Tag: "greenhouse gases"

American Energy Renaissance Act — Why Oil and Gas Matter

The American Energy Renaissance Act of 2014 — a bill proposed by Senator and now presidential candidate, Ted Cruz — proposes many drastic changes to the status quo surrounding energy and environmental regulations, some of which include:

  • Giving only states the right to regulate hydraulic fracturing
  • Preventing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, water vapor and nitrous oxide emissions
  • Repealing regulations on crude oil exports

Passage of the bill would be lauded by energy proponents, and while as a whole it would be no victory for traditional environmentalists, one of its provisions stands out, as it seeks to phase out engine-damaging ethanol fuel and create a higher standard for fuel economy. One can only truly understand the magnitude of improving fuel economy across the board by first looking at CO2 emissions by source:

Greenhouse Gas Emission

Transportation, which is second only to the electric power sector in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, could see significant long-term reduction in emissions while creating a surplus in disposable income for Americans and business owners. Notably, passage of the bill does not imply that American oil companies would be at a significant disadvantage due to the simple fact that it would open a whole new niche for American crude in the international economy.

Energy CO2 Emissions

Also striking is coal’s share of carbon dioxide emissions in the electric power industry — for coal’s actual share in energy generation as seen below, it seems almost unwarranted:

Electric Power Generation

Natural gas, while still not yet as widespread as coal, is very cost competitive, with liquid natural gas (LNG) at less than $10 per British thermal unit (Btu) while normal gas flirts with numbers around and below $5. Furthermore, if natural gas cannibalized market share from the coal sector — as is likely given the amount of continuing regulations on coal — it would help both the economy and the environment. Indeed, the Energy Information Administration asserts that for every million Btu generated, coal can release between 214 and 228 pounds of CO2 while natural gas creates almost half at 117 pounds per million Btu. While opponents of natural gas could cite its past price volatility, the past 5 years have been quite stable and the fracking boom is no reason to believe that the energy will be subject to much variance, at least not besides cyclical winter-heating and summer-cooling fluctuations, which coal can also be subject to. On the contrary, the market for coal is either becoming too expensive due to relentless regulation or disappearing altogether, especially abroad in developed countries.

The consumer free market response to any good or service in production is to demand quality proportional to whatever price level that consumer is willing and able to pay. With time, more countries are joining the ranks of developed nations who — like the U.S. — are characterizing themselves as more than willing to pay premiums on energy for better environmental quality. Additionally, natural gas has a history of matching or even beating domestic coal prices in the private sector, while mounting pressure on the public sector is slowly opening the international markets for both gas and oil.

Keep Oil Prices Down by Passing Keystone XL

The Tampa Bay Times conducted a fact check on some statements made by Senator John Thune of South Dakota on Sunday. The fact check covered two main points:

―President Barack Obama’s own administration has done five environmental impact assessments of the Keystone XL pipeline

According to the fact check, the U.S. State Department actually had one report on the pipeline that included several drafts and a major revised version that considered a more environmentally sound route change in the pipeline.

―All of which have said it would have a minimum impact on the environment

While the State Department study found that the pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency worries of a greater impact from the pipeline’s greenhouse gas emissions than the study found.

The new Republican leadership in the Senate plans to have a friendly, open amendment process with Democrats with a goal of passing the pipeline bill. The bill is expected to have enough votes to be filibuster proof, and if not enough to override a presidential veto, enough to force the president to wield his veto pen and take a position on this controversial issue. The claim that gas prices are too low for the new addition to Keystone to have a positive economic impact does not consider that the pipeline will take time to build (and time to get approved) and by then, prices could be up even to record high prices.

Metropolitan Planning Organization Long Range Plans Should Focus on Mobility

All metropolitan areas around the country are required to draft a long-range transportation plan. Congress mandated long-range plans when it passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Equity Act (ISTEA) of 1991. Congress’ intent was for metropolitan areas to plan for the regional movement of people and goods.

Unfortunately, many of today’s regional transportation plans include all sets of non-measurable goals that have nothing to do with transportation. Parts of the planning process have been captured by special interests that are seeking to use transportation funds for non-transportation purposes. Let’s examine one of the more “realistic” plans — Los Angeles — in more detail.

The planning framework is one of the biggest problems. Past plans would focus on quantitative goals to improve mobility such as decreasing the travel time from Los Angeles to Anaheim by five minutes or increasing transit service coverage to 50 percent of the region. But the 2012 plan focuses on “feel-good” goals centered on what political leaders want Los Angeles to become. Further, the plan deemphasizes mobility and congestion relief to focus more on Livability, Prosperity and Sustainability.

Predictably, this lack of focus does little to reduce congestion. Despite spending one half a trillion dollars over the next 20 years, truck delay on freeways is expected to worsen significantly. Truck delay on arterials will also deteriorate significantly. Both freeways and arterials are expected to remain at least as congested as today. The only relief will be in high occupancy vehicle lanes, where congestion will decrease slightly.

Worse, there will be 30 freeway segments where average speeds are less than 15 miles per hour during afternoon rush hour. These slow segments are not just a roadway problem but a transit problem as well. Since many of these freeways lack HOV lanes or express toll lanes, transit buses and vanpools are stuck in the same congested travel as everyone else.

The next problem is state mandates. California SB 375, in particular, makes congestion worse. The bill — The Sustainable Communities Act — sets regional targets for greenhouse gas uses. Yet, most scientists calculate that California has already met the 2025 standards set in the bill. Today’s vehicle fleet generates 98 percent fewer hydrocarbons, 96 percent less carbon monoxide and 90 percent fewer nitrous oxides than vehicles 30 years ago.

The biggest problem may be the region’s funding or lack thereof. SCAG estimates that the L.A. region has $305 billion in current revenue. However, $119 billion of this is local sales tax revenue that is subject to major swings based on the economy. $33 billion of this total is federal funding. Since federal government transportation funding relies on declining fuel tax revenue and general fund bailouts there is no guarantee federal funding will remain consistent after two years time, let alone 20 years. Finally, SCAG is counting on $220 million in new revenue. The assumption that any new revenue sources will be approved is questionable.

So how do we reform the planning process? First, transportation planning should be reformed so the primary goal is mobility. To the extent that environmental issues are real, they can be incorporated into the plan. But they should not unrealistically constrain development. Finally, plans should be required to be fiscally realistic without the need for unrealistically large new revenues.


The California High Speed Rail

The California High-Speed Rail Authority just received the green light from the federal Surface Transportation Board to begin building a 114-mile stretch of the planned statewide high-speed rail project. And yet, with the project underway, the agency still doesn’t have a sensible business plan that identifies the source of the funding needed to build and operate the system. The $10 billion authorized by voters when Proposition 1A passed in 2008 won’t cover the costs of constructing the initial segment, between Merced and Bakersfield. When Prop. 1A passed, California was counting on a lot more federal funding, which is extremely unlikely to arrive.

As a result, the rail project will have to rely on state funds. Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature have agreed to send 25 percent of the state’s cap-and-trade revenue, money that businesses will have to pay to offset emissions, to support the high-speed rail project. However, that money won’t be nearly enough. The plan has already prompted several lawsuits because those funds are supposed to go to projects that actually reduce greenhouse gases, something the high-speed rail line is unlikely to achieve for at least 20 years.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is also counting on private investors to cover some of the construction costs. But there aren’t any private rail companies lining up to put billions of their own dollars on the line to build sections of the rail system themselves.

One reason for the lack of private interest is dubious ridership forecasts. The rail authority has wildly overestimated its ridership predictions. Recent studies have indicated that ridership estimates are 65 percent to 77 percent too high, and the state will need $120 million to $370 million every year in taxpayer subsidies just to cover the operating costs and financial losses.

Despite the lack of funding to build the system and the annual financial deficits that it will incur if built, the state’s justification for the project is flawed.

Proponents claim that California needs an alternative to planes and cars because airports and highways are at their breaking points. Yet, airlines are buying larger planes and air traffic control modernization — though decades late due to the Federal Aviation Administration’s failures — will increase air travel capacity. Cars offer flexibility that rail cannot. Most rail riders will arrive at a high-speed rail station that is still 20 or 30 miles from their final destination in a Southern California or Central Valley city with limited transit options.

Others point to successful high-speed rail lines in Western Europe and Japan and argue the United States needs to join the club. But those countries built high-speed rail because conventional rail travel was already busting at the seams. And those countries have different spatial structures because they were developed around walking and mass transit. When the Tokyo-Osaka line was built in Japan, fewer than 25 percent of driving-age residents owned a car. The current car ownership rate in California is more than 85 percent.

Passengers are willing to take high-speed rail in Western Europe and Japan because travel times are competitive with cars or planes. But when the High-Speed Rail Authority decided California’s system needed to serve the Central Valley, the two hour, 40 minute trip that voters were promised from Los Angeles to San Francisco turned into a four hour odyssey, which would be much slower than air travel — even factoring in getting to the airport, going through security and managing other possible delays.

Sniffing Out Bad Environmental Policies Is Much Like Culling Rotten Produce

When buying produce, we’ve found ways to discern which pieces are worthy to place in our basket. Each piece of fruit or stalk of vegetable must be of good quality to justify spending our hard-earned income on it. So we look, we sniff and we gently squeeze them in order to cull the unripe or rotten pieces and glean the good ones.

Perhaps we should use a similar approach when evaluating the competing environmental proposals proffered by various organizations. We should carefully sniff out the rotten assumptions and gently squeeze the reasoning of their justifications in order to glean which proposals might be worthy of our real sacrifice in national treasure and personal freedoms.

For example, consider the World Bank’s proposals for reducing man-made influences over global climate change. Like most other organizations, they stress the urgency for all nations to take immediate, coordinated actions to reduce carbon emissions. However, they stress that the needed sacrifices should not be shared equally among the nations.

Upon closer inspection, the World Bank’s policy recommendations reveal intellectually unripe assumptions that employ ethically rotten reasoning to justify them. For example, in the World Development Report 2010, the President of the World Bank stresses that,

Developed countries have produced most of the emissions of the past and have higher per-capita emissions. These countries should lead the way by significantly reducing their carbon footprints and stimulating research into green alternatives.

First, consider the intellectually unripe assumption that per-capita carbon emissions are an appropriate basis for determining relative global warming culpability across the nations, and to identify which nations should bear the brunt of costly remediation efforts.

Let’s remember that carbon emissions result from economic activity. All else equal, greater economic activity in a nation’s economy creates greater carbon emissions per capita, but also greater prosperity (output per capita) for its citizens enjoy.

Humanitarians should want the citizens of all nations to become prosperous, but to achieve their prosperity with the smallest environmental footprint possible. Therefore, would not an intellectually ripe indicator of culpability be carbon emissions per-dollar of economic output?

Using this perspective, we could identify the various institutional characteristics among the nations that tend to create a “greener” prosperity, which would then better inform the efforts of environmental policy makers. For example, I point out in an earlier blog post that countries pursuing prosperity through free markets rather than through centralized planning consistently produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, per dollar of GDP.

Second, consider the ethically rotten policy implications that this intellectually unripe measure would likely create: In order for a nation with heavy carbon emissions per capita to reduce its culpability in global warming crimes against humanity, it must make relatively greater sacrifices. It must decrease its economic activity using current technologies and divert significant portions of its national treasure towards developing “green” technologies. Nations with lower per-capita emissions would not be called upon to sacrifice as much.

This means a country like China, which has an economy similar in size to the U.S. but generates 43% more total carbon emissions, would be expected to sacrifice less than the U.S. Why? With its 2 billion citizens (6 times the 325 million U.S. citizens), Chinese carbon emissions per capita are still far lower than the U.S.

This ethically rotten perspective ignores the fact that China has produced far more carbon emissions per dollar GDP than the U.S. As a result, Chinese citizens bear a much lower level of prosperity (output per person) than U.S. citizens, despite having imposed a far larger total environmental footprint than the U.S.

Using per-capita carbon emissions as an indicator of climate change culpability?  Hmm… I think I smell something rotten in Denmark.

Georgia Subsidizes 90 Percent of Nissan Leaf

A government’s decision to subsidize one electric vehicle model over all other vehicles is a problem. It distorts the economy picking winners and losers regardless of the environmental benefits. But when such also increases greenhouse gases it is even worse. Yet, this is the situation playing out in Georgia.

Metro Atlanta is the second largest market in the U.S. after San Francisco for electric vehicle sales. And many of these sales are due to one vehicle model: the Nissan Leaf. Atlanta has been the Leaf’s largest market over the past year, in large part because Georgia offers Leaf buyers a $5,000 tax credit. Coincidentally, Nissan played a significant role in the tax credit’s passage. Yet other electric and hybrid vehicles do not receive the same tax incentive. In cases where vehicles are sold directly by manufacturers, only the first 150 are eligible for the tax $5,000 tax credit. This provision seems designed to prohibit Tesla buyers from receiving this subsidy, since Tesla is the only major vehicle not sold through dealers. The subsidy also does not apply to gas-electric hybrids such as the Ford Fusion or Toyota Prius.

But the Nissan Leaf cannot even claim it helps the environment. Much of the fuel used to generate power in Georgia is coal. As a result, when the Nissan Leaf charges its battery with electricity, it relies primarily on coal, one of the most polluting power sources on the planet. Yet when the unsubsidized Toyota Prius charges its battery, it uses its oil-powered engine. As a result the Prius is responsible for fewer greenhouse gas emissions than the Leaf. In fact the Nissan Leaf produces almost as much greenhouse gas as a conventionally powered vehicle with good fuel efficiency such as the Honda Fit.

The retail price for the Nissan Leaf is approximately $30,000. Yet after factoring in gasoline savings and state incentives of $5,000, drivers can lease a Leaf for free. The monthly payment for a 24-month lease is $235 per month for a total of $5,640. Add in the $5,000 state tax credit and lessees come close to breaking even. In addition, gasoline savings of savings of approximately $100 a month ($2,400 total) provide lessees with nearly $2,000 in yearly profit. Georgia spent close to $2 million on tax credits for electric vehicle owners in 2013. It is time to retire a tax credit that distorts the economy and increases greenhouse gas emissions.

Comparing Protocols: Successes, Failures, and Recommendations

A recent New York Times article — “Trying to Reclaim Leadership on Climate Change” — reports the longstanding indifference toward climate change. In fact, President Obama’s proposal of new rules to cut emissions at power plants makes him one of the few political leaders with a serious agenda on the issue. However, even Mr. Obama’s noble attempt will remain futile if the rest of the world is unwilling to follow suit. With the ineffectiveness at recent protocols, it is worth comparing two protocols to determine how to address the issue going forward and why Mr. Obama is trying to reclaim leadership on the issue.

Montreal Protocol

  • When: September 16, 1987
  • Where: Montreal, Canada
  • Issue: Depletion of the ozone layer and Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Successful?: Yes

With the discovery that certain substances, notably CFCs, were rapidly depleting the ozone layer, many nations sought to solve the issue but recognized that this issue transcended every individual border. Since the ozone layer belongs to all nations not simply one, it was the responsibility of all nations to address the pressing issue. Thus, as a multilateral force, they concocted a plan to slow the depletion of the ozone layer so it could recover. As stated, the protocol would phase-out CFCs from commercial production, particularly in the aerosol industry. And it has worked!

Considered a major multilateral success, the Montreal Protocol is persistently touted as the prime example of how well nations can work together on global environmental issues. But why was it successful? The Montreal Protocol had the perfect combination of factors: hegemons (U.S. and U.K.) taking the lead, a short timeframe before the ozone was projected to dissolve, a great mutuality of interests among the attending parties, and concentrated benefits with distributed costs.  Due to all of these factors, 197 parties have already ratified the protocol, making it the poster child for a successful multilateral operation on environmental regulation.

Kyoto Protocol

  • When: December 11, 1997
  • Where: Kyoto, Japan
  • Issue: Anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Successful?: No

Attempting to ride the success of Montreal, nations reconvened to address another environmental matter: anthropogenic GHG emissions causing climate change. However, this time the result was not so successful, for a few reasons. First of all, the major hegemons were hesitant to take the lead, as limiting carbon emissions could severely harm industries and make energy prices very expensive. Second, since there was no general consensus as to when climate change would occur, who or what caused it, and how drastic the effects were going to be, many parties shied from ratifying a protocol that could potentially not offer any ecological benefit. Third, a carbon cap would hinder developing economies that were just now going through their own industrial revolutions more so than nations with already developed economies, resulting in a discordance of interests. Finally, because every nation would be sacrificing economic growth for uncertain environmental security, each nation would bear concentrated costs with diffused benefits. Nevertheless, 55 nations ratified the protocol, committing to reduce carbon emissions 5 percent by 2010 and 10 percent by 2020. However, CBC news confirmed the failure of Kyoto, citing a 58 percent increase in emissions within the past decade.

U.S. Policy Going Forward

Clearly, Montreal was much more successful than Kyoto for a variety of reasons. With the success in Montreal and other protocols attempting to address the issues raised by Kyoto, Obama proposed domestic rules to limit carbon emission in the United States. Whether or not his policy will curb climate change is up for debate. However, Obama recognizes that if another multilateral environmental success is to occur in the future, the United States must take the lead to ensure that others. Additionally, the U.S. must offer incentives for other nations to also commit to the same goals. Without the support of other nations, Obama’s proposal will result in substantial economic costs with minimal ecological benefits.

Tanner Davis is a research associate at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Profiling Environmentalism (Part 3)

In “Profiling Environmentalism,” Tanner Davis wrote in this blog that we should all support environmentalists that he labeled the Bright Greens: optimistic folks who exhibit a strong faith that technological innovations and entrepreneurship will help create prosperity with an ever cleaner ecological footprint.

In “Profiling Environmentalism 2,” I followed that these “Brights” understand how economic development is necessary for creating ecological innovations in technology. However, any virtuous cycles between economic progress and ecological innovations requires: 1) that demand for environmental quality increases with prosperity, and 2) that institutions in society must reward entrepreneurial activity that makes environmental quality effective and affordable.

I also noted that Bruce Yandle, et. al. reviewed the sizable literature relating a nation’s prosperity to its environmental quality. They state that while such a link has yet to be proven empirically, studies failed to control for how a nation’s political and economic institutions may affect the development of innovations that promote “green” productivity.

Could enviro-entrepreneurship and innovation be either encouraged or discouraged by a nation’s economic institutions? Would protecting private property rights, upholding the rule of law, and maintaining low levels of government intrusion by excessive regulations and taxation influence the pathway that a nation chooses to pursue its prosperity?

Fortunately, measures of these institutions are collected over 150 countries in the world, and then are aggregated into a country-specific metric called the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) index. The EFW index, created by Jim Gwartney and Bob Lawson, is published annually by the Fraser Institute.

The freest countries in 2014 include Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, and Switzerland. While Canada is #8 and Australia is #10, the U.S. is only #17. The least economically free countries include Venezuela, Myanmar, Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.

When a nation’s economy works to feed, clothe, shelter and educate its citizens, this economic activity will impact the environment through air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and depletion of its supplies of natural resources. We can track these measures for each country using the World Bank’s “World Development Indicators” dataset. But the question is: what economic institutions promote the “greenest” pursuit of prosperity and leave the smallest ecological footprint possible?

Figure 1 and Figure 2 represent data from all the nations for which EFW index values and the ecological variables were available. These countries are sorted into quartiles according to their EFW index value, from the least free to the freest countries. Clearly, the level of air and water pollution that is emitted per dollar of GDP produced is LOWER in those nations that pursue free enterprise prosperity with greater economic freedoms.



Likewise, Figure 3 shows that economically freer countries emit FEWER greenhouse gasses per dollar of GDP produced. Further, energy consumed by the vast majority of countries is produced by burning non-renewable resources like coal, natural gas and oil. This means those countries with a lower consumption rate per dollar GDP are practicing a more sustainable growth path towards prosperity. Figure 4 shows that the energy consumed to make a dollar of GDP is LOWER in nations with more economic freedom.

CO2 emitted

energy use

The smallest ecological impact per dollar of economic activity does not appear to arise from the planned economies of socialism or communism. Greater environmental quality and sustainable growth paths to prosperity appear to be more prevalent in countries where the invisible hand is free to “guide” individuals to produce and exchange their products and services in a decentralized market system — established and preserved with greater economic freedoms.

Let’s all be “Bright” about creating our future.

Economic Consequences of Climate Change Policies

According to The Growing Benefits of a Warmer World by the NCPA, global warming has many tangible benefits to the economy. Supplementing the argument, many negative economic consequences exist from climate change policy. Thus, a two-fold offensive argument exists: global warming helps the economy and policies to curb warming hurt the economy.

A study conducted by the Heritage Foundation found that carbon policies with very lofty targets and goals, such as the Waxman-Markey legislation (an 80 percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2050) passed by the House of Representatives in 2009, would have long-term detrimental economic effects:

  • An aggregate income loss to the U.S. of $207.8 trillion by 2100.
  • An aggregate income loss worldwide of $109.6 trillion by 2100.
  • A one-year worldwide loss of $3.5 trillion in 2100, equivalent to 4.75 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
  • Adverse impacts, on net, in every year of implementation.

Even more startling, these numbers assume that the U.S. is the only country to enact a carbon policy. The numbers skyrocket when including the rest of the world implementing similar policies. As such, while these policies may address environmental degradation, the negative economic effects greatly outweigh the positive results in all aspects of the “cost-benefit analysis.” In fact, having a stronger economy will help society to overcome the negative effects of climate change. Stronger economies have much easier accessibility to and flexibility with adaptation strategies.

Additionally, taken from a report by the Council on Foreign Relations,

Lawmakers and industry leaders worry that such greenhouse-gas caps in the United States will reduce the ability of U.S. companies to compete with foreign imports, leading U.S. companies to move to countries without greenhouse-gas restrictions, which is often termed ‘leakage’.

This same report offers many solutions to these qualms, but concludes that attempts to offset economic harm would pose a number of hurdles. While the end of this report also suggests economic benefits for these policies, the increased cost of domestic energy offsets any potential benefits.

Thus, instead of having the federal government apply more regulations and issue further policies to curb carbon emissions, the United States should encourage more private sector development to adapt to and mitigate the effects of impending climate change.

The U.S. should actually follow the example set forth by the United Nations via its Private Sector Initiative. By allowing for a unified database of case studies, companies all over the world can view actions implemented by other companies to reduce risks to their business operations. Many of these case studies also offer strategies for investing in adaptation action in vulnerable regions in a sustainable and profitable manner. This model for preventative and adaptive action is exactly what the U.S. should follow, as it filters and disperses innovative ideas throughout the private sector at a time when the federal government remains inefficient in addressing these issues.

Tanner Davis is a research associate at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Balancing Environmental and Economic Concerns

While climate change is a consideration for most Americans, some metro areas are adopting unnecessary draconian growth restrictions. The best example may be the state of California. California Assembly Bill 32 mandates that by 2020 the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. Research indicates that the state has just about reached that goal. But instead of celebrating that goal, California lawmakers want to go much farther. Assembly member Quirk has introduced a bill to plan for carbon reductions of 80% by 2050. A 2012 report by Greenblatt and Long found that commercially available technology would be sufficient to enable California to reduce greenhouse gases by 60% by 2050. However, meeting the 80% threshold will require technological advances.

Over the last twenty years, the Los Angeles region has actually lost jobs. Between 2001 and 2011 alone, L.A. County lost 7.1 percent of its jobs. Since 1990 the region has lost 150,000 manufacturing jobs. While all metro areas have lost manufacturing jobs, Los Angeles has lost the second highest number in the country; and those jobs made up a larger percentage of the economy than first place New York. And while poor leadership and national factors have contributed to these losses, the biggest factor may be environmental regulations. Many of Los Angeles’ industrial jobs have moved to other states such as Texas with looser environmental laws. Obtaining an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases would require the city to control emissions from ships and trucks at the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach. Yet the ports are the largest and second largest container ports in the country and supply a significant percentage of metro area jobs. The ports are the biggest supplier of manufacturing jobs.

While an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases may be desirable, it will also eliminate some of the few manufacturing jobs in the region. Los Angeles needs to be increasing not decreasing the number of blue-collar jobs. And manufacturing jobs are high-paying quality jobs. In a region with major economic problems, a little balance could go a long way.