Now that Republicans feel that they have won a minor victory over Obama on the debt deal, they might be more likely to make concessions on non-debt/spending related issues like the confirmation of Commerce Secretary nominee John Bryson.  It is more important than ever that fans of the free-market pressure the Senate to oppose the nomination of this rent-seeking, radical environmentalist.  In a Kansas City Star op-ed published this morning, I show why his corporatist past is reason enough to block Bryson’s nomination.

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Post image for Obama Thwarts Debt-Ceiling Deal by Clinging to Wasteful Green-Jobs and Stimulus Spending

President Obama is refusing accept deals that would raise the federal debt ceiling because they would require him to accept cuts in wasteful green-jobs and rail boondoggles and stimulus spending:   “The president has made a bipartisan agreement even more difficult by declaring certain spending off-limits to cuts. Mr. Obama’s ‘untouchable’ list includes his $1 trillion health-care reform, $128 billion in unspent stimulus funds, education and training outlays, his $53 billion high-speed rail proposal, spending on ‘green’ jobs and student loans, and virtually any structural changes to entitlements except further squeezing payments to doctors, hospitals and health-care professionals.”  If the debt ceiling is not raised, America’s credit rating may be downgraded, leading to higher interest payments on the debt in the future.

Obama’s refusal to reconsider green-jobs spending is unfortunate given how such spending has backfired, effectively outsourcing thousands of American jobs at taxpayer expense.  ABC News reports on the subsidies for Chinese wind turbines contained in the stimulus package:

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Post image for EPA Gives Millions to Green Groups That Sue It; Massive Funding Advantage for Enviro Groups and Green Welfare

The EPA gives millions to the environmental groups that sue it.  “When the EPA settles or loses those suits, it then awards the groups millions more in attorneys’ fees,” notes legal commentator Walter Olson.  “‘The EPA isn’t harmed by these suits,’ said Jeffrey Holmstead, who was an EPA official during the Bush administration. ‘Often the suits involve things the EPA wants to do anyway. By inviting a lawsuit and then signing a consent decree, the agency gets legal cover from political heat.’ Holmstead called this kind of litigation ‘sweetheart suits.'”

The EPA gave millions to groups that sued it to get it to regulate greenhouse gases, like the Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council.  Those groups brought a lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA (2007), which vastly expanded the EPA’s jurisdiction.  More recently, they sued to compel the EPA to issue greenhouse gas “performance standards” for power plants and refineries. In a recent settlement, the EPA agreed to do just that.  Critics “said the costly settlement was ‘concocted in secret’” and that other lawsuits by EPA grantees resulted in collusive settlements that cost the economy billions, increased the EPA’s powers, and gave environmental groups things that they were unlikely to win in any court ruling.

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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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Post image for Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) becomes the first defector from the T. Boone Pickens Earmark Bill

Representative Steve Pearce (R-New Mexico) yesterday removed his name as a co-sponsor of H. R. 1380, which I have dubbed the T. Boone Pickens Earmark Bill.  Rep. Pearce is an outstanding conservative Member of Congress, who is policy oriented and held in high regard by his colleagues, so his defection from the Boonedoggle Bandwagon is an important sign that House conservatives may be starting to rethink their support.  Pearce deserves special credit because the oil and gas industry, which would benefit from the Pickens-Your-Pocket Plan, is the largest industry in his southern New Mexico district.

Post image for Obama Administration take note: Quebec decides to develop its natural resources

Quebec, long an economic basket case kept afloat by Canada’s federal government, has decided to open up its northern interior to resource development.  Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced on Monday an ambitious 25-year “Plan Nord” to build highways, airports, and other infrastructure so that the area can be developed.

According to Montreal’s Gazette, “Investments in energy development, mining, forestry, transportation, and tourism in the 1.2-million-square-kilometre region – twice the size of France – will create 20,000 jobs a year, generating $162 billion in growth and tax revenues of $14 billion.”   Large parts of northern Quebec are heavily forested, and there are major deposits of iron, nickel, gold, platinum, cobalt, zinc, vanadium, and rare earths.

The Obama Administration should follow Quebec’s good example.  The Department of the Interior and the U. S. Forest Service (an agency of the U. S. Department of Agriculture) control nearly 30% of the land in the United States, most of it in the West and Alaska, plus the Outer Continental Shelf.  Federal lands and offshore areas contain colossal reserves of energy and minerals plus the most productive forests in the world.  But the Obama Administration is locking up more and more federal lands and offshore areas in order to prevent oil and gas production, hardrock mining, and timber production.  And they’re trying to block coal mining in Appalachia by inventing new pollutants to be regulated.

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Post image for The T. Boone Pickens Earmark Bill

Republicans in the House of Representatives are flocking to support a bill to extend and create a number of taxpayer-funded subsidies for manufacturers and buyers of vehicles powered by natural gas.   Nearly eighty House Republicans (and a hundred Democrats) have signed up as sponsors of H. R. 1380, the New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act (or NAT GAS Act).  Just call it the T. Boone Pickens Earmark Bill.

Many conservative Republicans in the House, particularly a number of new Members with Tea Party connections, have sworn that the fiscal and economic crisis confronting America requires a radical change in federal policies.  Out-of-control spending must be stopped; spending earmarks must be abolished; crony capitalists on the prowl for corporate welfare must be sent packing; subsidies for special interests must be abolished; government must stop interfering in the economy and let free markets work.

That big talk doesn’t seem to apply when the spending is being earmarked for a crony capitalist who is one of the biggest contributors to Republican candidates in history–billionaire T. Boone Pickens.  Apparently, some subsidies are good if they benefit the right special interests.  And government interference in the economy is wonderful if it is done in the name of reducing oil imports.

H. R. 1380 would extend the tax credit of 50 cents per gallon of liquid natural gas (or its equivalent of compressed natural gas) when used for fueling vehicles and provide purchasers of natural gas vehicles with credits ranging from $7,500 to $64,000.  The lower end is for passenger cars and the upper end for big trucks.  There are also credits for natural gas vehicle manufacturers and for installing natural gas fueling stations.

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Post image for Canadian Election Results: No Cap-and-Trade, No Carbon Tax

The stunning victory by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in Canada’s election means the death of cap-and-trade or a carbon tax in Canada.  The Conservative Party’s platform firmly opposed both cap-and-trade and carbon taxes. The Liberal Party, which was annihilated in the election, equally strongly supported imposing a cap-and-trade scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Conservatives won  a clear majority of 167 seats in the 308-member federal Parliament.  They had formed a minority government since 2007.  For the first time in Canadian history, the Liberal Party dropped to third place with 34 seats.  The hard left New Democratic Party (NDP) wiped out the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec and will become the official opposition with 102 seats.  The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois also support cap-and-trade.  The Green Party won its first seat in Parliament.

This is another clear sign that public support for cap-and-trade and other energy-rationing policies is waning.  Cap-and-trade has been dead in the United States since the Waxman-Markey bill narrowly passed the House of Representatives on June 26, 2009.  And in Australia, the Labour Party government is in deep trouble as a result of proposing a carbon tax.  The global warming fad appears to be fading fast.

Post image for EPA Shuts Down Drilling in Alaska

Shell announced today, for now, it must end a project to drill for oil off the coast of Northern Alaska, because of a decision made by an EPA appeals board to deny permits to acknowledge that Shell will meet air quality requirements. This is not part of ANWR.

Companies that drill for oil must go through extensive permitting processes and invest billions of dollars as payments for leasing the land, exploring for possible oil fields, equipment, etc. This is all done with the understanding that assuming they follow the letter of the law, there is a chance that this investment won’t be flushed down the toilet at the end of the tunnel. It appears that in this case Shell has followed procedure and that emissions will be below any standards required by the EPA:

The EPA’s appeals board ruled that Shell had not taken into consideration emissions from an ice-breaking vessel when calculating overall greenhouse gas emissions from the project. Environmental groups were thrilled by the ruling.

“What the modeling showed was in communities like Kaktovik, Shell’s drilling would increase air pollution levels close to air quality standards,” said Eric Grafe, Earthjustice’s lead attorney on the case. Earthjustice was joined by Center for Biological Diversity and the Alaska Wilderness League in challenging the air permits.

Talk about moving the goalposts. They must have been really desperate to cancel this project given that this was the best straight-faced excuse they could muster. Not only do you have to be below the legally required emission limits but you must also not even be “close” to the limits, as defined by unelected officials, one of whom is a former attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Events like this are a prime example of why many in Congress want to strip authority from the EPA. Shell had reportedly invested over $4 billion in this project. When companies make investment decisions, consideration is given to whether or not bureaucrats can make arbitrary decisions to shut the project down halfway through a multi-year process. There are many other countries with natural resource reserves who do not subject economic activity to such unpredictable insanity, and in the eye of a corporation, after an event like this these locations begin to look more preferable to dealing with the United States.




Post image for The IPCC and Conflicts of Interest

Via Roger Pielke Jr.

The IPCC has released documents to address policy changes related to concerns over conflicts of interest that may exist for authors of IPCC reports (summary here). They refer to conflicts of interest as mainly financial in nature, though allow for the possibility of significant non-financial COI’s to be considered as well.

They also have an interesting discussion on the difference between a conflict of interest and bias, noting that bias is mostly unavoidable and attempts will be made to balance perspectives:

Conflict of interest policies in scientific assessment bodies typically make a distinction between “conflict of interest” and “bias,” which refers to a point of view or perspective that is strongly held regarding a particular issue or set of issues. In the case of author and review teams, bias can and should be managed through the selection of a balance of perspectives. For example, it is expected that IPCC author teams will include individuals with different perspectives and affiliations.

Unfortunately, as Roger points out, there a number of problems that remain to be addressed. The submissions rely entirely on individual authors to disclose potential COI’s, and many could go unreported. The most glaring problem though is that the committee will work in secret on these issues and will disclose none of this information to the public.

Given the extent to which there have been problems involving IPCC authors, a tilt towards further transparency of these disclosures or deliberations (while respecting an individual’s financial privacy) seems like a good idea. Do they expect people to be satisfied with “trust us, we looked into this” given past issues?