Author Archive

SOTU: Old Wine (a hint of vinegar) in New Bottles

President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address made early, prominent mention of energy and climate policy.  However, it was the same old, same old.  Much to the dismay of the environmental left, he continued to tout an “all of the above,” energy strategy, which he claimed as his own.  However, as I detailed earlier, when the President was running for reelection against Mitt Romney, his policy would be better described as: “I’ll take undue credit for the growth in domestic oil and gas production, while continuing to throw good money after bad subsidizing expensive, unreliable renewable energy sources.”

Oil and gas production is up private and state lands thanks in no part to the President, but leases and new production is down on federal lands — all due to Obama administration policies. 

The President called on Congress to boost funding on infrastructure, calling it critical to continued job growth and economic progress, yet he alone, for five years, has held up one of the most critical infrastructure projects the U.S. could undertake: the Keystone XL pipeline.  With a stroke of the pen, President Obama could have already initiated the pipeline running from Canada to Texas, without spending a dime of taxpayer money or adding to the deficit.  Yet, beholden to his radical environmental constituency, the President has erected roadblock after roadblock to the pipeline, at the costs of thousands of new jobs and greater energy security.  Keystone’s study and approval process has now dragged on longer than World War II. 

Finally, the President touted his continuing end-run around Congress on climate policy.  Ignoring the Constitution he swore to uphold and the will of the people as expressed through the action (or inaction as it may be) of the legislature on carbon emissions, the Administration has already proposed CO2 emission limits that threaten the reliability of electric power delivery for millions and that will contribute to increased and increasingly volatile costs.  In the 2014 State of the Union he threatened more of the same, expanding the number of industries covered by emission limits proposing to make the limits tighter. 

If this wasn’t so sad for our economy and the Constitutional idea of divided powers, it would be funny, especially since Japan, Europe and Australia are backtracking on their climate commitments (having already experienced the economically costly impacts that result from them).


Japan, Europe and others fleeing the sinking climate ship

Australia’s government fell in part due to its commitment to economy deadening commitments to limit energy use to fight global warming.  The new government ran an “Economic Progress first, Climate scaremongering last,” campaign and shortly after it took power ditched the previous government’s climate plans.   

Japan, a global leader in the push to rally support for strict greenhouse gas limits, stunned the world and the UN Climate summit late last year when it ditched its commitment to greenhouse gas cuts

Now Europe, including Germany, Britain, Spain, and Poland, among others, are cutting their subsidies to big renewable energy schemes, and calling for scaled back greenhouse gas commitments. 

While the world comes around to the previous U.S. position on climate change — carbon cuts are just to harmful to people and the economy while doing little good for the environment — the Obama administration is wildly rushing like a lone lemming  towards the cliff of ruinous carbon restrictions (a suicidal nightmare that the rest of the world has just woken up from). 

Sadly, as in so many other areas of policy, President Obama seems oblivious to economic truths and common sense with regards to climate change.

2014 Omnibus Has Good Provision for Endangered Species’ Conservation

Whatever other good or bad provisions the 2014 Omnibus Budget bill that President Obama has now signed contains, it has one excellent provision: good for sportsmen and good for species facing extinction in their native lands. 

The 2014 Omnibus removes endangered species protection from three select species: the scimitar horned oryx, the Dama gazelle and the addax.  How can this be good for species you say?  Let me give you some background. 






In 2005, the FWS listed three foreign species: the Dama Gazelle, the Scimitar-Horned Oryx and the Addax as endangered, at the same time the agency adopted a rule that would exempt captive members of the three species in the United States from ordinary ESA restrictions. Though nearly extinct throughout the various ranges of their native country’s (where they are supposedly protected by law), these three species thrived on private ranches in Texas where — treated as private property, indeed, livestock —  they were raised on spreads large and small, for hunting and breeding.  Their populations had done so well, in fact that a number of them were shipped back to their native lands for restocking.  Unfortunately, this success was threatened by the  misguided and inane efforts of animal rights wackos using a poorly written law – the Endangered Species Act. 

HSUS and Friends of Animals filed suit to challenge that rule. Their goal was to prevent the hunting of individual animals, regardless of the cost to the species as a whole.  The court found find that hunting these species was legal and rejected HSUS and Friends’ assertions that hunting in the U.S. encouraged poaching or brought any other harm to members of the species outside of the U.S. The court also rejected the animal rights groups’ allegations that they were harmed by the hunting of the species in the United States.   That should have been the end of the case since neither group was found to have standing, the lawsuit should have be summarily dismissed.  Unfortunately, this did not occur.

The Court did ruled in the two groups’ favor on one critical point. The judge decided that the ESA does not allow a blanket exemption to endangered species prohibitions and that those who wish to hunt or otherwise conduct activities that amount to a “taking” of these three antelope species, must apply for an individual enhancement of survival permit from the FWS. The judge ruled that because the permit applications must be published in the Federal Register, the notice of the application makes it possible for individuals and groups to comment on the proposed activities.  As a matter of law, the judge may have been correct, I’m not a lawyer and cannot say.  As a matter of policy, this was potentially disastrous — for the species, and, to some extent for the ranchers who now own what became nothing more than expensive living lawn ornaments. 

Hunting is technically still legal but the additional bureaucracy and delays introduced by the application and Federal Register notice procedures will made it more difficult and more expensive for ranchers to raise these animals. Many ranchers with existing herds no longer wished to raise and breed these animals. Many ranchers offered discount (basically cull) hunts for the species in order to clear them from their properties and the cost of continuing to feed them (they compete with the other “valuable” wildlife and domestic livestock for feed and browse — and Texas is in a serious drought) before the ruling became final.  Three is some evidence that others contemplated capturing and gelding or neutering, their remaining stock of these species so they wouldn’t breed.  As a result, in just two years since the ruling there a dramatic decline in the number of herds and ultimately the number of animals in the U.S.  For instance, The Exotic Wildlife Association estimates that scimitar horned oryx numbers in Texas are now at nearly half of their 2010 levels.

In this case, scientific management (FWS did approve of managing the species as private property) and markets combined for the good of the species, it seems, only to be undone by the courts.

Now thanks to the efforts of Rep. John Carter (R-TX-31), the author of the provision and his colleagues in the House and Senate, especially Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX-32) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA-42), and John Cornyn in the Senate (who insisted that this provision remain part of the bill), the court’s ruling and the foolish efforts
The antelope were exempt from the Endangered Species Act from 2005 until 2012 during which time populations experienced dramatic growth in the United States. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was forced to remove the exemption due to legal action that prompted a cumbersome and lengthy permitting process all of which led to a dramatic decrease in populations.  For example, Scimitar horned oryx numbers in Texas are now at nearly half of 2010 levels.
As Representative Carter has stated, “This legislation gets big government out of the way so that ranchers can begin working to bring these rare antelope populations back to former levels.  This has been a long time in coming – but we got it done.”

Congress got this one right and one can hope they use it to help all other foreign endangered species as well.

Imperial Presidency rules through regulations

“It’s a new year and you know what that means — new regulations. The Obama administration has wasted no time in writing them.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Now, to be fair, every Presidential administration issues rules and regulations, that’s how laws are implemented.  However, some Presidents issue more regulations than others and seem to use regulations to legislate directly, skipping the legislative process, by stretching the rules and regulations issued beyond either the letter or intent of the law upon which they are supposed to be founded.  In this President Obama has few Presidential peers. 

As proof, an annual analysis by my friends at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, finds that the Obama administration issued an average of 56 new regulations for every law passed, a record high ratio. 

Keeping up his record pace, without any new laws having passed, on just three days in January 2014, the Obama administration posted 141 new regulations

This move to rule through regulations is in keeping with Obama’s stated commitment to “not wait for Congress to act,” if Congress refuses to enact the President’s policies, Constitution be damned.


Of course successive sessions of Congress are largely to blame for the rise of the Presidential ability to rule by fiat.  Since the beginning of the Progressive era in the late 19th and early 20th Century,  the country has seen rise of the administrative state accompanied by the growing list of alphabet agencies (each approved by Congress) needed to manage it.  Congress has largely abdicated it’s constitutionally assigned role of legislating, and delegated it to executive branch agencies.   The problem is, Constitutionally, Congress alone is empowered to pass laws and there is no provision in the Constitution for it to delegate that power to others.  Still, successive Presidential administrations have encouraged Congress’s trend of delegating authority (and why not, it gives the President more power) and, alarmingly, the Courts have acquiesced in the trend — in the meantime seizing power for themselves. 

David Schoenbrod has written a number of insightful books on Congresses irresponsible delegation of authority and the tragic consequences it has had for this country including: Power without Responsibility: How Congress Abuses the People through Delegation

I’d like to propose a remedy, though it would require an act of Congress, a President who would sign off and future Congresses to actually exercise the power — each and every step, probably wishful thinking.

Congress should enact a law that requires every rule or regulation proposed to define, enable, carry out and enforce a law or portion thereof, to come before itself for an up or down vote on the regulation – thus, establishing its authority and responsibility for the it.  No longer could Congress pass a vague feel good laws, allow executive agencies to fill in the details and then complain that the agencies overstepped their authority when adopting or imposing the regulations.  If hoping Congress would approve every regulation is too much (though I think it is actually in the spirit of the Constitution), perhaps they could vote on every rule or regulation that had over a $25 million impact on the economy.  Having passed a law, if a regulation stemming from the law could not get a majority vote from Congress, one can assume it did not conform to Congress’s will in passing the law — which would also leave much less for the Court’s to interpret.  This would not solve all the problems the country faces but it would be a step toward greater accountability for the Legislature.

One can dream.

Richard Lindzen: Profile of a Moderate Climate Skeptic

The Weekly Standard has a good article highlighting the career and views of Richard Lindzen.  Even the alarmists have to take his views seriously and he’s one of the few skeptics who the media will still quote.  I have noting to add to the piece, read the article.  You’ll come away enlightened.

Genetically modified organisms: NYT/Grist gets it right; Hawaii County Council gets it wrong!

I have written extensively concerning the benefits of GMO/Biotech foods. As I have argued at length, the best available evidence shows that they are safe and have the potential to be tremendously beneficial to present and future generations. 

Sadly, on the topic of GMO foods, even more than on most other environmental scare stories hyped by environmental alarmists, the scare has won the day in Hawaii.  The state has a thriving GMO industry that employs thousands of people.  Yet, despite testimony by noted scientists and the hard work of some responsible public servants, as reported by the American Council for Science and Health, the county council for the main island voted to ban the cultivation of GMO crops except for two already established crops.

An interesting piece in the New York Times points out that even the environmentally beyond reproach online publication Grist has now released a series of reports largely supporting the safety and efficacy of GMO crops.  The Times report also examines the psychology of GMOphobes and discusses why, even when a source they usually trust verifies the value of biotech foods to the world, they will be unlikely to change their minds.

Critical Metals in critically short supply

The Washington Post’s Brad Plummer penned a blog worth reading concerning the fragility of the materials undergirding modern society.  Writing about a paper from the national academy of sciences, Plummer notes:

“A huge chunk of modern-day technology, from hybrid cars to iPhones to flat-screen TVs to radiation screens, use dozens of different metals and alloys. A computer chip typically involves more than 60 different elements that are specifically selected to optimize performance, like europium or dysprosium.

And that’s long raised a concern: What would happen if we run short of any of these valuable metals? . . . A fascinating recent paper in The Proceedings of the National Academies of Science looks at 62 different metals that are widely used in modern-day industry. For a dozen metals, potential substitutes are either inadequate or flat-out unavailable. And there are no “excellent” substitutes for any of the 62 metals. A shortage of any of them could do some damage.”

This is a topic near and dear to my heart as the NCPA has been writing about the potentially dangerous shortage of certain critical metals, “rare earths” for a number of years now.  Potential shortages of these metals are due to a number of factors, only one of which is natural scarcity.  Too often, the single biggest threat to the availability of these metals is political control.  Another factor is artificial politically ginned up demand for these metals in non-essential but politically favored technologies.  Plummer’s blog discusses some of these issues.

The NCPA has examined the threats to national defense posed by potential shortages of rare earths.  We have also examined how green energy mandates make the country more dependent on China for rare earths in the short to mid-term.  And we have looked at the prospects for sources of rare earths outside of China and for domestic production.

Bag Bans Don’t Save Dollars

Today the NCPA released my new study, examining the claim that banning or taxing plastic grocery bags will save cities money.  I found no evidence that cities which have already enacted plastic bag restrictions have saved any money — and they have actually harmed the environment.  It seems that plastic grocery bags are the green alternative when choosing what type of bag to use to carry your groceries or other items.

Some results from the study are below:

Consumers choose plastic bags far more often than paper or reusable bags to carry their purchases. Compared to paper and reusable bags, plastic bags are lightweight, strong, flexible and moisture resistant. In addition, they are easy to store and reusable for multiple purposes. Despite these characteristics and their popularity, a growing number of municipalities and some states are enacting laws aimed at reducing the use of plastic (and sometimes paper) grocery bags.

  • Advocates have given a number of justifications for placing restrictions on consumers’ use of carry-out plastic bags.
  • These include concerns about the scarce resources used to create the bags, environmental harms when they are disposed of improperly, the visible blight of roadside litter, and the cost of disposing or recycling them.
  • However, an examination of the bag bans and budgets for litter collection and waste disposal in San Francisco, San Jose, and the City and County of Los Angeles, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; and Brownsville and Austin, Texas, shows no evidence of a reduction in costs attributable to reduced use of plastic bags.

Consider the County of Los Angeles.

  • A November 2010 Los Angeles County, Calif., ordinance outlawed retail use of thin-film polyethylene bags.
  • Los Angeles County faced significant spending cuts during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 budget years of more than $175 million and $35 million, respectively.
  • Budget cuts did not extend to solid waste collection or disposal.
  • Spending for solid waste rose 30.17 percent from the budget year 2006-2007 to 2011-2012, and projected spending rose 5.9 percent from 2011-2012 to the adopted budget for 2012-2013.

In the cities that have adopted bag bans, fees or taxes, there is little evidence so far that banning or taxing plastic bags will reduce waste disposal costs and save money. Those who make this claim must provide evidence to back it up, but they have rarely attempted to do so, and when they have, the evidence has proven questionable at best.


No Climate Change Consensus Amongst Meteorologists

The American Meteorological Society surveyed its members and found a surprising result.  It turns out that there is no consensus amongst its members that global warming is happening and mostly human caused. 

Indeed, only 52 percent of the meteorologists responding to the survey believe global warming is happening and is mostly human-caused, while 48 percent do not.  Almost 50/50.  Looking deeper, those that research and write about climate topics were more confident that humans were causing global warming but still a substantial number of expert meteorologists were skeptical to one degree or another.

For me, three facts in particular stood out about this survey:

1)      It did not treat belief in human caused global warming as a yes or no proposition.  Rather in noted a spectrum of skepticisim, from outright disbelief that global warming was happening, to belief that it was happening but not human caused, to belief that it was occurring and partly human caused but not likely to cause serious harm – and a variety of other levels of skepticism.  Too often the media, and environmentalists and politicians for political reasons, lump all skeptics together.  The AMS avoided this. 

2)      The two factors that were most likely to influence or predict whether an AMS member believed that humans were causing dangerous global warming, was not independent research or expertise, but rather whether they believed there was a consensus on the matter among those they considered experts (the fallacy of appeal to authority and possibly the fallacy of appeal to majority — neither position is a hallmark of sound science); and, even more unscientific and less professional, whether meteorologist was politically liberal.  When politics directs scientific endeavors and beliefs, the search for the knowledge, explanation and the truth is sacrificed to the expedience of political goals.

3)      The authors concluded that rather than treating skeptics as ignorant or as fringe researchers, “the AMS should ‘acknowledge and explore the uncomfortable fact that political ideology influences the climate change views of meteorology professionals; refute the idea that those who do hold non-majority views just need to be “educated” about climate change; [and] continue to deal with the conflict among members of the meteorology community.’”

This survey, the way it was conducted and its honest conclusion gives me more hope than I’ve had in a long time concerning the integrity of climate research.

Green Energy: Future Blackouts the Norm

In publication after publication I have hammered the push for renewable power and the subsidies needed to support renewable energy sources.  Aside from costs, however, I have also noted the harmful environmental impact of renewables and their unreliability which makes the electric power supply less secure and more prone to blackouts.

When asked, even more than cost, the issue that concerns electric power users the most is reliability — the refrigerator and freezer have to keep running, the television and lights have to come on on command.  Yet, perhaps the least noted but most serious concern with green energy is its tendency to make on command electric power problematic.

Finally, the Los Angeles Times is catching on.

In the immortal words of Officer John McClane,   “Welcome to the party, Pal!”