Ivan Osorio

Post image for TPM’s Silly Anti-Keystone Logic

With the political fallout from President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline putting heat on the administration, Talking Points Memo’s Brian Beutler appears to be trying to pin the blame on …. Republicans.

Yes, as absurd as that may sound, Beutler claims that, “House Republicans made a conscious choice to undercut the Keystone XL oil pipeline project” because they refused the let the White House delay the project for nothing other than political gain.

Recall that the Obama administration planned to make a formal decision on the pipeline a year from now. A great deal of reporting and inference suggested that the administration supported the project in principle, but chose to delay the decision for several months for further study, largely to avoid picking an election year fight with environmental advocates. Instead Republicans forced his hand, and, with the review incomplete, he had to formally reject the proposal. [Emphasis added]

Why shouldn’t House Republicans “force” Obama’s hand, as Beutler would say, given how long the project has taken already—and given the fact that Obama’s motivation to delay is purely political? Essentially, Beutler is criticizing GOP House members for not letting Obama roll right over them. As Conn Carroll points out in the Washington Examiner today, notes that criticism of Obama’s decision has been widespread, including among the nation’s major newspaper editorial boards.

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The Audacity of Doom

by Ivan Osorio on January 8, 2010

in Blog

At Bigjournalism.com, Woody Hochswender puts global warming alarmism in the context of a long tradition of doomsaying — which wasn’t invented by Al Gore and need not necessarily be about climate —  by looking at the dismal career of author Jonathan Schell.

1. Schell argued that given the incredibly dire state of things, a world-destroying nuclear exchange was inevitable. A nuclear exchange was virtually certain to happen, sooner or later, he said, and when it did radioactive clouds would blot out the sun and create a “nuclear winter” resulting in the extinction of human life. Once it started, there was no going back. The concept of inevitability was mortised into the framework of the argument.

2. It was also depicted as a race against time! We had only a teeny-weeny window in which to reverse the horrendous policies and mindset of our ignorant, bellicose leaders (read: Republicans). It was, like, so super urgent, action had to be taken, like, yesterday.

3. But, almost paradoxically, it was already too late! In the bottomless pit of his despair and revulsion at the civilized world for imperiling the planet, Schell contended that we were already too far gone, and it really was too late to stop the nuclear holocaust, although everyone had a moral duty to try.

Sound familiar? What we have here, as Yogi Berra would say, is déjà vu all over again. The eerie parallels between the nuclear-freeze movement and the global-warming movement are clear: the direness of the forecast (which resembles prophecy and has a teleological dimension); the dramatic, race-against-time urgency of the healing project; the element of existential threat as a goad to activism; the notion of human extinction and the “fate” of the earth hanging in the balance, as if suspended by a slender thread; and finally, the admonition that it is probably already too late. The nuclear clock is about to strike midnight; the ice caps are already melting. Fear and trembling all around.

Like other neo-Malthusians, Schell has been spectacularly wrong time and again, but that’s not likely to make him or his correligionists give up on despair. For doomsayers, every year is 2012.

For a more uplifting — and accurate — view of human history, see here.

I pay my power bill online, so whenever I get something from Dominion Virginia Power over snail mail it catches my attention. Usually, it’s some notice about utility work nearby. However, the mailing I got today was unusual. It was an appeal to sign up for Dominion’s Green Power initiative.

The scheme appears simple enough. The mailer says, “When you sign up for Dominion Green Power, you add a little extra to your monthly bill which Dominion will use to purchase certified renewable energy certificates on your behalf.”

And what does the consumer get in return? Well, that’s a good question. Dominion’s Green Power Web page features a video that features a family that “pays an extra 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour, and the money is used to purchase renewable energy certificates to support green energy development through a vendor called 3 Degrees.”

And what does 3 Degrees actually do? According to its website:

3Degrees enables businesses and individuals to advance their climate needs and strategies We do this by originating and providing Green-e Energy Certified Renewable Energy Certificates and third-party certified Verified Emission Reductions (aka, carbon offsets) from around the world to help our partners reduce their environmental footprint. We also provide customized consulting services to help businesses address their climate- and energy-related challenges.

This is precisely the kind of climate policy rent-seeking that cap-and-trade policies are designed to encourage. As CEI’s Marlo Lewis has warned, this kind of “certificate” can only have value under a cap-and-trade scheme. In light of the difficulty that the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats are having in pushing through climate legislation, 3 Degrees’ business model may be riskier than its founders had envisioned.

But whatever the future of climate policy, one thing is for certain: Private subsidy schemes like this net the consumer nothing tangible. And for those who do go in for that sort of thing, the warm, fuzzy feeling of feeling less guilty about helping to warm the planet must wear off fairly quickly.

The potential threat from more frequent and stronger hurricanes is a favorite scare scenario of climate alarmists. They point to disasters like Hurricane Katrina as examples. However, such anecdotal evidence, while dramatic, says little about overall cyclonic activity. A greater document of documented storms does not necessarily mean that more storms have occurred, only that more have been recorded. As Gabriel Vecchi and Thomas Knutson of NOAA state:

Two recent papers (Vecchi and Knutson; and Landsea et al) suggest that, based on careful examination of the Atlantic tropical storm database (HURDAT) and on estimates of how many storms were likely missed in the past, it is likely that the increase in Atlantic tropical storm frequency in HURDAT since the late-1800s is primarily due to improved monitoring.

Vecchi and Knutson find this increase among moderate-duration storms (storms lasting longer than two days). Their adjustment for “missing” storms is shown in the chart above . They go on:

Existing records of past Atlantic tropical storm numbers (1878 to present) in fact do show a pronounced upward trend, correlated with rising SSTs (see Figs. 1 and 9 of Vecchi and Knutson 2008). However, the density of reporting ship traffic over the Atlantic was relatively sparse during the early decades of this record, such that if storms from the modern era (post 1965) had hypothetically occurred during those earlier decades, a substantial number would likely not have been directly observed by the ship-based “observing network of opportunity.” We find that, after adjusting for such an estimated number of missing storms, there is a small nominally positive upward trend in tropical storm occurrence from 1878-2006. But statistical tests reveal that this trend is so small, relative to the variability in the series, that it is not significantly distinguishable from zero (Figure 2). Thus the historical tropical storm count record does not provide compelling evidence for a greenhouse warming induced long-term increase.

As for greater economic losses from storms, there are simply more people living on the coasts than ever before, which means more buildings along the coasts than ever before.

For more on hurricanes, see the segment and comments on the topic from Marlo Lewis’s film, Policy Peril. (Thanks to Margaret Griffis for the tip.)

Harsanyi on Holdren

by Ivan Osorio on July 15, 2009

Today, Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi shines a light on Obama “science czar” John Holdren’s disturbing past pronouncements — which Marc Scribner wrote about here just yesterday. Holdren, as Harsanyi notes, participated in the famous bet between eco-doomsayer Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon, over whether the price for five selected metals would rise or fall. (The bet is the foundation for the design of CEI’s Julian Simon Award.)

Holdren was asked by Ehrlich to pick five natural resources that would experience shortages due to human consumption. He lost the bet on all counts, as the composite price index for the commodities he picked, like copper and chromium, fell by more than 40 percent.

Then again, it’s one thing to be a bumbling soothsayer and it’s quite another to underestimate the resourcefulness of mankind enough to ponder how “population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution . . .,” as Holdren did in “Ecoscience” in 1977.

The book, in fact, is sprinkled with comparable statements that passively discuss how coercive population control methods might rescue the world from … well, humans.

When I called Holdren’s office, I was told that the czar “does not now and never has been an advocate of compulsory abortions or other repressive measures to limit fertility.”

If that is so, I wondered, why is his name on a textbook that brought up such policy? Did he not write that part? Did he change his mind? Was it theoretical?

Harsannyi presents one possible explanation, which is hardly satisfactory in any morally sensible way.

When, during his Senate confirmation hearing, Holdren was asked about his penchant for scientific overstatements, he responded, “The motivation for looking at the downside possibilities, the possibilities that can go wrong if things continue in a bad direction, is to motivate people to change direction. That was my intention at the time.”

“Motivation” is when Holdren tells us that global warming could cause the deaths of 1 billion people by 2020. Or when he claimed that sea levels could rise by 13 feet by the end of this century when your run-of-the-mill alarmist warns of only 13 inches.

“Motivating” — or, in other words, scaring the hell out of people — about “possibilities” is an ideological and political weapon unsheathed in the effort to pass policies that, in the end, coerce us to do the right thing, anyway.

For more on Holdren, see here.

Today in her column, The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel explains the Obama EPA’s censoring of an internal study that questioned the scientific foundation for the administration’s climate change policies. The report, written by Alan Carlin, a senior analyst at the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics, was released last week by CEI last week.

Mr. Carlin and a colleague presented a 98-page analysis arguing the agency should take another look, as the science behind man-made global warming is inconclusive at best. The analysis noted that global temperatures were on a downward trend. It pointed out problems with climate models. It highlighted new research that contradicts apocalyptic scenarios. “We believe our concerns and reservations are sufficiently important to warrant a serious review of the science by EPA,” the report read.

The response to Mr. Carlin was an email from his boss, Al McGartland, forbidding him from “any direct communication” with anyone outside of his office with regard to his analysis. When Mr. Carlin tried again to disseminate his analysis, Mr. McGartland decreed: “The administrator and the administration have decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision. . . . I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office.” (Emphasis added.)

Mr. McGartland blasted yet another email: “With the endangerment finding nearly final, you need to move on to other issues and subjects. I don’t want you to spend any additional EPA time on climate change. No papers, no research etc, at least until we see what EPA is going to do with Climate.” Ideology? Nope, not here. Just us science folk. Honest.

The emails were unearthed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Republican officials are calling for an investigation; House Energy Committee ranking member Joe Barton sent a letter with pointed questions to Mrs. Jackson, which she’s yet to answer. The EPA has issued defensive statements, claiming Mr. Carlin wasn’t ignored. But there is no getting around that the Obama administration has flouted its own promises of transparency.

For more on the study the Obama administration did not want you to read, see here and here.

Today, National Public Radio held a pep rally for the Waxman-Markey climate change bill, which narrowly passed the House last night, with Paul Krugman as head cheerleader. No critic of the bill was interviewed.

Krugman started out with a brief explanation of the bill. He acknowledged that it would bear some costs, and that some industries and parts of the country that rely on coal “are going to be hurt… somewhat.” He repeated the Democrat talking point that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the cost of the bill for the average household would be around$175 “a postage stamp a day.” (Never mind that people are buying fewer stamps because of email; let’s make them spend that money, anyway — for nothing.)

Then NPR host Guy Raz asked Krugman to comment on bill cosponsor Rep. Henry Waxman’s claim that his bill would create jobs. Krugman said:

There will be more wind farms built. There will be people retrofitting power plants to reduce their emissions. There will be people weatherproofing housing and commercial buildings.”

What economists would say is that employment would be just about the same as it would have been otherwise, but it will be a different mix of jobs. [Emphasis added]

That is not job creation, that is a transfer of wealth from a politically disfavored group of industries to a politically favored one. Notice the nebulous reference to “economists.” To which ones is Krugman referring to? Isn’t he one?

Now, back to that $175 per year figure that the bill’s supporters like to bandy about. They love that postage-stamp-a-day comparison so much that I thought it would be a good idea to come up with some of my own. For an average household, that $175 would also amount to:

  • An additional month of utilities;
  • One less plane ticket to visit family or go on vacation; or
  • One payment on a cheap used car

Other similar comparisons are welcome, so please post in the comments below.

The alliance between organized labor and leftist environmentalists remains as strong as ever. As Carter Wood at Shopfloor.org notes, the Waxman-Markey climate change bill is a great example of this alliance.

From page 78 of the manager’s amendment, concerning state revolving loan funds for small- and medium-sized manufacturers.

(F) COMPLIANCE WITH WAGE RATE REQUIREMENTS.-Each recipient of a loan shall undertake and agree to incorporate or cause to be incorporated into all contracts for construction, alteration or repair, which are paid for in whole or in part with funds obtained pursuant to such loan, a requirement that all laborers and mechanics employed by contractors and subcontractors performing construction, alteration or repair shall be paid wages at rates not less than those determined by the Secretary of Labor, in accordance with subchapter IV of chapter 31 of title 40, United States Code (known as the ‘Davis-Bacon Act’), to be prevailing for the corresponding classes of laborers and mechanics employed on projects of a character similar to the contract work in the same locality in which the work is to be performed.

The Secretary of Labor shall have, with respect to the labor standards specified in this subparagraph, the authority and functions set forth in Reorganization Plan Numbered 14 of 1950 (15 F.R. 3176; 64 Stat. 1267) and section 3145 of title 40, United States Code.

So that’s one of organized labor’s rewards in the bill, the spreading of above-market wage rates to smaller manufacturers.

Davis-Bacon-like provisions of this sort also make it more difficult for non-union companies to compete for bids. This results in higher costs, which are paid for by taxpayers.

With their share of the private sector work force declining to around 8 percent, unions need such alliances with environmentalists to gain political goods like this. Expect to see more of this.

For more on Davis-Bacon, see here.

Fore more on the labor-green alliance, see here.

The Juche Weather Idea

by Ivan Osorio on February 13, 2009

North Korea’s official propaganda organ, the Korea Central News Agency, reveals the real cause of global warming:

The snow in the area of Jong Il Peak began to thaw with the auspicious February 16, the birthday of General Secretary Kim Jong Il just ahead, heralding the approach of spring.

According to the data tabulated in the Paektusan Secret Camp Meteorological Observatory, the temperature in the area from the beginning of February this year is 15 degrees higher than last year to make willow trees in Sobaeksu Valley open catkins on Feb. 11 three days earlier than the previous years.

Five centimeters of snow is thawing every day on an average in the area.

As there is no strong wind and mild climate continues there, it is foreseen that the depth of snow will go down by nearly 60 centimeters in the middle of this month.

An unprecedented phenomenon of moon halo was observed.

At around 18:25 on February 8 the surroundings of the peak became as bright as daytime to make the night view above Kim Jong Il’s birthplace in the Paektusan Secret Camp brilliant.

This was the first of its kind there this year.

Those who witnessed the opening of willow catkins earlier than the previous years and the unprecedented nocturnal view said excitedly that even the nature and the sky unfolded such mysterious ecstasy in celebration of the birthday of Kim Jong Il.

So is this why Kim Jong Il wants the ability to bring about nuclear winter?