Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.

Energy and the Environment Archive



January 2014



Notable Quotations

Written by , Posted in Education, Energy and the Environment, Free Markets, Government Meddling

Anthony J. Sadar, “A libertarian’s guide to climate change hype:”

After giving some much-needed perspective on scientists, Delingpole tackles “science,” observing that political activists discovered that science could be used “as a handy excuse to advance their agenda under the guise of studied objectivity. ‘Hey, it’s not because we’re a bunch of crypto-Marxist control freaks that we’re demanding higher taxes, more regulation, and the replacement of Western industrial civilization with a Soviet-style global command economy run by leftist technocrats. It’s because the science tells us that that’s what we need to do’.”

Ira Stoll, “Tech Innovation Outstrips Government Obstructionism:”

One recurring theme in successful startups is the ability to get around the regulations created by politicians like Obama. Companies are using technology to create a free market.

The foremost example of this is Uber, with its UberX service that turns ordinary drivers in their own cars into taxi drivers. Sidecar and Lyft operate on a similar model. A Boston lawyer who represented existing taxi services challenging the new entrants, Sam Perkins, told the Boston Globe, “SideCar and UberX have targeted Boston to make the guy next door and his Prius into an unlicensed taxi driver with an uninspected taxis and no safety equipment…Their goal is to eliminate the existing taxi system and its consumer protections.”

The government-imposed licenses, medallions, inspections, minimum wages, regulated fares, and “consumer protections” turn out to be replaceable, more or less, by an Amazon-style star-rating system and the incentives of independent drivers and ride-provider networks that want repeat business.

A. Barton Hinkle, “School Choice Foes Are Wrong:”

During [Michael Bloomberg’s] term, the number of charter schools in the Big Apple soared from seven to 123.

De Blasio, a left-wing ideologue, does not approve. His “idealism,” as The New York Times explains, was shaped by his time in Nicaragua, then controlled by the Sandinista revolutionaries of whom he became an “ardent” supporter. “They gave a new definition to democracy,” de Blasio once said. That they did: Their version of it included censorship, suspending civil rights, breaking up demonstrations and imprisoning suspected political opponents without trial.

No surprise, then, that de Blasio is taking out after charter schools—an innovation that has helped poor and underprivileged students by bringing a (very) small degree of personal choice to a system controlled by the state.



November 2013



Legal Hunting is Proven Conservation Method

Written by , Posted in Energy and the Environment, Free Markets

A national furor, marked by the typical breathless outrage of social media, has erupted over a photo showing Huntress Melissa Bachman with a lion she hunted in South Africa.

Bachman lion

The usual suspects responded with angry tirades and petulant petitions demanding an end to legal trophy hunting.

While it’s understandable that not everyone can relate to what hunters gain from such kills – indeed, I have trouble doing so myself – such reflexive emotions shouldn’t drive policy. As it turns out, legal trophy hunting is a proven solution to preserving species and ensuring their survival against the existential threat posed by poachers and human development.

Simply put, all wildlife that is hunted for economic reasons poses a tragedy of the commons problem. Poachers have strong incentive to ignore laws and hunt prohibited animals to the point of extinction when their products can fetch high prices on the black market, and are unlikely to restrain themselves from depleting the resource. The effort to combat poachers is costly, and may be a hopeless battle, and it must compete against other policy goals for public resources. Regardless of the source of the threat to a species, committing sufficient resources to conservation will always be difficult, as the public sees no direct benefit for such spending. This is especially true in poor countries with more significant social ills in need of redress.

But there are other means of attracting dollars to the quest of conservation. The most powerful of which is providing an economic value to the species in question that will attract private owners and entrepreneurs with an incentive to maintain population levels and protect them from poachers. There is a reason why chickens will never go extinct, and it’s because they are incredibly tasty. They have economic value, which when combined with private ownership provides the strongest incentives for ensuring there is always a plentiful supply. Unlike the commons, private goods don’t run out because owners have an incentive to manage them properly.

For species that we don’t eat, what often provides economic value is the desire of hunters to hunt them, and their willingness to pay for the pleasure. Melissa Bachman, for instance, must have paid five figures just to attempt to kill her lion, and a successful hunt is far from guaranteed. This provides strong incentive to manage a healthy supply of lions and other game animals. An example of this process in action is provided by the Scimitar Oryx, which have essentially gone extinct in Africa, but were saved in Texas by legal hunting. Unfortunately, anti-hunting fanatics driven by emotion have put the species back on the chopping block by successfully pushing for a law requiring costly federal permits for their hunting. This has reduced the economic value of the species and eroded the very mechanism which has protected them from the same fate as their wild, African counterparts.

The emotional outcry that can be witnessed in any comment section covering the story is somewhat understandable (though I suspect many of these same people hypocritically eat meat and thus contribute to the routine killing of far more animals than a single hunter could possibly be responsible for), but it would be a disaster for the actual animals should their knee-jerk outbursts be catered to.



November 2013



Taxpayers Will Lose the Battle of the Energy Cronies

Written by , Posted in Big Government, Energy and the Environment, Free Markets

Senate Democrats are on a green energy blitz, reports Michael Bastasch of the Daily Caller:

Sens. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Mark Udall of Colorado introduced a bill last week that would require that 25 percent of the country’s power come from renewable energy sources by 2025.

Another bill introduced by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey would require the country to get 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025. Like the Udall bill, the Markey legislation would allow companies to purchase renewable energy credits to comply with the mandate. Companies that don’t comply would be forced to pay a fine.

Mandates like this, which includes the individual mandate in Obamacare, are always sold as benefiting consumers. The truth, however, is that consumers only get the benefit of higher prices and fewer choices. The real winners are the politically connected producers of the goods which consumers are being forced to purchase.

However, renewable energy mandates have been criticized for raising energy costs across the country. Earlier this year, conservative state legislators in 16 states led an effort to repeal or weaken state mandates, arguing they raised energy costs.

Natural gas prices, they argue, have plummeted and can provide cheaper, more reliant energy than solar and wind.

While natural gas certainly appears to be the better choice for consumers at the moment, there’s no guarantee it will remain so. As Veronique de Rugy has pointed out, the natural gas industry has thus sought their own crony handouts to help solidify their position. The point is thus not that natural gas should be favored over so-called renewables, but that neither should receive government handouts.

Government energy mandates are a waste of taxpayers dollars and a means only to favor industries that fit the preferences of politicians. The market should be left alone so that it may instead reflect the needs and desires of consumers.



October 2012



The 3 Myths of Disaster Shysters

Written by , Posted in Economics & the Economy, Energy and the Environment, Liberty & Limited Government

It’s that time of year again – when a major natural disaster is dominating the news cycle, and every economic, scientific and political snake oil salesman or huckster comes out of the woodwork to peddle their magical wares. Here are three myths with which the disaster opportunists are trying to swindle you:

1) There’s an economic silver lining to all this destruction because it will spur economic activity. This one isn’t so much trying to sell you anything as it is cheer you up, but its widespread acceptance nevertheless can have devastating policy consequences – like passage of foolish economic “stimulus” bills. This myth is basically just Bastiat’s broken window fallacy:

Paul Krugman is rather infamous for his love of destruction as economic catalyst, crediting as he does the destruction of WWII for ending the Great Depression and having noted the economic good that could come from the 9/11 attacks. And then there’s his belief that what the economy really needs to get turned around is an alien invasion. Krugman is utterly fixated on what is seen – such as the making of bombs or the rebuilding of homes – while he ignores what is unseen – like everything not built so that resources can be used instead to fight little green men.

Krugman is not the only one to fall for this myth. Commentators are quick to highlight the expected economic gains from Hurricane Sandy, with some only concerned that Sandy won’t cause enough destruction, and that hurricanes like it don’t happen regularly enough, to really get the economy rolling.

For a more in depth critique at the flawed logic behind this persistent myth, check out this excellent column by Tim Worstall.

2) Hurricane Sandy (or whatever the disaster de jour may be) proves that Global Warming is real! In the minds of some, anything that happens today must be more severe than anything that came before, if for no other reason than that it affects them. That sort of narcissism is almost certainly behind the blathering of Meghan McCain, who thinks the wandering of a mere Category 1 hurricane into her northern enclave is proof positive that Republicans are Neanderthal deniers.

This interpretation was also given the official blessing of Al Gore, the high priest of Global Warming hysterics:

The images of Sandy’s flooding brought back memories of a similar–albeit smaller scale– event in Nashville just two years ago. There, unprecedented rainfall caused widespread flooding, wreaking havoc and submerging sections of my hometown. For me, the Nashville flood was a milestone. For many, Hurricane Sandy may prove to be a similar event: a time when the climate crisis—which is often sequestered to the far reaches of our everyday awareness became a reality.

While the storm that drenched Nashville was not a tropical cyclone like Hurricane Sandy, both storms were strengthened by the climate crisis.

…Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis.

Every major weather event these days is proffered as anecdotal proof of global warming (or “climate change”). But anecdotes are not evidence, and major storms are nothing new. In fact, global hurricane frequency is trending down, and as Patrick Michaels points out, we’re setting records for the longest drought of Cat 3+ hurricanes hitting shore:

It’s been 2,535 days since the last Category 3 storm, Wilma in 2005, hit the beach. That’s the longest period—by far—in the record that goes back to 1900.

But don’t expect any of these facts to stop the reflexive blaming of global warming for all natural disasters.

3) Only Big Government can save us from chaos and natural destruction. Any time destruction lurks, statists can be counted on to furiously construct strawmen for public whipping to placate the frightened masses. The most ridiculous example comes, naturally, from the ever dependable shills of big government at the New York Times, which editorializes that “A Big Storm Requires Big Government,” before going on to outline a list of government functions that comprise probably less than a percent of the federal budget. Good job, New York Times, I’m now convinced that we need a massive welfare state, pointless “green energy” loans, wasteful stimulus bills and a cumbersome and counter productive regulatory structure, all because of a Category 1 hurricane. Well done.

Reason appropriately takes them to task, noting that not only has big government failed, and miserably so, at disaster response in the past, but it actually stood in the way of private action. That’s right, big government – being the angry and jealous God that it is – actively prevented help from other sources during Katrina:

Even as they fumbled their own responses to the disaster, government officials found time to block private relief efforts. The Salvation Army was initially forbidden to send boats to rescue refugees sheltered in one of its facilities, one of the group’s officials told the press. It seems the private relief organization’s efforts didn’t fit the government’s schedule. Likewise, the American Red Cross said. Days after the storm hit, “The state Homeland Security Department had requested — and continues to request — that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans following the hurricane.”

Aaron Broussard, Jefferson Parish president, put it best when he told interviewers, “Bureaucracy has murdered people in the greater New Orleans area and bureaucracy needs to stand trial before Congress today.”

But in the eyes of some, any failure of government is just proof that it needs more money (success, meanwhile, is proof that it needs more money), and so we get hand wringing over potential, hypothetical or imagined FEMA cuts from the same people who blamed FEMA for everything wrong that happened during Katrina.

The Reason post also notes, as I have here in the past, that there are in fact alternative and better sources of disaster response. This is not to say that government has no role or purpose, as the statist strawman would imply, but that it might be better to only leave government in charge of monitoring, analyzing and disseminating information, while bringing in those who know what they are doing and have actual experience to handle the logistics of rapidly moving goods and services into devastated communities.

Whatever their miracle cure of choice, consumers should cast a wary eye on those who see disaster coming and can only think to lick their chops at the opportunity to advance their agenda.



October 2012



From the Laughably Absurd Cost Estimates File

Written by , Posted in Energy and the Environment

Mother Jones is pushing this rather ridiculous claim:

A global effort to prevent all future species extinctions would cost about $80 billion a year, or $11.42 annually from every person on the planet, according to a study published last week in Science.

The study, released in conjunction with the 11th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) currently underway in Hyderabad, India, is intended to support goals and commitments to halting extinctions and preserving nature by the year 2020 that the world’s governments have agreed to under the convention.

I don’t need to see their methodology to know that this is absurd. It simply doesn’t pass the laugh test. If such a global program were to be established, I guarantee the costs would balloon and far surpass the $80 billion estimate. They always do.

But even if it could be done for a reasonable price, why in the world would we want to? What hubris it is to presume that we should take a snapshot of nature just as it exists today and keep it that way for all time!

Species have come and gone for as long as life has existed on this planet. What drives us to turn this dynamic process into a static one, and why do people believe that would be an improvement?

It reminds me of the folks who bemoan job losses to technological change that increases productivity, such as the President’s blaming of ATMs, as if a static economy is in any way desirable to a dynamic one.



October 2012



California's Self-Imposed Gas Crisis

Written by , Posted in Big Government, Energy and the Environment

California shoots itself in the foot again with its overzealous regulatory culture:

Drivers in Southern California awoke Friday to find that their gasoline prices had spiked by nearly 20 cents a gallon overnight as a result of fuel shortages caused by a series of refinery disruptions in recent weeks.

Supplies of refined petroleum products on the West Coast are now at their lowest levels since 2008, while national inventories are about normal.

The immediate cause of the California price rise was a power failure at Exxon Mobil’s Torrance, Calif., refinery on Monday that shut down some production units at the 150,000-barrel-a-day facility. The company on Friday said the refinery had resumed normal operations. Supplies on the West Coast had already been tight because of an Aug. 6 fire at Chevron’s 245,000-barrel-a-day Richmond, Calif., refinery, which has still not been restored to full production.

Fires and power outages, surely I can’t be blaming the government for that, right? Well, no, but keep reading:

California typically has substantially higher gasoline prices than most of the country because of its tough environmental regulations and high taxes. Gasoline supplies are traditionally tight this time of year as refiners do maintenance work to switch from summer to fall gasoline blends mandated by the California pollution-reduction regulations. But this year, energy experts say, the local gasoline market is particularly chaotic because of the refinery shutdowns.

So here’s the thing. Supply disruptions happen in lots of industries. A localized disruption in a single state wouldn’t normally cause such shortages, but in this case, government is both contributing to the disruption itself – through the alternating mandated blends – and the inability for it to be resolved through reallocation of supply. Specifically, the reason California is seeing no relief from the rest of the country, which is not experiencing any shortage, is because California’s government says those supplies aren’t good enough.

Perhaps they are right and the costs are justified, but Californian’s should understand that this is the price to be paid for their environmental regulation. They aren’t just abstractions or imposed only on evil oil refiners, but instead place real burdens on ordinary Californians struggling to fill their tanks to get to work each day.



September 2012



Are Republicans Dumb Enough to Support a Carbon Tax?

Written by , Posted in Energy and the Environment, Taxes

When it comes to taxes, Republicans really do play the stupid party to the Democrats’ evil. If Democrats propose raising taxes, Republicans trip over themselves to offer to sharp contrast by offering to raise taxes a bit less. CF&P President Andrew Quinlan highlighted the latest example of this strategic brilliance in Forbes:

[I]t’s not just those on the left pushing for the tax. A few conservatives and Republicans are also quixotically jumping on the bandwagon.

The American Enterprise Institute, for instance, has recently hosted a series of events designed to brainstorm ways to sell the public, and in particular small government conservatives, on the idea of a tax on carbon. Former GOP Congressman Bob Inglis, who proposed a carbon tax bill while in Congress before he was defeated by a Tea Party primary challenger, has teamed up with supply side economist Art Laffer and created a new institute to push for carbon taxes.

The motives of the left in pushing for a tax are easy to understand, they want more “revenue” to spend. …The conservatives, in contrast, claim to want only a revenue neutral tax, trading carbon taxes for reductions in other, more economically destructive, tax rates, such as on income. In theory this is not a bad argument, but in practice it is rather naive.

If the political climate was such that cap-and-trade or other big government carbon regulations were on the horizon, proffering a more economically efficient carbon tax as an alternative might not be a bad strategy from a do-the-wrong-thing-in-the-least-destructive-fashion perspective. But that is not the case. Cap-and-trade is currently a nonstarter, and if the legislative will existed to undo destructive EPA carbon regulations – such as a proposed cap on carbon emissions for new energy plants – then it wouldn’t be necessary to even offer an alternative. After all, none on the left who otherwise support these EPA regulations are going to trade them away, even for a new tax.

More generally, the very idea of offering a new tax in exchange for lower rates elsewhere is flawed. Even if leftists agree to lower taxes on income to keep a new carbon tax revenue neutral, there’s nothing to stop them from raising rates in the future. On the other hand, given the love politicians have for taxes, eliminating an entire tax would be much harder…

He goes on to explain how the logic for a carbon tax doesn’t work even if you assume high-end estimates for the costs of carbon emissions, a point bolstered now by a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change:

A typical export from Western countries to developing giants is machine tools, which are then used to make products such as toys.

These machines are made in the West using comparatively low-carbon industrial techniques.

But when they are plugged in and used, they are usually powered by coal-fired electricity, the dirtiest of the main fossil fuels.

In such conditions, a carbon tax would be counter-productive.

To do so could prompt the developing country to make its own machines, which are likely to be more energy-intensive. This in turn would drive up the carbon tax on what was manufactured.

That is likely just scratching at the surface of the unintended consequences a carbon tax would produce. Though its intended consequence – raising the price of energy – is bad enough by itself to warrant rejecting this latest foray into bipartisan economic destruction.



August 2012



Nope, the Science Still Isn’t Settled

Written by , Posted in Energy and the Environment

The Warmmongers like to pretend that all the data supports their non-stop hysteria, and that anyone who disagrees is either ignorant, hates science, or is a dirty liar paid off by the oil industry. Lately, they’ve taken to pointing to current “extreme weather” anecdotes as further proof of AGW. But what does the data say? Dr. John Christy offered testimony to the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee exploring that question. From

Increasingly, we hear experts blame global warming for bad weather. Most acknowledge that no single weather event can be attributed to global climate change. However, they contend, the pattern of recent events – the sheer number and severity of heat waves, wild fires, droughts, freak storms — is exactly what climate scientists have predicted and must be due to mankind’s fuelish ways. Such assertions, Christy shows, are not based on real data.

One way to measure trends in extreme weather is to compare the number of state record high and low temperatures by decade. Many more state high temperature records were set in the 1930s than in recent decades. Even more surprising, “since 1960, there have been more all-time cold records set than hot records in each decade.”

…One might object that state temperature records are not informative, because the number of data points — 50 — is so small. So Christy also investigated “the year-by-year numbers of daily all-time record high temperatures from a set of 970 weather stations with at least 80 years of record.” He explains: “There are 365 opportunities in each year (366 in leap years) for each of the 970 stations to set a record high (TMax).” Adding the TMax days by year, Christy found that there were several years with more than 6,000 record-setting highs before 1940 but none with record highs above 5,000 after 1954. “The clear evidence is that extreme high temperatures are not increasing in frequency, but actually appear to be decreasing.”

So keep that in mind the next time some media commentator breathlessly attributes “unusual and extreme weather” to global warming.



July 2012



The Unspoken Cause of Destructive Forest Fires

Written by , Posted in Energy and the Environment, The Courts, Criminal Justice & Tort

In the wake of the catastrophic Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado, the usual suspects are gleefully rubbing their hands at the prospect of using the tragedy to advance the cult of Global Warming. But while the doom-mongers are quick to blame global warming, while only begrudgingly acknowledging that anecdotes are not scientific data, the real man-made problem goes largely ignored: litigious environmentalists.

Fires are part of our natural environment, and have been long before there were any humans to burn fossil fuels. Fires clear out old, dead plants and make way for new life. But humans quite understandably don’t like uncontrolled natural fires, because they also kill us. But we simply fight to reduce the regular natural fires in order to protect ourselves, we actually make major, catastrophic fires more likely. Without the clearing of dead plants, fuel for major fires builds up over time to dangerous levels. Man’s solution to this unintended consequence of our domestication of nature is to engage in our own efforts to prevent the accumulation of such kindling. At least, some of us do. Unfortunately, environmentalists fight to thwart these efforts at every turn, with disastrous consequences.

Scientists with the U.S. Forest Service found in a recent study that unnatural overgrowth in trees is responsible for most wildfires in the U.S:

Thinning overgrown forests to a more natural rate of between 50 and 100 trees per acre would be the most effective way of reducing the number and severity of intense wildfires, the study concludes.

The Forest Service study is the largest ever conducted on fuel treatment effectiveness. The study provides a scientific basis for establishing quantitative guidelines for reducing stand densities and surface fuels. The total number of optimal trees per acre in any given forest will depend on species, terrain, and other factors, according to Forest Service researchers.

David L. Peterson, a researcher with the U.S. Forest Service‘s Pacific Northwest Research Station and one of the coauthors of the study, reports there are two reasons to engage in forest thinning. Removing smaller trees from a forest stand promotes the growth and vigor of the remaining larger trees. Forest thinning also reduces the continuity of live and dead plant material (fuels) from the soil surface into the forest canopy. The latter practice reduces the likelihood a wildfire will propagate into a crown fire.

Yet efforts to engage in this life-saving practices face significant opposition from environmentalist and anti-logging groups. A GAO study in 2003 found that, of the thinning projects open to appeal, 59% were challenged by environmentalists. Even more appalling, “Forest Service officials estimate they spend nearly half their time, and $250 million each year, preparing for the appeals and procedural challenges launched by activists.”

In all likelihood these challenges have only increased since 2003. Just scanning recent news reveals a number of such frivolous suits being filed across the country. Just last month the Forest Service was calling for more natural fires. AP described the current state of U.S. forests thusly: “A combination of decades of vigorous fire suppression and the waning of the timber industry over environmental concerns has left many forests a tangled, overgrown mess, subject to the kind of superfires that are now regularly consuming hundreds of homes and millions of acres.”

So the next time an environmentalist tries to blame man for causing a fire by burning fossil fuels, tell him that he’s right, people are indeed to blame. Namely, it’s the environmentalists who routinely oppose and obstruct anything – whether it be logging, controlled fires or other thinning initiatives – that could reduce the risk of superfires.



May 2012



When Special Interests Collide

Written by , Posted in Economics & the Economy, Energy and the Environment

The President has made promotion of “green energy” a central part of his agenda. His efforts have thus far been littered with waste, fraud and abuse, but nevertheless it remains a key plank of the President’s platform.

So why then is his administration slapping tariffs on solar panel imports?

The United States on Thursday announced the imposition of antidumping tariffs of more than 31 percent on solar panels from China.

…The antidumping decision is among the biggest in American history, covering one of the largest and fastest-growing categories of imports from China, the world’s largest exporter.

…Many solar panel installers in the United States have opposed tariffs on Chinese panels, contending that inexpensive imports have helped spur many homeowners and businesses to put solar panels on their rooftops. The new tariffs are likely to mean a substantial increase in the price of solar panels here.

…Chinese officials have been indignant at American criticism of their solar power industry, pointing out that the United States has urged China for years to embrace renewable energy as a way to reduce air pollution, combat climate change and limit the need for oil imports from politically volatile countries in the Mideast.

Chinese confusion is understandable given the rhetoric of this administration.  But there’s more than one special interest in Obama’s coalition, and while environmentalists like the proliferation of solar panels no matter their source, unions and other domestic manufacturing fetishists would rather limit their availability and harm consumers by raising prices in an effort to insulate domestic producers from competition.

“Anti-dumping” rules in general, because they are designed by and cater to these very same special interests, are a counter productive and unnecessary burden on the economy, and often work at cross-purposes with other policy actions, as explained by this video from the Cato Institute: