the financial gap with its opponents among conservative groups and industry associations. Indeed, the effort to pass cap and trade legislation may have been the best-financed political cause in American history. The effort also demonstrates not only the vast revenue base and organizational capacity of the environmental movement, but also the movement’s enhanced ability to coordinate activities among its constituent members and to build partnerships.”
Climate Change Advocacy: Revenues, Spending, and Activities
By Matthew Nisbit
After the failure of the Senate cap and trade bill in August 2010, many commentators blamed the bill’s demise on the massive spending by fossil fuel companies, industry associations and their conservative allies. Others, however, noted that environmental groups—joined by dozens of leading companies and organizations—had devoted record amounts of financial resources in an effort to pass the bill. As an unnamed Obama administration official said about environmental groups, “They spent like $100 million and they weren’t able to get a single Republican convert on the bill.”
To better understand the influence of spending in the cap and trade debate, in this chapter I review the nature, composition and funding sources of the U.S. environmental movement and compare these factors to the opposing coalition of conservative think tanks and industry associations. Then, analyzing data compiled from tax returns, annual reports, and other sources, I systematically compare the revenue and forms of spending by both sides in the debate.
Though most environmental groups are limited in how much money they can devote to direct lobbying, in the debate over cap and trade, they were able to spend heavily on efforts to educate the public and policymakers on the need for a mandatory emissions cap, hiring the country’s top political consultants. They also invested in partnerships with corporations and other organizations in a strategy aimed at counter-balancing the amount spent on lobbying by opposing industry associations and companies.
As the analysis indicates, the environmental movement has made sizable gains in closing the spending gap with their conservative and industry opponents. Indeed, the effort to pass cap and trade legislation may have been the best-financed political cause in American history. The effort also demonstrates not only the vast revenue base and organizational capacity of the environmental movement, but also the movement’s enhanced ability to coordinate activities among its constituent members and to build alliances.
But who really benefits from the regulation of greenhouse gases? First, large companies do. They are better able to absorb the costs of regulation than their smaller competitors. This is why we often see big business promoting increased regulation. It places their smaller competitors at a disadvantage. As Koch Industries is a large company, it is in a position to benefit from the proposed regulations relative to their smaller competitors. But, the company does not support the regulations.
Who will lose from increased regulation of greenhouse gases? Ultimately consumers will, but business is harmed, too. The cost of regulation causes a loss of income, which leads to less of the product (energy) being produced, and a corresponding rise in price. As energy becomes more expensive, it is low-income people that are hurt the most.
Aside from these market effects, the Powerline piece explains an entire industry that has developed to benefit from government subsidy of green energy sources and producers:
But there are, in fact, some companies that would benefit from the imposition of CO2 regulations on power plants, refineries and so on. Those companies are the ones that peddle inefficient forms of energy that cannot compete with fossil fuels absent government subsidies. Those subsidies come in two forms. The government can give money and tax breaks to inefficient energy producers like solar and wind, and it has indeed done that. However, those subsidies are relatively transparent and controversial. The second way in which government can help producers of inefficient energy is, therefore, actually better: it can make energy produced with fossil fuels more expensive by imposing needless regulations. And that is exactly what “green” — i.e., inefficient — energy producers lobby for.
And who are the green energy subsidy-seekers that benefit from increased regulation? Powerline identifies one: Thomas Steyer, a west coast hedge fund manager with investments in green energy companies. He has a personal financial motive, as Powerline describes: “As an investor who has placed a big bet on non-fossil energy, he has an obvious personal interest in the government imposing regulations that make his competitors — producers of fossil fuel energy — more expensive. In fact, without such government action, the ‘green’ projects in which he has invested are likely worthless.”
It should not be surprising that Steyer makes large campaign contributions to Democrats and is a board member of Center for American Progress, a left-wing think tank closely associated with the Obama Administration.
A case study in liberal hypocrisy
By John H. Hinderaker
On Monday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce began its consideration of the Upton-Imhofe bill, which would bar the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions. Upton-Imhofe is critical to any effort to restore our economy, so the Democrats are against it. Ranking Democrat Henry Waxman went on a hysterical rant against the legislation:
This is dangerous legislation. Climate change is real; it is caused by pollution; and it is a serious threat to our health and welfare. We need to confront these realities, not put our head in the sand like an ostrich.
We have written about this issue many times. Climate change is “real” only in the sense that the climate is always changing. That has been true for millions of years. Climate change is not caused by pollution; history proves that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not control worldwide temperatures. Nor is global warming a serious threat to our health and welfare. Humanity has consistently thrived during warmer periods and suffered during colder ones. The Dark Ages were dark largely because they were cold.
Yet instead of promoting a clean energy future, we are pursuing this partisan bill that benefits no one except big polluters like Koch Industries.
I suppose Waxman thought he was punching his liberal ticket by mouthing the Democratic Party talking point du jour. Evidently he didn’t get the memo, and hadn’t heard that the Left has backed off on its daily attacks on Koch because those attacks were so over-the-top and so factually deficient that they made laughingstocks of the lefties who asserted them.
This time it’s Robert Redford caught in a few “do as I say, not as I do” moments. He opposes environmentally-friendly development near a vineyard he owns, as reported in the New York Times: “Robert Redford, the actor and environmental superhero, is a vocal supporter of renewable power and sustainable growth — but it seems that doesn’t include a proposal for an ecofriendly housing development in his corner of the Napa Valley.”