Marc Scribner

Post image for WaPo Gets Another Koch Fact Wrong

In an article today about the White House’s doom and gloom National Climate Assessment, Washington Post reporter Darryl Fears goes out of his way to tar those opposed to economically disastrous and ineffective global warming policies as being under the thumb of libertarian businessmen Charles and David Koch:

Other contrarians include libertarians at the Cato Institute, founded by Charles and David Koch, brothers whose multi-billion dollar fortune is partly derived from fossil fuels, and are well-known to deny the impacts of climate change.

Cato researchers Paul C. Knappenberger and Patrick J. Michaels said the assessment was “biased toward pessimism, the opposite of how Wolfe described it. As a resource, it is meant to justify “federal regulation aimed towards mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.”

However, in an effort to deploy the tired progressive guilt by association argumentum ad Kochum, Fears falls flat: the Cato Institute was not “founded by Charles and David Koch.” As the first line of the Cato Institute Wikipedia article correctly states, Cato was founded “by Ed Crane, Murray Rothbard, and Charles Koch.” If you don’t trust Wikipedia, here’s Will Wilkinson mentioning the three Cato founders in The Economist: “Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute in 1977 with Ed Crane and Murray Rothbard.” To be clear, that is but one brother Koch, not two, as a Cato Institute founder. To be even clearer, Charles was one of the Cato founders, not David. Good? Great.

This isn’t the first time a Washington Post reporter has thrown truth out the window in a sad attempt to smear the Kochs and the organizations they support. Recently, Post reporters Steve Mufson and Juliet Eilperin were caught publishing massive falsehoods regarding Koch Industries’ Canadian oil sands lease holdings. John Hinderacker produced an excellent smack-down of Mufson and Eilperin’s incredibly lazy reporting and their subsequent mealymouthed walk-back.

I know the newspaper business is struggling, but maybe the Post should consider hiring a fact checker for all things Koch. This is just getting embarrassing.

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Post image for House GOP’s Misguided “Drilling for Roads” Highway Bill Heads to Floor Vote

In a previous post here, I noted the major problems with House GOP leadership’s proposal to link revenue from expanded domestic energy production with the Highway Trust Fund in their surface transportation reauthorization legislation. Since then, the three major portions have cleared their respective committees: House Natural Resources approved the drilling proposals, Transportation and Infrastructure passed the primary highway bill, and the revenue link was cleared by Ways and Means. A vote by the full House is expected sometime next week.

Observers expect the bill to fail, not only because there is very little for Democrats to like, but also because principled fiscal conservatives — from our “user-pays” coalition to Heritage Action to Club for Growth to RedState — have all slammed the legislation as a Big Government wolf wrapped in pro-market, pro-growth sheep’s clothing. This proposed bill would continue to federally fund highways at unsustainable levels and fails to address how states are to begin reconstructing their portions of the Interstate system. For instance, it explicitly bans states from tolling existing Interstate segments even for the purpose of reconstruction. Reconstruction to current highway construction guidelines by definition increases capacity, yet the tolling section author(s) apparently didn’t find this additional capacity enhancing enough to justify allowing states to implement an intelligent financing mechanism that can actually pay for the needed investment.

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Post image for The Case Against “Drilling for Roads”

This coming Monday, January 30, CEI will hold a Capitol Hill briefing regarding recent congressional proposals to fund federal surface transportation investments by directing into the Highway Trust Fund revenue raised from expanded energy production. This is widely known as “drilling for roads.” While we certainly support expanding domestic oil and gas drilling, there are major problems with such a proposal. I previously blogged on this topic here and here.

If the federal government is going to continue funding highways at the level that it currently does, it will need additional revenue. The current program faces several major challenges:

  • Much of the Interstate system is nearly 50 years old, the intended life of the infrastructure. This means that much of it will need to be completely reconstructed — not just resurfaced — in the near future.
  • The federal fuel excise tax rates have not been raised since 1993, and are currently set at 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel. Inflation has reduced the buying power of those taxes by well over one-third, and federal fuel taxes raise the vast majority of Highway Trust Fund revenue. Furthermore, a fifth of Highway Trust Fund revenue is now diverted to mass transit projects.
  • It is quite likely that passenger vehicle-miles traveled are plateauing, or at least the rate of increase of passenger VMT will be significantly lower in the future than it has been in the past. Freight VMT, however, will continue to increase, which will put more wear-and-tear on our highways per vehicle-mile traveled.
  • Finally, the U.S. vehicle fleet is expected to become significantly more fuel efficient in the coming decades [PDF, see p. 30; or PDF, see p. 13], which will reduce the user taxes collected per vehicle-mile traveled. Due to this reality, there are also major equity concerns, as it is the upper-income drivers who can afford to purchase the most fuel efficient vehicles, such as hybrids. This means that the fuel tax burden will further shift to lower-income drivers.

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House Majority Leader John Boehner said in a statement yesterday that he will continue to support a Republican proposal that would tie expanded energy production on federal lands and in offshore areas to highway funding: “In the coming weeks and months, the House will take action on the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, which will link expanded American energy production to high-priority infrastructure projects like roads and bridges in order to create more jobs.” We previously noted this development here on in November. I had been holding out hope that House GOP leadership would adopt a New Year’s resolution disavowing this flawed proposal… unfortunately, here we are.

In December, National Review Online published a brief op-ed of mine explaining the problems with “drilling for roads” and the danger such a funding mechanism would pose to the Highway Trust Fund:

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House Republicans, led by Speaker John Boehner, announced today that they will soon be introducing the American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act. A summary is available on Rep. Boehner’s website. The bill would expand domestic American oil and natural gas production offshore and on federal lands, something I believe is very positive. However, I am not enthusiastic about depositing royalty revenues into the Highway Trust Fund, which would spell an end to the mechanism’s “user-pays/user-benefits” principle that has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support. The other day at CEI’s, I briefly explained why this is a shortsighted move that will likely do great harm to long-term surface transportation policy in the United States by opening the door for increased politicization.

Post image for In Praise of Lesser Lesser Lesser Washington

A collective cry of outrage could be heard across the D.C. urbanista interwebs upon the announcement that Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells would be losing his chairmanship of the Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee. Unfortunately given the political dynamics (read: lefty-enviro-urban-fetishists have way too much pull in this town!), less is generally more when it comes to transportation policy in Washington, D.C. Wells, in addition to being an anti-gambling nannystater, is well known for being behind many of the District’s wasteful, anti-auto “livability” programs. His official website’s tagline is even “Building a livable, walkable city.” For a brief explanation of why the New Urbanists’ social-engineering  concept of “livability” is just code for “stupid handouts to yuppies,” see my recent post on regarding the federal Department of Transportation’s TIGER 3 grants program.

As the anti-mobility, pro-gentrification-subsidy Greater Greater Washington laments (as I rejoice), this decision is worsening the already low morale among the District Department of Transportation’s most worthless bureaucrats. Chief trolley and bike-share cheerleader Scott Kubly, who announced he will be leaving his post at DDOT, doesn’t appear to have been driven out as a result of Council Chairman Kwame Brown’s committee shakeup. But this latest departure of a Fenty-era apparatchik is making clear that much of the city is sick and tired of local politicians basing transportation and land-use policies around the silly prejudices concerns of wealthy gentrifiers. Ex-Mayor Fenty’s education policy was fingered by many in the clueless media as the culprit for his loss to now-Mayor Gray, as the awful teachers’ union contributed heavily to Gray’s campaign. But ask a resident of Ward 7 or Ward 8 about what annoyed them most about Fenty’s “white-washing”: “bike lanes” are usually at the top of the list.

While I am hardly optimistic about the overall future prospects of the notoriously corrupt D.C. city government, as an advocate for sensible transportation policy that actually enhances residents’ mobility and quality of life, recent steps taken by key city politicians are a breath of fresh air after years of official pandering to well-to-do urbanists.

Post image for California Bunker Fuel Regulations Spur Shift in Shipping Routes

I’ve previously reported (see here and here) on the environmental industry’s movement’s war on bunker fuel, the heavy fuel used by large ships around the world. The modus operandi of the enviros is to pursue and convince regulators, such as the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) or California’s Air Resources Board (CARB), to push for a targeted patchwork of prohibitions and/or mandating low-sulfur fuel-switching, enacting stricter speed limits in near-shore shipping lanes, restricting on-ship power generation when in port, and imposing emissions taxes.

A couple of years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was toying with the idea of calling for strict and extremely costly regulations or a federal ban on bunker fuel -carrying or -using ships within U.S. waters, only to be shouted down by politicians and citizens from states with large maritime sectors. But California, a state not known to back down from adopting stupid environmental regulations, moved forward in the war on bunker fuel and international trade and set its own regulations on fuel use and petroleum conveyance in the maritime industry operating within the state’s waters.

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Post image for Bunker Fuel Bans and Anti-Trade Collusion: Enviros, the World Bank, and the United Nations

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the pending ban on ships carrying or using bunker fuel in the antarctic (set to go into effect in July) and radical environmentalists’ attempts to convince the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO) to extend the ban to the arctic. Now the greens have convinced the bureaucrats at the World Bank to call for large carbon taxes on bunker fuel and aviation fuel, ostensibly to finance a climate-change relief fund for developing nations:

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Post image for Enviros’ Bunk Crusade Against Bunker Fuel

This issue has yet to really make a splash in the United States outside of California (which I’ll discuss below), but the European Green Police are leading the way with their next war on humanity: prohibiting ships from using bunker fuel.

Bunker fuel, also known as navy special fuel, is the bottom-of-the-barrel (literally), high-viscosity fuel used by large cruise ships, container ships, and tankers that is just slightly less viscous than the bitumen (asphalt) used to pave roads. Environmentalists hate bunker fuel because sulfur dioxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are considerably more intense than those of the more refined and lighter gasoline and diesel.

While it is true that this makes bunker fuel “dirtier” than the fuel you put in your car, it is used because ships use large enough engines that are designed to handle bunker fuel and it is far cheaper due to limited demand (nearly nonexistent outside of the maritime industry).

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