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Energy and U.S. Middle East Policy: Shaky Foundations

“Economists have long argued that these [national security] claims are based on economic misunderstandings, yet they are still cited as political justifications for military deployment of U.S. forces in the Middle East. These policies along with past military interventions are at the root of international terrorism directed at the United States.”

Military generals are charged with managing national security, which has included ensuring access to “needed” natural resources. U.S. military goals have been further stretched to securing access to resources “needed” for economic security.

The first U.S. overseas seizure concerned bird guano, a fertilizer like no other at the time. If Peru insisted on getting a lot of money for this valuable product, the only solution was invasion. The U.S. Congress, in response to public opinion, passed the Guano Islands Act of 1856, which authorized Americans to take any guano deposits they discovered.

Over the next half-century, U.S. merchants used the law to claim 94 islands, cays, coral heads, and atolls. The long, strong arm of the U.S. government joined with business interests to create a crony foreign policy.

Judgment Calls

Economists have long argued that these claims are based on economic misunderstandings, yet they are still cited as political justifications for military deployment of U.S. forces in the Middle East. These policies along with past military interventions are at the root of international terrorism directed at the United States.

What resources are “needed” for national security can be hard to identify. Oil and uranium to power U.S. ships, tanks, and jets, along with rare earth minerals needed for military uses seem good examples.

But there is now plenty of oil produced and refined in the U.S., and plenty of uranium stockpiled and available worldwide. Rare earth minerals are available in the U.S., though major mines have been closed due in part to environmental regulations.

Claims of overseas natural resources like oil being “needed” for economic security are even harder to defend as U.S. oil and gas production have surged over the last five years. This November 2012 NPR segment on oil and U.S. Middle East policy gives a nice overview of the issues. (The claim at the end from the head of the Sierra Club is confused; environmental groups continue to argue for more government subsidies of wind and solar power.) [Read more →]

June 25, 2014   No Comments

Obama’s Energy Plan to Plug California Leakage (to Texas)

“A government is the only known vessel that leaks from the top,” newspaper journalist James Reston once wrote.

There could be no more apropos example of this than Barack Obama’s new proposed rules to mothball “dirty” coal power plants; to reduce CO2 power plant emissions 30 percent from their 2005 level by 2030; and to set voluntary targets for the percentage of renewable energy in each state by 2029.

Obama’s new push is an attempt to address leakage, at least within the United States. The term is not meant to describe the leakage in a high-voltage electric transmission line that can cause fires, damage, or electrocution. Rather, it is meant to describe the migrating of jobs, industries, population, and votes to other states due to planned higher electricity rates mainly in California and other Blue states as a result of forcing a shift to inferior renewable energies.

California Wins, Neighbors Lose

Tell-it-like-it-is economics writer Robert J. Samuelson has noted the inequity of Obama’s Climate Plan for California versus neighboring states. Consider the following: [Read more →]

June 24, 2014   4 Comments

Heartland Institute: Reality Check for the Climate Debate (Las Vegas conference July 7–9)

“Come to fabulous Las Vegas to meet leading scientists from around the world who question whether ‘man-made global warming’ will be harmful to plants, animals, or human welfare. Learn from top economists and policy experts about the real costs and futility of trying to stop global warming.”

The leading sustainability threat is not mineral resource depletion, air or water pollution, or anthropogenic climate change. It is statism, and in the case of climate change, policy activism in the name of “stabilizing” or “saving” the planet.

Enter the Heartland Institute and their 9th International Conference on Climate Change, to be held July 7–9 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Consider the conference in the background of the “pause” in global warming, which is 15-years-going-on-20 as shown in the graph below. [Read more →]

June 23, 2014   No Comments

Ohio’s Win, AWEA’s Loss (Rep-Elect Vitale new national hero)

“Gov. Kasich has walked away from his commitment to renewable energy. He and the Legislature are creating an unfriendly business environment in Ohio. Legislators rammed through restrictive rules without due process, and millions of dollars already invested based on the previous set of rules may now be lost without any public debate. This will force clean energy developers and manufacturers to move to neighboring states with similar resources and friendlier business climates.”

- Tom Kiernan, CEO, American Wind Energy Association,  AWEA Press Release, June 16, 2014.

Is that a threat, Mr. Kiernan? Because states neighboring Ohio should indeed bristle at your words. Perhaps some legislatures will even muster the bravery to follow suit and protect their citizens with wind turbine setback distances measured from property lines – the way most other safety related zoning measurements are.

Kiernan’s whine makes it sound that it is AWEA’s land that it is being made off-limits to wind development. Neither is the case.

Furthermore, the new Ohio standard is not the first of its kind, and certainly not the most restrictive. For instance, in Clifton, Maine wind turbine project developers by law must negotiate an easement with all landowners whose property line is within 4,000 ft. of a wind energy generator.

“If Gov. Kasich is serious about this being a freeze and study, and not about defeating renewable energy, and if he wants us to believe what he says, then he simply must veto the setback,” [AWEA’s Ohio lobbyist, Dayna Baird] Payne said. “It would really be the end of the line for the industry… [a death knell].”

Whine, whine, whine on the taxpayer’s dime…. [Read more →]

June 19, 2014   No Comments

Ex-Im Bank Cronyism: Remember Enron’s Bad Investments

“Enron was a political colossus with a unique range of rent-seeking and subsidy-receiving operations. Ken Lay’s announced visions for the company—to become the world’s first natural-gas major, then the world’s leading energy company, and, finally, the world’s leading company—relied on more than free-market entrepreneurship. They were premised on employing political means to catch up with, and outdistance, far larger and more-established corporations.

- R. Bradley, “Enron: The Perils of Interventionism,” EconLib, September 3, 2012.

A debate is currently playing out over the future of the Import-Export Bank, which comes up for Congressional reauthorization this September. In “End Corporate Welfare? Start With the Ex-Im Bank,” Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy group, pin-pricked the notion that small business was the beneficiary of taxpayer-guaranteed loans.

Every time Congress debates the Ex-Im Bank’s future, which last happened in 2012, defenders claim that it exists primarily to serve small businesses. The bank itself proudly proclaims this near the top of its annual reports. Yet … the bank doles out the vast majority of its funds to America’s biggest corporations. Last year, 10 companies—including giants like Boeing, General Electric, and Dow Chemical–received roughly three-quarters of the bank’s financial assistance for exports. A similar number of companies accounted for 97% of its loan guarantees by value, along with 97% of the bank’s direct loans by value.

So why do the Big Boys needed the average taxpayer to backstop their voluntary incurred indebtedness? Why should big and small companies be encouraged to invest in risky, non-bankable areas?

Ex-Im exposure today is estimated to be $134 billion, up from $60 billion eight years ago. Crony capitalism, helped along by Republicans and Democrats alike, is in the crosshairs of reformers across the political spectrum.

Enron: Bad Energy Investing via EXIM/OPIC

Enron International, specializing in infrastructure development in high-risk countries in the late 1980s and 1990s, depended on Export-Import Bank loans and Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) insurance and loans for most of its projects. [Read more →]

June 18, 2014   No Comments

Fighting Executive Fiat on Climate

“EPA’s actions routinely violate the Information Quality Act…. The closed circle of well-paid ‘peer reviewers’ employed by EPA, coupled with its close relationships with numerous Big Green environmentalist pressure groups, hardly satisfies [IQA] requirements. Worse, EPA consistently drags its feet on responses to FOIA requests….”

The Food and Drug Administration requires that companies seeking approvals of medical product meet high standards for the quality, integrity, and transparency of data and information submitted in support of applications. Missing information means products won’t be approved; improprieties in studies or submissions mean companies and employees can face fines, jail, or other penalties.

What if the same standards applied to government agencies regarding the scientists and institutions they hired or utilized? Their taxpayer-supported work affects virtually every American.

Last year, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Congress enacted 72 new laws, while federal agencies promulgated 3,659 new rules. The Code of Federal Regulations now stands at more than 175,000 pages. Each year, these rules cost American businesses and families $1.86 trillion – equal to a hidden $15,000 tax on every family. State and local jurisdictions add still more taxes and regulations.

More Regulation After Bad

It’s hardly surprising that America’s economy shrank by 1% the first quarter of 2014, our labor participation rate is a miserable 63% and real unemployment stands at 14% (and much worse for blacks and Hispanics). Keynesian economics did not work in the 1930s; and it has not worked in our time. Little wonder that a recent Gallup poll found that 56% of respondents said the economy, unemployment, and dissatisfaction with government was the most serious problems facing our nation – versus 3% who said environmental issues was the most important problem (with climate change only a small segment of that). [Read more →]

June 17, 2014   2 Comments

AWED Energy & Environmental Newsletter: June 16, 2014

The Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions (AWED) is an informal coalition of individuals and organizations interested in improving energy & environmental policies. Our basic position is that technical matters like these should be addressed by using Real Science. It’s all spelled out at WiseEnergy.org, which has a wealth of energy and environmental resources.

A key element of AWED’s efforts is public education. Towards that end, every 3 weeks we put together a newsletter to balance what is found in the mainstream media about energy and environmental matters. We appreciate MasterResourcefor their assistance in publishing this information.

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Greed Energy Economics:

Canada and Australia form alliance opposed to climate radicalism

Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): A Costly Illusion

117 Organizations Tell Congress to Oppose Extending Expired Wind Subsidies

Former Senator: Wind PTC Should End

Some NNY homes near turbines drop $300k± in value

Spanish Lesson for US: Green Energy Transition Unaffordable

Germany’s Green Jobs Miracle Collapses

The spin on wind, or, an example of BS in the field of energy policy

Fracking Sucks Money From Wind

Hanover turbine still not turning

 

Turbine Health Matters:

1,600 miscarriages at fur farm near wind turbines

A paper on noise pollution, its health effects, and its associated social inequity

Noise is #1 Quality-of-Life Complaint in NYC

Excellent Radio Program about Wind Turbine Noise

Leading Turbine Noise Scientist: Fired

[Read more →]

June 16, 2014   1 Comment

Turbines on Trial: Animal Miscarriages in Denmark (inconvenient fact for wind cronyists?)

“Politicians, and wind industry shills who … deny the risks to health, are now liable to be successfully sued by wind farm victims. And so are governments, as they still refuse to measure infrasound emitted by modern wind turbines.”

In Denmark last month, 1,600 animals were born prematurely at a mink farm. Many had deformities, and most were dead on arrival. The lack of eyeballs was the most common malformation. Veterinarians ruled out food and viruses as possible causes. The only thing different at the farm since last year has been the installation of four large wind turbines only 328 meters away.

The wind farm consists of four 3 MW turbines, VESTAS model V112, reaching out to 140 meters in height at the tip of the blades. When they became operative last fall, a first mishap was reported by the mink farmer at a parliamentary committee on wind farms in January this year. [1] 

The World Council for Nature (WCFN) reported the incident earlier: [Read more →]

June 13, 2014   3 Comments

‘Energy Independence’: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

“Unfortunately, at the first sign of political and economic trouble most people are spontaneously inclined to put the brakes on international trade and to increase local production of critical things such as food and energy. This stance often has dire consequences.”

As some apparently inexplicable behaviour illustrates (say, being a die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs), humans are profoundly territorial creatures. According to evolutionary psychologists, this is because for approximately 90% of their time on this planet, modern humans belonged to small groups that were constantly fighting each other over the possession of land and resources. Deep down, most people’s behaviour is not all that different from that observed on Animal Planet’s Meerkat Manor

Peace and Open Trade

As recent events in the Ukraine remind us, sometimes the other tribe is still out there to get us. By and large, however, the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker demonstrates in his book The Better Angels of our Nature that we are living “in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence,” a relatively blessed state of affairs made possible through ever greater international trade and the worldwide exchange of ideas and culture over the last few centuries.

More than two centuries before Pinker, the French philosopher Montesquieu had similarly observed: [Read more →]

June 12, 2014   3 Comments

Wind’s PTC: The Opposition Mounts (117 groups and counting)

“The U.S. wind industry has … demonstrated reliability and performance levels that make them very competitive.”

- Statement of Michael L.S. Bergey, American Wind Energy Association, 1986.

“The wind PTC was initially passed in 1992 as a temporary incentive to help a then fledgling industry – with the expectation that wind energy would be environmentally benign and would become commercially viable. However, after nearly 40 years of subsidies for wind energy R&D and 20 years of lucrative wind energy tax breaks — together totaling over $100 billion.”

- Glenn Schleede, “Republicans for Obama Energy (Senate Finance Committee Okays PTC/ITC Subsidies),” April 16, 2014.

Concentrated benefits/diffused costs. The cronies, rent-seeking profits calculated, lobby government in the capitals. Most of the rest of us, just paying a fraction of a penny for their many dollars, stay home. That’s how government grows and bad public-policy rationales get going.

Wind power and other qualifying renewables got their government largesse long ago. Even before the Energy Policy Act of 1992, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) was promising coming competitiveness with just a bit more subsidy, a little more time. Then the taxpayer favor could go away, they promised time and again.

The open-ended, outsized tax subsidy for qualifying renewable energy, a mainstay of Obama energy policy, is a Republican, not only Democrat, problem. Texas, for example, thanks to Enron in a bootlegger-and-Baptist coalition with pro-wind environmentalists, is a Republican friendly state for AWEA et al. Note the support for wind from, for example, Sen. John Cornyn.

New Coalition Letter

Earlier this week, a coalition letter (reprinted below) urged Congress not to renew the wind PTC in these words: [Read more →]

June 11, 2014   No Comments