On the Blog

America’s FCC-FTC Privacy Divide

Somewhat Reasonable - July 09, 2016, 1:00 AM

[Note: This was submitted to the FCC for Reply Comments on the Title II Privacy NPRM]

The FCC’s Open Internet order and proposed Title II privacy rules divided what was unified.

For privacy, it broke what was working. Confused what was clear. Complicated what was simple. Unprotected what they sought to protect. Created more costs than benefits.

Since the Internet’s beginning the FTC has had privacy authority over information services.

For the decade since the FCC classified cable, wireless, and DSL broadband as an information service, and for the entire smartphone era where consumers became familiar with online privacy issues and regulation, the FTC was the sole unified regulator for protecting American consumers’ privacy.

In a 2014 filing to the FCC, the FTC explained why the FTC was better positioned to protect consumer privacy and data security than the FCC, because the FTC had national direct statutory authority to protect all consumers under: Section 5 — that proscribes “deceptive” or “unfair” business practices; the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA); and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, (COPPA).

In November 2014, the FTC and FCC entered a Memorandum of Understanding MOUto avoid duplicative, redundant, or inconsistent oversight” of common carriers.

In the FTC’s May 2016 comments to the FCC on the proposed CPNI privacy rules, the FTC criticized the FCC’s approach as “not optimal” to the extent it “would impose a number of specific requirements on the provision of BIAS services that would not generally apply to other services that collect and use significant amounts of consumer data.”

FTC Commissioner Ohlhausen’s comments to the FCC went further in spotlighting: “The FTC has built its privacy program on the long-established legal principles of unfairness and deception. This framework focuses on the sensitivity of consumer data and particular promises made about data collection and use, rather than on what type of entity collects or uses that data. By contrast, the FCC’s three-tiered “implied consent / opt-out / opt-in” framework focuses on whether the holder of the data is a BIAS provider, an affiliate, or a third party. It does not account for the sensitivity of the consumer data involved. … The FTC approach reflects the fact that consumer privacy preferences differ greatly depending on the type of data and its use.  … If a [FCC] regulation imposes defaults that do not match consumer preferences, it imposes costs on consumers without improving consumer outcomes.”

In a nutshell, the FTC’s public analysis displays a substantial FTC-FCC privacy divide for American consumers. The FTC approach focuses on what consumers care about concerning privacy while the FCC’s approach ignores what consumers care about privacy.

The FCC-FTC privacy divide is much worse than just that.

Before the FCC reclassified broadband as a telephone utility, and before it did not forbear from asserting telephone privacy jurisdiction temporarily until the FCC could devise operative privacy rules, American broadband consumers for the last 16 months have not had any operative federal privacy protection regulation.

That purposeful indefensible lapse in consumer privacy protection suggests that the FCC cares much more about increasing their regulatory authority than protecting American consumers’ privacy and data security.

Before there was no clamor that the FCC had more comprehensive or better privacy authority than the FTC because the FCC’s authority is demonstrably narrower and less effective than the FTC’s in that it can’t protect consumers’ private network information from commercial exploitation on the Internet, it can only decide that a broadband ISP cannot use it for advertising without a consumer’s explicit permission.

Before a consumer did not have to know the practically unknowable, which is what the FCC now expects a consumer to understand – i.e. which of their Internet bits from which type of device, offered by which type of entity, in which direction, are protected or not protected by the FCC now, and in which manner?

Simply, there is no clear way for the FCC to explain to the average consumer how they are better off with the FCC doing selectively, narrowly, and complexly what the FTC did comprehensively and simply before.

In sum, the FCC did not think this through.

The FCC also did not do a cost-benefit analysis as the President’s 2011 Executive Order 13563 required. The FCC was supposed to use “the least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends,” and to “adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination that its benefits justify its costs.”

If the FCC simply followed the President’s 2011 Executive Order as required, the FCC and the American consumer would not be in the lose-lose position of creating lots more costs, confusion and complexity than before, without material and effective offsetting benefits for American consumers’ privacy.

Sadly, the American consumer looks to be worse off now, than if the FCC did not assert partial jurisdiction over consumer privacy at all.

[Originally published at the Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Thanks, FBI: We Real Worlders Find Elite World Inordinately Annoying. Again

Somewhat Reasonable - July 08, 2016, 2:48 PM

How about that FBI no-indictment announcement yesterday? Makes perfect sense to you, I bet.

Ok – I don’t bet that. At all.

What does make sense to us Real Worlders – is seeing yet another Elite get yet another Get-Out-of-Reality-Free card. It is all growing quite tiresome.

We Real Worlders are tired of the Elites’ limitless condescension – combined with incessant wrong-ness.

We’re tired of Elites who are clearly in possession of far less common sense (but many, many more degrees) – mandating ever more portions of our lives.

We’re tired of Elites committing multiple felonies and skating away un-indicted – while we get a ticket nigh every single time we park five minutes longer than the meter for which we paid allows.

A majority of the British people just told the European Union (EU) Elites to get out.

A majority of Americans who participated in the presidential primary totally rejected the Elites – voting for outsiders Donald Trump (in runaway record numbers) and Bernie Sanders.

Don’t think there is Trump-Sanders Elite disgust overlap?

Bernie Sanders Supporters Are Outraged over the FBI’s Decision on Hillary Clinton’s Emails

Sanders Supporters Melt Down over FBI’s Clinton Decision

A large part of the problem is the Elites’ self-created cocoons. In which all sorts of things happen (and don’t happen, eh Hillary Clinton?) that bear no resemblance to anything that goes on in the Real World.

In which academic discussions occur in a Reality-free-vacuum – with no concept of how terribly their ideas will damage the Real World. Which would only be annoying – if these babble-fests were cordoned off to the fevered swamps of college campus faculty lounges. The problem is – the Elites are increasingly trying to turn this nonsense into government policy.

To wit: The protection of intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc). In Elite World, intellectual property is bizarrely considered less than physical property – and deserving of far less protection. And by many – none whatsoever.

As often happens in Elite World, the Constitution is completely ignored. Behold the Copyright Clause:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Meanwhile, the Elites write books like “Against Intellectual Property” and “Against Intellectual Monopoly.” They write essays like “Intellectual Property Rights Gone Wild” and “Intellectual Property Is Theft.” In which they say incredibly silly, anti-Constitutional things like:

Property is the exclusive right to use this boat, this paper, this trap, these speakers, this computer, this plastic, or this aluminum.

Monopoly is the exclusive right to use any boat to trade with India, to use any paper to make playing cards in 17th century England, to use any trap to catch beavers in North America, to use any speakers to play “Happy Birthday,” to use any computer to deliver a podcast or download “Happy Birthday,” to use any plastic and aluminum to build a certain kind of washing machine….

Since it is an exclusive right to use any means in a certain way, intellectual “property” is not property at all, but monopoly. Intellectual “property” is therefore a misnomer, euphemistically used by state-privileged monopolists to drape their monopolies in the mantle of property.

But Real Worlders aren’t warping the word “property” – the Elites are warping the word “monopoly.”

The Constitution mandates the “securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” It is not exclusive use of ANY patent, trademark or copyright – it is exclusive use of the patent, trademark or copyright that they themselves create.

According to the above author’s weird IP analogy, my buying a car would allow me to drive any car I see. When in fact it only allows me to drive the car I purchased – and to retain monopolistic control over who else is allowed to drive it. For instance, I can lease my car to someone in exchange for payment.

Just as I can lease my patent to someone in exchange for payment. My (patented/trademarked/copyrighted) idea is like my car – it’s mine. The Constitution and common sense dictate that what’s mine is mine – and not wide open to theft by everyone else on the planet.

You know who agrees with me? The Real World. Even some Real Worlders who exist inside Elite World bubbles – but manage to remain un-addled thereby.

Protect Your Intellectual Rights, Budding Entrepreneurs Told

Americans Must Channel the Founders and Protect Artists’ Property Rights

5 Ways Intellectual Property Will Be Critical To Your Career: “(I)intellectual property (IP) – patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets – …is now the key engine of opportunity for almost any successful career in the future.”

If IP is important to your job(s) – and it is – it is important to jobs, period. Which means it is important to any hope for a growing economy.

There is great and growing evidence that most Elites care only about government growth – which is antithetical to economic growth. So they don’t mind stomping out IP – and thus the economy.

We Real Worlders understand this. Which is why we’re in the process of rejecting the Elites.

Here’s hoping we do so as rapidly as possible.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Heartland’s Jay Lehr on Making America Healthy Again with Exercise and … Global Warming!

Somewhat Reasonable - July 08, 2016, 2:47 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Help Heartland Celebrate #OurAmerica Throughout July The Heartland Institute has joined other nonprofit groups this July to bring our country together to emphasize what makes America fundamentally good and what distinguishes it from other nations. The goal of this new #OurAmerica coalition is to reenergize and provide hope for mainstream Americans who are demoralized by the erosion of American liberty and the constant assault on our core principles. Visit Heartland’s web page dedicated to this project, where you’ll find memes, videos, resources, and more! To celebrate American exceptionalism, use the hashtag #OurAmerica on your social media accounts to help express your pride and hope for the country’s future. LEARN MORE

The States’ Duty to Defend Against Federal Excess Rob Natelson, Heartland Policy Brief As more states approve applications for an Article V convention, opponents of constitutional reform continue to object to any potential changes to the all-important document. But as constitutional scholar Rob Natelson writes in this new Heartland Policy Brief, James Madison and other Founders “emphasized state officials’ obligation to interpose in a constitutional manner when the people are threatened by federal overreaching.”   READ MORE

Early Bird Rates Now Available for Heartland’s 32nd Anniversary Benefit Dinner  On Thursday, September 15, The Heartland Institute will celebrate its 32nd anniversary with a reception and dinner at The Cotillion, a fine banquet hall in Palatine, Illinois. Our keynote speaker will be political satirist and author P.J. O’Rourke, who will deliver an incisive and funny address about the 2016 election and the state of politics and culture in America today. Early bird rates end July 31 and seats will fill up fast, so don’t hesitate to buy your tickets today! READ MORE

Featured Podcast: Jay Lehr: Make America Healthy Again with Exercise and … Global Warming! For the past three decades, the media and culture has fed Americans the narrative the use of fossil fuels will lead to global warming and wreak havoc on future generations. But, in reality, we should be more concerned about potential global cooling. Heartland Science Director Jay Lehr joins The Heartland Daily Podcast to discuss the health benefits of moderate warming, as well as highlighting the fundamental problems with our “sick” care system.  LISTEN TO MORE

Visit Heartland’s #OurAmerica page to find other memes to share and
ideas on how to promote our shared values

Coming Next Week: Property Rights in 21st-Century America On Wednesday, July 20, authors Timothy and Christina Sandefur will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to talk about their book Property Rights in 21st-Century America. On Wednesday, July 27, Eric O’Keefe – who successfully fought back against the infamous “John Doe” investigations in Wisconsin – will be here to talk about how the power of the state can be used to silence patriotic Americans. You won’t want to miss either of these important presentations! We hope to see you here in Arlington Heights, but if you are unable to attend in person, the events will be live-streamed and archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

What Happens If the Social Costs of Carbon Goes Negative? H. Sterling Burnett, Climate Change Weekly Two new climate studies have delivered a critical blow to global warming alarmism. Estimates driven by old computer models projected an increase of 1.2°C in global temperature if carbon-dioxide levels double. However, new research relying on available empirical data shows the climate’s sensitivity to higher amounts of carbon dioxide is much lower than previously thought – as low as 0.02°C if carbon-dioxide levels double. With these modest temperature projections, perhaps the Chicken Little tendencies of climate alarmists will subside. READ MORE

ACT: Common Core Does Not Prepare Students for College Jenni White, The Heartlander According to findings published by the American College Testing (ACT) National Curriculum Survey, Common Core State Standards fail to prepare students for college. According to the ACT survey, released in June, only 16 percent of college educators say incoming students are prepared for post-secondary coursework. “The college instructors are having to grapple with students who are not fully prepared for college writing,” said Mary Byrne, a former college professor and a member of the Missouri Coalition Against Common Core. READ MORE

Video: Heartland Event Featuring Cedric Keith – A Discussion About Libertarian Ecology On July 7, environmental activist Cedric C. Keith came to The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to discuss his new book The Dying Fish: A Sojourn to the Source. At this interesting event, Keith spoke about his incredible 4,000-mile walk through the wilds of the Appalachian Trail to help preserve a supposedly endangered species: the brook trout. If you were unable to attend or watch the live-stream, you can see the whole presentation on our YouTube page. WATCH IT HERE

Bonus Podcast: In The Tank (ep45): Texas Public Policy Foundation, Article V, Privatization, and the Fourth of July John and Donny continue their exploration of think tanks across the country in Episode #45 of the In The Tank Podcast. Jess Fields, Article V project coordinator at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, joins the show to discuss the importance of independence and give updates on the Article V movement. Also featured in the podcast is a study by the Cato Institute about privatization and a discussion about the most patriotic states.  LISTEN TO MORE

Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies! Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Many people rely on our profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

In The Tank Podcast (ep46): #OurAmerica, Monopolies and Antitrust, and Sin Taxes

Somewhat Reasonable - July 08, 2016, 10:30 AM

John and Donny are joined by Heartland Director of Communications Jim Lakely in episode #46 of the In The Tank Podcast. This weekly podcast features (as always) interviews, debates, and roundtable discussions that explore the work of think tanks across the country. The show is available for download as part of the Heartland Daily Podcast every Friday. Today’s podcast features work from the Heartland Institute, the Center for American Progress, and the Commonwealth Foundation.

Better Know a Think Tank

In today’s edition of Better Know a Think Tank, John and Donny speak with Jim Lakely about the Heartland Institute’s announcement that we are joining a coalition in a month-long campaign in July to celebrate American exceptionalism. Jim discusses why the #OurAmerica campaign is important, which other organizations are involved, and why patriotism is downtrending.

Featured Work of the Week

In this Featured Work of the Week segment, Donny, John and Jim respond to a report from the Center for American Progress. The report, titled “Reviving Antitrust: Why Our Economy Needs a Progressive Competition Policy,” makes a case for expanding the use of antitrust to limit mergers and increase competition. Donny, John and Jim comment on what they liked about the report, and more importantly, what the report got wrong.

In the World of Think Tankery

In this week’s “think tankery” segment, Donny, John and Jim talk about an article from the Commonwealth Foundation titled “Sin-sylvania?” The article talks about how Pennsylvania takes in more tax revenue from “sin taxes.” A supplementary article titled “Three Reasons to Avoid Tobacco Taxes” explains why “sin taxes” should be avoided.

Events

I hope you’ll listen in, subscribe, and leave a review for our podcast on iTunes. We welcome your feedback in our new show’s inbox at InTheTankPodcast@gmail.com or follow us on twitter @InTheTankPod.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

heartland daily podcast, hdpodcast, podcast, in the tank, itt, donald kendal, donny kendal, john nothdurft, public policy, center for american progress, respond, cap, commonwealth foundation, sin taxes, monopolies, pa, antitrust,

Categories: On the Blog

Parents, Declare Your Education Independence

Somewhat Reasonable - July 08, 2016, 9:41 AM

On July 4, 1776, American colonists declared their independence from a distant monarchy in Great Britain that had passed mandate after mandate without input from the people over which it ruled. Today, lawmakers and bureaucrats in Washington, DC and state capitals across the country pass mandates local schools hundreds or even thousands of miles away must obey or else face severe budget cuts.

These mandates are often detrimental for those looking to attain a quality education, such as assigning students to schools by their ZIP code, demanding students take feckless tests, and counting the number of hours students sit in their seats as a gauge of academic performance. Others are downright absurd, such as dictating what bathrooms and locker rooms students must use and restricting the width of doors. These mandates are a one-size-fits-all approach, bereft of any meaningful input from parents.

Now is the time for parents to declare education independence for their children.

The Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions parents have the right to direct the education of their children, including in Meyer v. State of Nebraska (1923) and Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925). The court ruled in Meyer a state could not prohibit the teaching of children in a language other than English — based on 14th Amendment protections — and the Court determined such requirements violate the rights of teachers and parents “to control the education of their own.”

In Pierce, which arose after Oregon mandated students attend the local public school where they reside, the Supreme Court ruled, “Under the doctrine of Meyer v. Nebraska … [W]e think it entirely plain that the Act of 1922 unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control. … The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

It is clear from these rulings and the history of our great nation parents have more power than they realize or exercise over how their children are educated. Parents have allowed state and federal bureaucrats to wield far too much control over their children.

Of course, the education bureaucrats will claim only they know what a child should learn and how he or she should learn it. They will also claim mandates are necessary and even good. They hope parents will just believe their talking points and willingly give up their rights. Many parents have trusted these false narratives and handed their children over to a system that is failing to provide many children with a quality education.

The 240th anniversary of a disaffected populace that broke free from an unaccountable bureaucracy is a time to remember the tenets of that original declaration: self-evident truths, equality, and unalienable rights. Governments are implemented by the people and for the people, and when they no longer obey the people, they are to be altered or replaced.

It is self-evident our federal and state elected officials and education departments have usurped unalienable parental rights, especially parents’ right to control the education of their children.

Parents, it is time to declare your education independence and to reassert your right to direct fully the education of your children, who have an unalienable right to seek the education that best fits their needs — regardless of income or ZIP code. Education freedom is the key to unlocking your children’s future, granting them access to a better life, liberty, and enabling them to succeed in their pursuit of happiness.

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Kyle Maichle: A Debate About the Need for an Article V Convention

Somewhat Reasonable - July 07, 2016, 2:45 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Heartland Project Manager for Constitutional Reform, Kyle Maichle, joins the Steel on Steel radio show to talk about a potential Article V Convention.

Maichle is joined by Richard Fry, general counsel for the Patriot Coalition. Maichle and Fry debate on whether we need an Article V Convention.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Giving Every American $10,000 Could Solve the Minimum Wage Debate

Somewhat Reasonable - July 07, 2016, 2:22 PM

Whether raising the minimum wage would alleviate poverty or not has caused the public to argue intensely on either side of the issue, but what if the minimum wage debate isn’t the right one to have when addressing poverty?

According to a study conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, raising the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would bring 900,000 people out of poverty. As with everything in economics, there is a cost. The same study also finds it would cause a net loss of 500,000 jobs.

Some argue these job losses are a trade-off that must be made for the greater good, but how much “good” would be accomplished? How much would a minimum wage increase to $10.10 help families below the poverty line? The answer is not much. The Congressional Budget Office reports that “families whose income will be below the poverty threshold in 2016 under current law will have an average income of $10,700, CBO projects. The agency estimates that the $10.10 option would raise their average real income by about $300, or 2.8 percent,” up to $11,000.

In addition to the loss of jobs, the price of many goods would increase to allow employers to compensate for the minimum wage increase.

Fred Donnelly, the President of California Composites, which makes commercial plane parts, moved his company’s headquarters to Texas this year. When asked about the move he said, “This is the last thing I want to do, but I don’t see that I have a choice,” referring to the $15 minimum wage hike California passed. Is the solution to increase the minimum wage or something completely different?

One way to make the minimum wage debate obsolete would be to provide an unconditional basic income to every American in lieu of raising the minimum wage. Before conservatives dismiss the idea as some sort of back door to socialism, it would be wise to consider it was advanced by Milton Friedman, one of the modern conservative movement’s highly respected thinkers. He stated in his book, Capitalism and Freedom, “A negative income tax provides comprehensive reform which would do more efficiently and humanely what our present welfare system does so inefficiently and inhumanely.” Experts tend to equate the negative income tax to an unconditional basic income, UBI.

A UBI is not just a decades-old idea; it’s one that has been gaining significant attention in recent years. Libertarian political scientist Charles Murray published “In Our Hands” in 2006, which details what he believes to be an effective way to carry out a basic income plan. In June, Switzerland became the first country to vote on a basic income referendum. Although voters opposed the measure, it did bring widespread attention to the idea.

Under Murray’s plan, every American citizen 21 years of age and older would receive $10,000 of disposable income per year. There are, however, two main stipulations to his plan: The first one is that an unconditional basic income (UBI), would be funded by terminating “all other transfer payments and the bureaucracies that oversee them” as Murray put it in a recent Wall Street Journal article explaining his philosophy. This would eliminate the more than 80 welfare programs such as social security, food stamps, Medicaid, etc. Corporate welfare and farming subsidies would also need to be eliminated. Under Murray’s plan, those programs must be completely repealed before the first dollar on an UBI is spent – so they cannot be resurrected and “added” to an UBI at a later date.

According to Murray, with these measures in place, “as of 2014, the annual cost of a UBI would have been about $200 billion cheaper than the current system. By 2020, it would be nearly a trillion dollars cheaper.”

One of the points of opposition against a UBI is that it would diminish incentives to work. Ultimately, how an individual responds to this plan is up to them, but the way this specific UBI is set up would make work too valuable for most to stop. Earned income up to $30,000 would not result in any loss on the $10,000 due to taxes. Between $30,000 and $60,000 of income, the grant is taxable. At an income of $60,000, recipients would still keep $6,500 of the grant, and so would everyone in every other income level above that.

Since the grant is nontaxable up to a certain point and nontaxable after a certain point, every dollar a person earns outside of the grant is more money in their pocket. Stated another way, since there is a limit to how much a person can be taxed on the grant, the more a person works does not necessarily mean that they get to keep less of the grant. Of course, this will not incentivize everyone, but most will continue working once the grant is implemented.

Where does this leave the minimum wage debate? It becomes irrelevant. If a UBI of $10,000 were put into place, businesses could pay their employees the current minimum wage of their state, yet these employees would see their quality of life increase instantly. At the same time, there would be no adverse effects on these businesses, because the weight of being arbitrarily forced to increase their employee’s incomes disappears.

The United States might not be ready right now to start having a debate over an unconditional basic income. And no, it’s not going to solve all poverty problems, even if it’s adopted in its purest form. With that said, the UBI would allow businesses to operate freely and pay their employees a real market rate rather than an arbitrary amount set by government. While not perfect, this is an “out of the box” idea that could help alleviate poverty and make the minimum wage debate moot.

Victoria Hart (think@heartland.org) is an intern for the government relations department at The Heartland Institute.

Categories: On the Blog

New EPA Emissions Report Threatens Alabama Industries

Somewhat Reasonable - July 07, 2016, 10:46 AM

The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest report on greenhouse gas emissions demonstrates shrewd political strategy — and a wanton disregard for objective science.

Using a new methodology that seems to have been designed to produce exactly the conclusion it did, the EPA has now found that the nation’s methane emissions have been dramatically higher in recent years than previously thought. And for the EPA, this is a story with a villain: In a major departure from earlier studies, this year’s report claims the oil and gas industry is the nation’s chief methane culprit.

Green activists were quick to trumpet the new findings as proof that the oil and gas industry is behind all of our environmental ills.

Never mind the undisputed evidence that oil and gas companies — including those right here in Alabama — have actually been helping drive the nation’s recent historic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than supporting an American energy model that continues to drive down emissions, regulators prefer the political convenience of pointing the finger at Big Oil.

There are a number of reasons to be skeptical of the EPA’s new data. First, years of government research show that methane emissions from the oil and gas industries have actually been falling. According to last year’s report from the EPA, methane pollution from natural gas dropped by nearly 11 percent from 2005 to 2013. The new study, by contrast, shows a decline of less than 1 percent during that period.

That statistic is mysterious considering that the energy sector has taken many steps to reduce emissions. Aaron Oil in Mobile, for example, filters fuels and oils that have been contaminated so they can be reused at maximum performance with fewer emissions. Meanwhile, Birmingham’s Alabama Power has embraced technology that produces electricity more efficiently, reducing overall emissions. Nationwide, since 2000, oil and gas companies have invested roughly $90 billion in technologies designed to slash harmful pollutants.

It’s also impossible to ignore the political ammunition these updated estimates provide for the Obama administration. The EPA recently issued new methane regulations to significantly cut methane pollution in the oil and gas sector. The revised findings will help justify these standards.

Regulations of this type are certain to raise the cost of everything from heating oil to gasoline, which makes them politically tricky. By crowning the oil and gas industry as the top emitters of methane, the EPA has manufactured precisely the scapegoat it needs.

At the same time, the report deflects attention from last year’s leader in methane emissions: animals like cattle, sheep, and swine. The 2015 EPA report found that the American livestock population has produced more methane pollution than the natural gas industry every year since at least 2009. For the Obama administration, it’s always about finding a villain, rather than a solution.

A regulatory crackdown aimed at the agricultural industry — or steak-lovers, for that matter — is a political non-starter. From the EPA’s perspective, better to focus the blame on the oil and gas industry.

But by putting politics before science, the EPA is attacking a vital component of Alabama’s economy. The state’s oil and gas sector supports over 100,000 jobs that pay an average $64,000 per year — over $20,000 more than the average salary statewide. And, the industry generates more than six percent of Alabama’s economic activity, bringing in $11.3 billion annually.

What’s more, the EPA is missing an opportunity to substantially reduce emissions. The shale energy boom has led to an abundance of low-cost natural gas — an energy source that emits roughly half the CO2 of coal. As domestic power-generation has moved towards this cleaner fuel in recent years, America’s emissions have fallen to nearly 20-year lows.

If environmental regulators are genuinely interested in cutting global emissions, then they should abandon their attempts to undermine one of the few industries making progress on this front. The EPA should work instead to spread this pollution-cutting energy model to other nations.

Consider exports of liquefied natural gas. At a time when America has become the global leader in natural gas production, Western Europe remains dependent on Russia for their gas. Expanding our natural gas exports would provide our allies with a more reliable supply of a fuel.

That environmentalists are unlikely to support such a policy is telling. As the new EPA report makes clear, the green movement is more interested in smearing the oil and gas industry than in acknowledging the facts — and protecting Alabama’s thriving energy sector.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

May Free Speech Reign and Scientific Inquiry Prevail

Somewhat Reasonable - July 06, 2016, 3:18 PM

Throughout the past four years, climate change activists have been secretly coordinating with one another regarding ways to prosecute individuals, organizations, and companies that are their ideological foes. They met to develop a strategy to use RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), which was intended to provide stronger weapons for prosecuting organized crime, against those who speak out against the Obama administration’s war on fossil fuels.

More recently, the activists, including Naomi Oreskes and Bill McKibben, have coordinated with Attorneys General (AG) culminating with a March 29 press conference, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman and joined by former Vice President Al Gore. There the “unprecedented coalition”—as Schneiderman’s press release called it—was announced: the newly formed AGs for Clean Power. Though “vague” on their specific plans, 17 AGs (16 Democrats and 1 Independent) have, as the Huffington Post reported: “committed to pursuing an all-levers approach” to, as Gore said: “hold to account those commercial interests that have been, according to the best available evidence, deceiving the American people, communicating in a fraudulent way.”

ExxonMobil has been the first and most obvious target. While the RICO Act is federal legislation passed in 1970, more than two dozen states have “Baby RICO” laws—which are, according to InsideClimateNews.org, “broader than the federal version.”

Four different investigations claiming that Exxon conspired to cover up its understanding of climate science have been launched. Schneiderman was the first. Last November, he issued a subpoena demanding: “that ExxonMobil Corporation give investigators documents spanning four decades of research findings and communications about climate change.” In January, the Los Angeles Times announced: “California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris is investigating whether Exxon Mobil Corp. repeatedly lied to the public and its shareholders about the risk to its business from climate change—and whether such actions could amount to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws.” On April 19, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey opened an investigation to seek “information regarding whether Exxon may have misled consumers and/or investors with respect to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, and climate change-driven risks to Exxon’s business.” Just days after the March 29 press conference, Virgin Islands’ AG Claude Walker, in his demand for records, became the first to cite the racketeering law to “probe Exxon over its longtime denial of climate change and its products’ role in it.” Additionally, he listed roughly 100 academic institutions and free market think tanks in his subpoena. The National Review reports that Walker promised a “transformational” use of his prosecutorial powers in the global-warming crusade. Separately, Walker also subpoenaed records from the respected Washington DC think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Schneiderman and Healey have also requested records from research and advocacy groups. Harris, who is running for the Senate seat to be vacated by retiring Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), “isn’t expected to do much in terms of investigating Exxon,” according to the Daily Caller.

The Free Beacon references “internal documents” stating that the goals of the larger campaign are:

  • “delegitimize [ExxonMobil] as a political actor,”
  • “force officials to disassociate themselves from Exxon,”
  • “drive divestment from Exxon,” and
  • “to drive Exxon & climate into center of 2016 election.”

`The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) adds:

  • “to establish in the public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution that has pushed humanity (and all creation) toward climate chaos and grave harm.”

Despite the attacks on Exxon, WSJ quotes Lee Wasserman, director of the Rockefeller Family Fund—one of the foundations behind the crusade—as saying: “It’s not really about Exxon.” Instead: “It’s about helping the larger public understand the urgencies of finding climate solutions.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has long advocated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate whether Exxon and other fossil fuel companies violated the RICO statute by disputing the role of fossil fuel burning in global warming, at a recent hearing, asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch if she’d considered using RICO against fossil fuel companies. She replied: “This matter has been discussed. We have received information about it and have referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action on.”

WSJ reports: “The new legal theory has yet to gain momentum within the Justice Department, according to officials familiar with internal discussions. But after prodding by lawmakers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting a preliminary review.”

Even legal scholars, such as Columbia Law School professor Merritt B. Fox, who, according to Reuters, agrees with the importance of climate change, expressed skepticism about the legal strategy of the prosecutors: “The market was well supplied with information about climate change from a variety of sources.” Reuters adds: “investors get information on climate change from many sources and Exxon would probably not be able to alter the ‘total mix’ of publically available information.” Similarly, Pat Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at the Vermont Law School, is quoted by InsideClimateNews.org: “Hopefully there is something more than unsubstantiated suspicion to support this.” Parenteau explains: “The most serious question is whether the attorney general [Walker] has any basis to suspect that Exxon has engaged in activities that violate the statutes about obtaining money by false pretense and fraud.” In WSJ, David Uhlmann, a university of Michigan law professor and former federal crimes prosecutor, expressed concern regarding the ability to establish “clear culpability for global warming.” The reporting says: “Millions of individuals contribute with their use of fossil fuels, while national governments have done little despite knowing the risks.” Uhlmann states: “Exxon should have been far more forthright about the risks associated with climate change, but all of us are culpable for our collective failure to change.”

Then there are the opponents. WSJ points out: “Both sides see this as a pivotal moment in a growing campaign by environmentalists to deploy a legal strategy used against tobacco companies in the 1990s by arguing that oil companies have long hidden what they know about climate change.”

Late last month, five Republican Senators sent a letter to Lynch demanding that: “the DOJ immediately cease its ongoing use of law enforcement to stifle private debate on one of the most controversial issues of our time—climate change.”

William Perry Pendley, whose group, the Mountain States Legal Foundation, is named in Walker’s subpoena, told me the effort by environmental groups is: “an abuse of power that we haven’t seen in this country since Woodrow Wilson.” His foundation, according to the Washington Times, has “long acknowledged that Exxon is one of its many funders.” Pendley says: “accepting funding from Exxon and disagreeing with Greenpeace on the causes and extent of climate change are not crimes. What we are accused of saying is: ‘Maybe there isn’t global warming, maybe it’s not caused by man, and maybe your solution won’t work. It will be too expensive and drive us into poverty.’”

Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for the Reason Foundation—also named in Walker’s subpoena—said, according to the Washington Times: “These subpoenas are a huge step in using courts to silence people who hold views that differ from those of powerful government officials.”

CEI, the organization singled out for Walker’s separate subpoena, issued the following statement from president Ken Lassman: “All Americans have the right to support causes they believe in and the CEI subpoena is an abuse of the legal system and an effort to intimidate and silence individuals who disagree with certain attorneys general on the climate debate. Disagreeing with a government official is not a crime; abusing government power to take away Americans’ rights is.”

I know this to be true as my organization, though not featured on Walker’s list, is still a victim. We had some essential funding in place that would have allowed us to continue for months without extreme financial stress. However the DC policy shop that was to provide the support for our efforts, pulled it as a result of the AG’s campaign. I was told that the funding was approved, but that when I wrote my April 25 column on the film Climate Hustle—which questions the science behind the politically correct narrative of manmade catastrophic climate change—the board got cold feet because they, too, are one of the organizations on the list. At first, I wanted to quit, as without the funding I couldn’t continue. But then, I got mad. I realized that if I stopped doing what I do, these AGs would win—which is their goal. Indirectly, they attempted to silence me. I am grateful for individuals and companies who believe in my work and who have stepped up to fill the funding gap—at least for a few months.

Those of us who’ve been attacked are not the only ones who saw the flaw of the AG’s crusade. Exxon and CEI have filed lawsuits against the accusers. Exxon claimed that the subpoenas “violated constitutional amendments on free speech, unreasonable search and seizure and equal protection.” As a result, last week, Walker withdrew his subpoenas and Healey, reports the Daily Caller, has “agreed to an abeyance of the subpoena, meaning her office won’t enforce the subpoena until all legal appeals are exhausted, which may take a couple of years.”

In a big victory for free speech, The Hill states: “The withdrawal closes a major chapter in the drive by liberals and environmentalists to punish Exxon over allegations that it knew decades ago that fossil fuels were causing climate change but denied it publically.”

In response to the “retreat,” Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology said: it “confirms what my committee has known all along—these legal actions were conceived and driven by environmental groups with an extreme political agenda and no actual regard for the law.” His statement added: “Companies, nonprofit organizations and scientists deserve the ability to pursue research free from intimidation and threat of prosecution.”

The Heartland Institute, for which I serve as an “expert” on energy issues, is also on the “list.” Its president, Joe Bast, told me: “because there is a lively debate over the causes and consequences of climate change, this litigation has First Amendment implications.” He added: “It is not the possibility of harm to the public that led the AGs and DOJ to decide to enter into a wickedly complicated scientific debate, but the possibility of harm to the current administration in the White House. Their objective is to silence opposition by ExxonMobil and CEI (and other nonprofit organizations similar to CEI) to this administration’s draconian energy policies.”

Where these attacks on free speech go next remains to be seen. But as Texas AG Ken Paxton said in response to Walker’s withdrawal: “In America, we have the freedom to disagree, and we do not legally prosecute people just because their opinion is different from ours.”

May free speech reign and scientific inquiry prevail. True science welcomes a challenge because it can stand up to it—while political correctness must silence challenge.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Categories: On the Blog

Our Air Is Getting Cleaner, And Natural Gas Deserves Some Fracking Credit

Somewhat Reasonable - July 06, 2016, 3:06 PM

A new study released by the World Health Organization (WHO) says although outdoor air pollution worldwide has increased by 8% in the past five years, air quality in the United States has become cleaner. A key reason that air quality has improved is because more Americans than ever are now relying on natural gas, and burning natural gas emits fewer pollutants into the atmosphere than burning coal.

The air in this country is getting cleaner, and natural gas deserves some fracking credit.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, has turned the U.S. into the largest producer of natural gas in the world. Fracking has unleashed so much natural gas that prices have plummeted in the past several years, which has made it cheaper to generate electricity from burning natural gas than from coal. This is an important part of explaining why WHO recorded lower levels of air pollutants in the U.S.

Burning natural gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal, and it also emits lower levels of other pollutants as well. For example, natural gas emits one-third the nitrogen oxides and only 1% of the sulfur oxides that are produced by burning coal.

These two compounds can combine with water vapor in the atmosphere to create very small particles — particles measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which are commonly referred to as PM2.5. When these particles are present in very high concentrations, they have been linked to negative health impacts such as increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.

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Not only did WHO find that air quality has improved in the United States in recent years, the study found that cities in North America generally have cleaner air than in Europe, where several countries — including France, Germany and Ireland — have placed moratoriums or bans on hydraulic fracturing.

According to WHO data, only 20% of North American cities exceeded their recommended levels of PM2.5 — which are more restrictive than levels established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — compared to Europe, where 60% of urban areas experienced air quality that was above the recommended concentrations.

Air quality was even worse in low- and middle-income countries, where an astonishing 98% of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants exceeded WHO recommendations, largely because they do not have the same technology that reduces pollution from coal-fired power plants.

As unrealistic as it may seem, there are 2.6 billion people (approximately 38% of the total population) in the developing world still using wood and animal dung to cook their food and heat their homes. Burning wood and animal dung in their houses causes indoor air pollution that kills 4 million people every year, more than double the amount of people who are killed by malaria or HIV/AIDS.

Fracking for natural gas represents an opportunity to reduce the amount of particle pollution in the air without increasing the cost of electricity. This is important because low-income families pay a much larger percentage of their income on energy costs, meaning that they have to work more hours and spend less time with their kids when energy prices rise.

The EPA conducted a thorough assessment of fracking and found no evidence that fracking led to widespread or systemic impacts on groundwater quality, and it found that although surface spills and well-casing leaks have occurred, they are rare compared to the number of wells drilled.

Not only does fracking help reduce air pollution and keep energy prices stable, it does so without harming water quality. It’s time for anti-fracking activists to give credit where credit is due.

[Originally published at Investor’s Business Daily]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jay Lehr: Make America Healthy Again with Exercise, Veggies and … Global Warming!

Somewhat Reasonable - July 06, 2016, 2:55 PM

Global warming is good for your health, Steve Forbes knows how to fix the United States’ broken health care system, and there are few drugs out there whose salubrious effects a healthier lifestyle can’t at least partially convey–without the Kafka-esque side effects!–according to Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr, Ph.D.

Lehr joins Health Care News managing editor Michael Hamilton on today’s Health Care News Podcast to review these subjects, all of which Lehr has written on at news.heartland.org/health and in our print paper distributed to every state and federal lawmaker in the country, plus policy analysts, health care professionals, and astute citizens who recognize that health care policy should be free and clear.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

[Please subscribe to the Health Care News Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Cedric Keith: The Dying Fish

Somewhat Reasonable - July 05, 2016, 5:29 AM

In today’s edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Cedric Keith, author of The Dying Fish: A Sojourn to the Source, joins Managing Editor of Environment & Climate News H. Sterling Burnett to talk about his 4,000-mile walk through the wilds of the east.

Keith went on this journey intent on preserving the eastern brook trout, and how, along the way, he became an optimist about the recovery of the environment.

Cedric Keith will be at the Heartland Institute on Thursday, July 07 to talk about his book. You can watch the live stream of the event here.

[Please subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

A Declaration of Independence from Big Government

Somewhat Reasonable - July 04, 2016, 12:15 PM

The Declaration of Independence, proclaimed by members of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, is the founding document of the American experiment in free government. What is too often forgotten is that what the Founding Fathers argued against in the Declaration was the heavy and intrusive hand of big government.

Most Americans easily recall those eloquent words with which the Founding Fathers expressed the basis of their claim for independence from Great Britain in 1776:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Grievances Against Intrusive Government

But what is usually not recalled is the long list of enumerated grievances that make up most of the text of the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers explained how intolerable an absolutist and highly centralized government in faraway London had become. This distant government violated the personal and civil liberties of the people living in the 13 colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America.

In addition, the king’s ministers imposed rigid and oppressive economic regulations and controls on the colonists that was part of the 18th-century system of government central planning known as mercantilism.

“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” the signers declared.

Concentration of Power and Arbitrary Rule

At every turn, the British Crown had concentrated political power and decision-making in its own hands, leaving the American colonists with little ability to manage their own affairs through local and state governments. Laws and rules were imposed without the consent of the governed; local laws and procedures meant to limit abusive or arbitrary government were abrogated or ignored.

The king also had attempted to manipulate the legal system by arbitrarily appointing judges that shared his power-lusting purposes or were open to being influenced to serve the monarch’s policy goals. The king’s officials unjustly placed colonists under arrest in violation of writ of habeas corpus, and sentenced them to prison without trial by jury. Colonists often were violently conscripted to serve in the king’s armed forces and made to fight in foreign wars.

A financially burdensome standing army was imposed on the colonists without the consent of the local legislatures. Soldiers often were quartered in the homes of the colonists without their approval or permission.

In addition, the authors of the Declaration stated, the king fostered civil unrest by creating tensions and conflicts among the different ethnic groups in his colonial domain. (The English settlers and the Native American Indian tribes.)

Government Violation of Economic Liberty

But what was at the heart of many of their complaints and grievances against King George III were the economic controls that limited their freedom and the taxes imposed that confiscated their wealth and honestly earned income.

The fundamental premise behind the mercantilist planning system was the idea that it was the duty and responsibility of the government to manage and direct the economic affairs of society. The British Crown shackled the commercial activities of the colonists with a spider’s web of regulations and restrictions. The British government told them what they could produce, and dictated the resources and the technologies that could be employed.

The government prevented the free market from setting prices and wages, and manipulated what goods would be available to the colonial consumers. It dictated what goods might be imported or exported between the 13 colonies and the rest of the world, thus preventing the colonists from benefiting from the gains that could have been theirs under free trade.

Everywhere, the king appointed various “czars” who were to control and command much of the people’s daily affairs of earning a living. Layer after layer of new bureaucracies were imposed over every facet of life. “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance,” the Founding Fathers explain.

In addition, the king and his government imposed taxes upon the colonists without their consent. Their income was taxed to finance expensive and growing projects that the king wanted and that he thought were good for the people, whether the people themselves wanted them or not.

Burdensome Taxes, Tax Evasion, and Violent Government

The 1760s and early 1770s saw a series of royal taxes that burdened the American colonists and aroused their ire: the Sugar Act of 1764, the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townsend Acts of 1767, the Tea Act of 1773 (which resulted in the Boston Tea Party), and a wide variety of other fiscal impositions.

The American colonists often were extremely creative at avoiding and evading the Crown’s regulations and taxes through smuggling and bribery (Paul Revere smuggled Boston pewter into the West Indies in exchange for contraband molasses.)

The British government’s response to the American colonists’ “civil disobedience” against its regulations and taxes was harsh. The king’s army and navy killed civilians and wantonly ruined people’s private property. “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people,” the Declaration laments.

Opposing Oppressive Government to be Free

After enumerating these and other complaints, the Founding Fathers said in the Declaration:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Thus, the momentous step was taken to declare their independence from the British Crown. The signers of the Declaration then did “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor,” in their common cause of establishing a free government and the individual liberty of the, then, three million occupants of those original 13 colonies.

Never before in history had a people declared and then established a government based on the principles of the individual’s right to his life, liberty, and property.

Never before was a society founded on the ideal of economic freedom, under which free men were declared to have the right to live for themselves in their own individual interest, and peacefully produce and exchange with each other on the terms they find mutually beneficial without the stranglehold of regulating and planning government.

Never before had a people made clear that self-government meant not only the right of electing those who would hold political office and pass the laws of the land, but also meant that each human being had the right to be self-governing over his own life.

Indeed, in those inspiring words in the Declaration, the Founding Fathers were insisting that each man should be considered as owning himself, and not be viewed as the property of the state to be manipulated by either king or Parliament.

It is worth remembering, therefore, that what we are celebrating every July 4 is the idea and the ideal of each human being’s right to his life and liberty, and his freedom to pursue happiness in his own way, without paternalistic and plundering government getting in his way.

Overcoming the Chains of Political Tyranny Today

We should turn to the words of Thomas Jefferson, written to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1826, the very day, in fact, that Jefferson died at the age of eighty-three:

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government.

“That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man . . . The palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

The “monkish ignorance and superstition” of today is the misplaced belief that the individual is to be sacrificed to the group, the collective, to the nation – as long as the banner under which it is done is called “democracy” or “social justice.”

Instead of the divine right of kings, America’s modern-day “progressives” speak of the secular divine right to “entitlements.” They call for an even greater fiscal and regulatory servitude of the productive and creative for the redistributive advantage of the less productive and more politically connected members in society.

Those who today believe that some have been “born with saddles on their back” to be ridden by “a favored few booted and spurred” are the ones who want to reinforce and extend a system of political favors and privileges for corrupt and corrupted businessmen – the “crony capitalists” – who are unwilling or unable to honestly acquire the income and wealth they want through the peaceful and voluntary trades of the free marketplace.

And it is we, who believe in the liberty for which the Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in that war of independence, who must do all in our power to restore that crucial understanding and appreciation of individual freedom and individual rights among our fellow citizens, without which that great American “experiment” in political and economic individualism may be lost beyond recovery.

[First published at Epic Times and here in 2014.]

Categories: On the Blog

Government’s Undermine Climate Goals, Science and Human Progress Once Again

Somewhat Reasonable - July 03, 2016, 1:25 PM

Coral and fish in the Red Sea. Egypt, Africa.

Hardly a week goes by when government’s around the world don’t take some action that undermines their own purported climate goals (which is okay with me since I think reducing greenhouse gas emissions is worse than a fools errand), science as an institution and the pursuit of knowledge or human progress and prosperity (the latter to are unmitigated bads).

The U.S. House seems intent to undermine progress on climate goals by foolishly counting biomass burning for energy as carbon neutral. Now I have no problem with burning biomass for heat or energy – I love wood burning stoves and charcoal grills — but it is not, as practiced on a commercial scale, carbon neutral.

Scientists have spoken out against a provision in the House appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 directing the Environmental Protection Agency to treat the burning of biomass (typically wood and other plant material) for energy as carbon-neutral, meaning the agency would assume the practice does not contribute any extra greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Biomass is a renewable energy source, since more trees can be grown after the old ones have been harvested. The truth is, burning biomass for energy releases substantial amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, with some research suggesting it may be worse for the climate than burning coal.

Oregon State University Professor Beverly Law says, “It takes decades to centuries for carbon to accumulate in what I call the forest carbon bank.” By contrast, she notes, burning trees for energy releases all their carbon into the atmosphere immediately. This means burning biomass for energy has an immediate effect on greenhouse gas concentrations, one that would take years of tree-growing to reverse.

In addition, the House bill would treat the burning of biomass from residual matter left over from mills, harvests, or other forest management activities – in other words, dead biomass considered waste – as carbon-neutral. While this plant matter would decompose over a number of years emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, burning it for fuel releases all of its carbon immediately.

Similar to the biomass provisions in the House appropriations bill, earlier this year the Senate passed a sweeping energy bill including provisions treating biomass burned for fuel as carbon-neutral. Environmentalists largely decried an aspect of the bill involving biomass energy and dozens of scientists signed a letter objecting to the provision. The letter stated, “This amendment puts forest carbon in the atmosphere contributing to climate change instead of keeping it in living, productive forests that provide multiple benefits of water and wetland protection, flood control, soils protection, wildlife habitat, improved air quality and recreational benefits for hunters and all who enjoy being in the great out-of-doors. Legislating scientific facts is never a good idea, but is especially bad when the ‘facts’ are incorrect.”

Europe is following the same flawed logic, counting the use of biofuels as mitigating climate change, when, in fact, copious amounts of research demonstrates the way biofuels are produced actually result in a net growth in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions.

Most recently, new research from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) demonstrates the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive pushing the use of biofuels to fight global warming is likely increasing greenhouse gas emissions overall while doing damage to the environment. VTT found EU biofuel regulations “ignore uncertainties related to greenhouse gas calculation” and may even double-count the environmental benefits of the regulations.

The VTT study largely confirms the findings of a study published in late April by the European environmental group Transport & Environment, which found Europe’s biofuel regulations created 80 percent more carbon dioxide emissions than the conventional oil they replaced. The report estimates biofuels create new emissions equivalent to putting an extra 12 million cars on the road. The report notes environmental damage resulting from the EU’s push for biofuels includes increased tropical deforestation and damage to peatlands.

And then comes news from Down Under (Australia that is),  that academics and administrators at James Cook University have decided scientific progress doesn’t need transparency, honesty, or accuracy. Why have I come to this conclusion?

Turning the idea of research ethics on its head, Australia’s James Cook University (JCU) censured marine scientist Paul Ridd for “failing to act in a collegial way and in the academic spirit of the institution,” because he discovered and disclosed the fact the Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority were using misleading photographs to make the case global warming was causing a mass coral reef die-off.

Ridd should have been praised and rewarded for checking the facts and blowing the whistle on misleading science. Instead he was censured and warned by JCU if he does this again, he’ll be tried for “serious misconduct.”

The Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch points out, “Ridd [was] not alone in criticizing some institutions and environmental groups for over-hyping the impacts global warming will have on coral reefs. In fact, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s own chairman [Russell Reichelt] had to come out to dispel notions the reef was almost completely gone. ‘We’ve seen headlines stating that 93 percent of the reef is practically dead. We’ve also seen reports that 35 percent, or even 50 percent, of the entire reef is now gone. However, based on our combined results so far, the overall mortality rate is 22 percent’” with 75 percent of that amount expected to recover within the next few months.

Judith Curry’s extended discussion of the diminishment of the standard of academic misconduct is instructive and worth reading in full. She notes scientists face multiple potential ethical conflicts in carrying out their work. Scientists must conscientiously adhere to the norms of science, but they have a perceived duty to the public, and they have a sense of loyalty to colleagues and the institutions that employ them. Curry is concerned that in academic science, loyalty to one’s colleagues and institutions and respect for their opinions has become regarded as the paramount consideration, even if it comes at the expense of integrity in science and professional conduct.

JCU’s shabby treatment of Ridd would seem to confirm Curry’s concern.

The impact of foolish climate policies are economic decline and premature death. At least that’s the conclusion drawn by M.J. Kelly, a University of Cambridge engineering professor. I share Kelly’s concern.

Kelly’s research indicates, the world’s effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is likely to be a costly endeavor, one possibly resulting in millions of unnecessary deaths.

Kelly’s study shows only fossil fuels and nuclear power have the ability to power megacities in 2050. At the same time, he notes the more severe predictions of climate change over the past 25 years have simply not occurred, and it makes little sense to make drastic carbon dioxide reductions based on predictions made by the same models that have failed to accurately predict past and present climate conditions.

The scale and variety of specific engineering challenges to decarbonizing the world is without precedent in human history, meaning the world should be skeptical of its success. Kelly argues the world needs a more sophisticated public debate that “(i) considers the full range of threats to humanity, and (ii) weighs more carefully both the upsides and downsides of taking any action, and of not taking that action.”

A proper analysis of the world’s energy needs and the threats facing humanity would conclude carbon dioxide is a byproduct of the “immense benefits” of a technologically advanced society. According to Kelly, massive decarbonization is “only possible if we wish to see large parts of the population die from starvation, destitution or violence in the absence of enough low-carbon energy to sustain society.”

Kelly concludes, “Everyone assumes that every change is for the worse, but we are starting to find upsides” in carbon dioxide. “The recent science is casting doubt on whether more CO2 is necessarily a bad thing.”

How’s that for a pessimistic recent climate news roundup!

Categories: On the Blog

Restoring ‘Diversity’ To The Supreme Court

Somewhat Reasonable - July 03, 2016, 1:10 AM

Liberals talk a great deal about “diversity” these days, so it is ironic that so many have lined up in favor of President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. On important measures, Garland would render the Court less diverse than it is now.

One measure of diversity among justices is where they received their legal education. The Supreme Court hears cases nationwide. Because an attorney’s law school training affects his or her outlook as a lawyer and as a judge, it makes sense for the justices to come from a range of different law schools, but they do not.

When Justice Antonin Scalia was alive, eight of the nine justices had attended only two of the nation’s more than 200 law schools. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor all earned their degrees from Yale. Justices John Roberts, Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan all attended Harvard (as did Merrick Garland). Moreover, Justice Stephen Breyer had served as a Harvard law professor and Kagan as Harvard Law School dean. The remaining justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, received her degree from New York’s Columbia University. But she spent part of her law school years at Harvard as well.

In other words, all nine justices received their legal education in three Ivy League schools along a thin strip of the Atlantic coast. This is not merely a technical detail; it matters. Those schools share an elite legal culture. Even when their graduates differ politically or legally, they often operate from common premises about the law.

Justices may also imbibe different legal outlooks from where they were born or reared. Roberts, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan all hail from New York State — three of those four from New York City. Scalia and Alito were raised in New York’s neighboring state of New Jersey (both in Trenton). Breyer and Kennedy came from California, and Thomas from Georgia. None came from “fly-over country.”

Like law school, place of origin matters. Here is one illustration: During my 25-year career as a law professor, I taught several courses involving the Uniform Commercial Code — the UCC. The UCC is a statute adopted by all 50 states. Its wording is the same everywhere, with only occasional deviations. Yet, I found that courts of different states could interpret the same language in a variety of ways. Sometimes, this was the result of accident, but in many instances it was a function of local culture. Thus, a New York court might interpret a section of banking law to protect larger banks and preserve business stability and the New York commercial heritage. A court in California or Montana might interpret the same language in a way favoring bank customers. An Alabama tribunal might construe the language in a manner that protects smaller, rural banks.

When justices come from a single section of the country, they are more likely to overlook or, even worse, unfairly devalue legal rules rooted in different local cultures.

Particularly serious is the lack of justices from any of the 11 thinly populated states in which the federal government owns 25 percent or more of the land: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Federal policy has a disproportionate impact in those states. When former Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and William Rehnquist, both from Arizona, were on the Court, they brought to their jobs a Western brand of common sense jurisprudence absent today.

Religious outlook is another relevant influence. When Scalia was alive, six justices were Catholic and three were Jewish. Approval of Judge Garland would make it 5-4. Since I’m Jewish, I might be expected to approve of the Jewish over-representation, but it bothers me that in a country with a Protestant plurality not a single justice is Protestant. It bothers me even more that there has not been a Mormon, Evangelical, or “born again” Christian justice for decades.

I do not believe in quotas, but sometimes a bit of affirmative action is a good idea. When considering candidates to fill the Scalia vacancy, the next president should assure that his pool includes Westerners, Evangelicals, and other under-represented groups

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly – Celebrate #OurAmerica During July

Somewhat Reasonable - July 02, 2016, 11:08 AM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you every Friday with a highlight show. Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Homeschool Monthly #1: Inaugural Edition Lennie Jarratt, Homeschool Monthly Are you a parent who homeschools your children or is interested in homeschooling? If so, you’ll want to subscribe to our newHomeschool Monthly e-newsletter. It pulls together all the latest news and commentary relating to homeschooling. Included in this first issue are links to articles about resourceful parent co-ops, articles about Common Core, and podcasts that explain the benefits and importance of homeschooling. READ MORE

Philadelphia Fizzles: First Major City to Enact Flawed Soda Tax Matthew Glans, Heartland Research & Commentary In an effort to fill holes in the budget caused by fiscal mismanagement, Philadelphia has enacted a so-called “sin tax” on sugary drinks – a ploy for new revenue that won’t benefit public health and will hurt the poor. A better, more sustainable policy to fix the city’s fiscal woes is to lower tax rates, put dollars back into the pockets of taxpayers, and encourage government efficiency by creating reasonable limits on spending. READ MORE

Celebrate #OurAmerica During July The Heartland Institute is working with other nonprofit groups this July to call attention to what makes America exceptional and fundamentally good. At a time when presidential candidates either disparage America or don’t seem to know what it stands for, we want to remind Americans of the Founders’ ideas and provide hope that those ideas can be rescued and preserved. Join us all month long by regularly visiting heartland.org/ouramerica and using the #OneAmerica hashtag on your social media accounts. LEARN MORE

Featured Podcast: Michael Bowe: Greenpeace Under Fire in Court According to a lawsuit filed on May 31, Greenpeace is “a global fraud.” Michael Bowe, a partner with the New York law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Frieman, joins the podcast to discuss how Greenpeace is being sued under federal and state racketeering laws for trademark violations, defamation, and tortious interference of commerce claims. This case proves Greenpeace isn’t just a radical environmental advocacy group, but it uses deceitful and illegal methods as well.  LISTEN TO MORE

Visit Heartland’s #OurAmerica page to find other memes to share and
ideas on how to promote our shared values

Taxpayers Should Call Foul on Sports-Stadium Subsidy Handouts Jesse Hathaway, Deseret News The citizens of Salt Lake City are about to find out that sports-stadium welfare for the Utah Jazz, the local NBA team, is a big loser for taxpayers – who are now on the hook for $22.7 million in subsidies to update Vivint Arena. Politicians used the same tired arguments that this public “investment” will lead to local economic growth. It certainly will, but only for the owners and players. Decades of studies show such  corporate welfare will have no effect on local per-capita income or economic growth. READ MORE

Video: Heartland Event Featuring Julie Kelly – A Discussion on GMOs Environmental activists who routinely label skeptics of a man-caused climate crisis as “anti-science” simultaneously demonize the advancements in genetic modification of foods. To help dispel the myths and alarmism that surround GMOs, food policy and agriculture writer Julie Kelly came to The Heartland Institute to talk about how GMOs help feed a growing world population and protect the environment. WATCH IT HERE

Coming Next Week: The Dying Fish with Cedric C. Keith On Thursday, July 7, environmental activist Cedric C. Keith will be at The Heartland Institute’s Andrew Breitbart Freedom Center in Arlington Heights, Illinois to discuss his new book The Dying Fish: A Sojourn to the Source, which tells the story of his 4,000-mile walk through the wilds of the east to help preserve an endangered species. Later in July, on July 20, Timothy and Christina Sandefur will be here to talk about property rights and eminent domain. We hope to see you here in Arlington Heights, but if you are unable to attend in person, the events will be live-streamed and archived on Heartland’s YouTube page. SEE UPCOMING EVENTS HERE

Unalienable ‘Right to Try’ Deserves Protection by Feds and All 50 States Michael Hamilton, Consumer Power Report The right to try drugs to extend and improve one’s life, outside the sclerotic restrictions of the Food and Drug Administration, precedes the founding of our nation. Yet state lawmakers in 40 percent of states have yet to protect this right from federal overreach. Health Care NewsManaging Editor Michael Hamilton says they should do so now, ahead of federal lawmakers. READ MORE

College Board Excises Islam from European History Curricula Joy Pullmann, School Choice Weekly Just days after the terrorist atrocity in Orlando, the College Board released a revamp of its Advanced Placement European history class, excising the history of Islam’s clash with Christianity and the West. In fact, almost all religious history has been erased or reinterpreted as mere political power plays. This rewrite illustrates how easily the education of the next generation about Western heritage can be changed by elites. READ MORE

Bonus Podcast: Sean Parnell: A Shamelessly Uninsured Self-Pay Patient Saving Thousands on Health Care Meet two self-pay patients who don’t have or want health insurance, don’t receive government assistance, and consistently score the best prices on health care money can buy. In this edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Sean Parnell, author of The Self-Pay Patient, joins Research Fellow Michael Hamilton to sing the virtues of going uninsured in order to obtain the most cost-effective health care for oneself and one’s family.  LISTEN HERE

Help Us Stop Wikipedia’s Lies! Joseph L. Bast, Somewhat Reasonable Many people rely on our profile on Wikipedia to provide an objective description of our mission, programs, and accomplishments. Alas, the profile they find there is a fake, filled with lies and libel about our funding, tactics, and the positions we take on controversial issues. Wikipedia refuses to make the changes we request. It even deletes and reverses all the changes made by others who know the profile is unreliable. We need your help! READ MORE

Invest in the Future of Freedom! Are you considering 2016 gifts to your favorite charities? We hope The Heartland Institute is on your list. Preserving and expanding individual freedom is the surest way to advance many good and noble objectives, from feeding and clothing the poor to encouraging excellence and great achievement. Making charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations dedicated to individual freedom is the most highly leveraged investment a philanthropist can make. Click here to make a contribution online, or mail your gift to The Heartland Institute, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740, Chicago, IL 60606. To request a FREE wills guide or to get more information to plan your future please visit My Gift Legacy http://legacy.heartland.org/ or contact Gwen Carver at 312/377-4000 or by email at gcarver@heartland.org.  

Categories: On the Blog

Taxpayers Should Call Foul on Sports-Stadium Subsidy Handouts

Somewhat Reasonable - July 02, 2016, 1:03 AM

Lawmakers in Salt Lake City recently approved giving the city’s NBA team, the Utah Jazz, $22.7 million in tax revenue collected from businesses in the basketball arena’s zoning district. The subsidy will be doled out over the next 25 years.

The “reimbursement,” as lawmakers on the Redevelopment Agency of Salt Lake City termed the gift, is expected to be used to help pay for the planned construction and renovation of the Vivint Arena, where the Jazz play ball.

Elected officials often justify using taxpayer money to pay for the construction or renovation of sports stadiums. They argue it’s an investment leading to local economic growth, which effectively makes everyone a winner. Instead, this kind of corporate welfare is really a losing proposition for the very people elected officials claim to be helping: the taxpayers.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, University of Maryland-Baltimore County economics professors Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys discovered sports stadiums may actually depress the local entertainment industry and the local economy as a whole, as consumers divert their entertainment spending toward the new home team and away from other diversions.

“The presence of pro sports teams in the 37 metropolitan areas in our sample had no measurable positive impact on the overall growth rate of real per-capita income in those areas,” Coates and Humphreys wrote. “The presence of pro sports teams had a statistically significant negative impact on the retail and services sectors of the local economy. The average effect on employment in the services sector of a city’s economy was a net loss of 1,924 jobs as a result of the presence of a professional sports team.”

Sports-stadium subsidies don’t just impact workers in the entertainment industry, Coates and Humphreys found. In fact, sports-stadium welfare has a negative effect on the entire city’s taxpayers, even if they’re employed in other fields.

“The evidence suggests that attracting a professional sports franchise to a city, and building that franchise a new stadium or arena, will have no effect on the growth rate of real per-capita income and may actually reduce the level of real per-capita income in that city,” Coates and Humphreys wrote. “Moreover, specific sectors of the economy that are frequently predicted to be the big winners from stadium construction are likely to benefit very little or even be harmed by it.”

In the study, Coates and Humphreys say lawmakers are ignoring the economic data and ultimately pursuing a faith-based model of stadium-subsidy mania, which only benefits a few sports team owners — at the detriment of taxpayers.

“Yet government decision-makers and politicians continue to try to attract professional sports franchises to cities or to use public funds to construct elaborate new facilities to woo them,” Coates and Humphreys wrote. “One thing is clear from the evidence: pro sports team owners are reaping substantial benefits for their teams by touting sports as an effective tool for economic development.”

Taxpayers may receive intangible benefits, such as home-team pride, from lawmakers’ handouts to sports team owners, but the costs greatly outweigh those benefits. Taxpayers should demand lawmakers stop socializing the risk of investing in sports teams and let team owners spend private money on stadium construction, if they want to reap the stadium’s revenue.

[Originally published at the Deseret News]

Categories: On the Blog

Stephen Moore Exposes the Mad War on Energy

Somewhat Reasonable - July 01, 2016, 2:26 PM

On Monday, June 20, The Heartland Institute hosted a rare opportunity to hear one of the nation’s acknowledged leading conservatives, Stephen Moore, speak on his new book, Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy, which flies in the face of the nation’s political and media love affair with climate change. The luncheon event was held at The Union League Club, in the Loop in downtown Chicago. 

Heartland is known globally for its work debunking myths about human-caused climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels – in short, that global warming is driven by human activity and a warming planet is, on whole, beneficial. Fossil fuels constitute the lifeblood of the modern world, having ushered in the Industrial Revolution, but continue to be vilified by global warming alarmists.

In his book, Moore, with co-author Kathleen Hartnett White, make an unapologetic case for fossil fuels. They argue that if fossil fuel energy is supplanted by “green” alternatives for political reasons, humanity will take a giant step backwards and the planet will be less safe, less clean, and less free.

Moore’s Background

Moore is a Chicago boy, having graduated from New Trier High School in 1978. After various stops at conservative outlets and organizations – including one he started, the Club for Growth –Moore is now a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Heritage, where he focuses on advancing public policies that increase the rate of economic growth to help the United States retain its position as the global economic superpower. He also works on budget, fiscal and monetary policy, and showcases states that get their fiscal houses in order. 

As an economist, Moore said he was influenced by two great economists of the last 50 years: (1) Julian Simon, who was proven to be right, when in 1980 he disputed those in this country and worldwide who claimed the earth’s natural resources were becoming so scarce they would become even costlier, and (2)Arthur Laffer, who triggered a world-wide tax-cutting movement in the 1980’s, when in the Reagan administration he recommended tax cuts to stimulate the economy. Moore is currently an economic advisor for the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

Moore’s Discussion 

Moore believes that if our energy resources were utilized the way they were meant to be used, this nation would become energy independent in the near future, turning us into the Saudi Arabia of the next century.

Positive benefits from the development of our energy resources include the following, according to Moore:

  • Creating jobs by the millions.
  • Creating good jobs with good pay.
  • Reduce trade deficits.

As far as the value of oil, gas, and coal under U.S. public land:

  • Over the next 20 years, with current technology, this nation could have available $50 trillion worth of oil, gas, and coal.
  • The federal government could raise $4 trillion by leasing federal land for exploration. With a deficit of $20 trillion, $4 trillion would be tidy sum toward reducing our deficit.

Republicans have a great opportunity to gain the upper hand in the energy struggle, but they haven’t done a good job. The major donors to the Democrat Party are the unions (the teachers union dominates here in Illinois) and lunatic green movements funded, in part, by billionaire Tom Steyer of California, who is an environmental advisor to the Obama administration. Green groups want to keep coal and oil in the ground by stopping drilling and coal mining. Republicans need to drive a wedge between those who traditionally support the Democratic Party by getting out the message that “we (Republicans) are the ones who are trying to save your jobs.”

Moore and Harold Hamm

Moore said he was influenced by the story of billionaire industrialist Harold Hamm, who left home when young because there wasn’t money enough to feed all 14 children … and Hamm was 13th in line. Hamm now owns most of the energy resources in North Dakota. Invited by Hamm eight years ago to travel to North Dakota, Moore was amazed to see what was happening in the state. “Wildcatters” like Hamm had developed fracking and horizontal drilling. The code was cracked to find more natural resources, which put America way ahead of the rest of the world – yet no government was involved in this development.

As Chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, the fortune of pioneering oilman Hamm peaked at nearly $19 billion in 2014, but has since been reduced to $11 billion when oil prices plunged. Hamm does remain bullish for the future, however, and expects a new boom to come. Hamm expects $60 oil again, and says America will double output again.

Moore said he believes that if not for the shale and gas revolution, Obama wouldn’t have been elected. But that doesn’t keep Obama from running around the country falsely proclaiming how we are running out of oil and gas. As Moore stated, “We are running into it, not out of it, through fracking and horizontal drilling.”

Vilification of Coal and Oil

Even if global warming was scientifically indisputable and here to stay, Moore said, it could not be stopped by shutting down sources of American energy. In Virginia where Moore lives, EPA regulations on coal have shut down entire towns. These once-vibrant communities have been replaced by unemployment lines.

And what is to be done about China and India where there are plans to construct 500 new coal plants, Moore asked? For every one coal plant shut down in this nation, 10 new ones are being added in China and India – and they use coal technology much dirtier than here in the U.S. Compared to 50 years ago, this nation’s emissions have been reduced more than any other country in the world, but that is still not enough for the greens. Climate alarmists continue to spread their unwarranted fear to a somewhat gullible public.

It comes as no surprise that children are being told that coal and oil must be replaced by so-called “green energy” to prevent Mother Earth from heating up and being inhabitable. This indoctrination is now standard practice in the public schools from K – 12th grade. It’s difficult to talk about global warming at the college level. The new thing with kids is to believe it’s cool to go with windmills and solar power. Moore asks this question when meeting with children: “Where does your electric power come from?” Most often the response is: “It comes out of the socket.”

Sources of Power in U.S.

Well over 90% of this nation’s electrical power comes from four sources, ranked in order: natural gas, coal, nuclear, and hydro power. Wind comes in at a measly 4.7% and Solar at 0.6%. Combined, coal and natural gas supply about 70 percent of this nation’s electrical power. If a global warming catastrophe were really upon us, nuclear power would be the way to go. It is a clean and safe form of energy which gets the most bang for the buck. Yet the public has been turned against nuclear power through bad publicity over unfortunate nuclear events.

According to Moore, we are witnessing a war on energy. Presently this nation’s economic growth is pathetic, at less than 2 percent. Energy independence and tax reform could quickly increase this nation’s growth to 4 percent, but this will have to wait until the next Republican president.

Natural gas was described as a wonder fuel – it’s abundant – it’s made in America – and it’s clean energy.

Introductory Comments made by Jim Lakely

Jim Lakely, in describing the five issues covered by The Heartland Institute, spoke about the environment as being the issue Heartland is most known for. Accordingly, Heartland is a target of the eco-Left for not embracing climate alarmism and declaring that the science is not settled.

The most recent development is how ExxonMobil is being accused of misleading the public on climate change. The corporation is being investigated by the attorneys general of the Virgin Islands, New York, Massachusetts and 14 other states. Likewise, The Competitive Enterprise Institute is now fighting a subpoena that requests a decade’s worth of communications, emails, statements, drafts, and other documents regarding CEI’s work on climate change and energy policy. Although The Heartland Institute is mentioned in all the lawsuits, it has yet to receive a subpoena in what amounts to a fishing expedition to silence those who do not subscribe to Obama’s stance on Climate Change.

The video of Heartland’s event with Stephen Moore at the Union League Clubcan be viewed here.

[Originally published at the Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Greenpeace Under Fire

Somewhat Reasonable - July 01, 2016, 2:02 PM

Governments and courts around the world are finally cracking down on the eco-terrorist organization Greenpeace. The crackdown, which is long overdue, couldn’t happen to a more misguided bunch of people.

In early December 2014, more than 20 Greenpeace activists damaged a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of a publicity stunt meant to motivate greater government support for renewable-energy sources they think are necessary to battle supposed human-caused climate change. The activists walked into a “strictly prohibited” area where the Nazca Lines are located in Peru and laid big, yellow cloth letters that read, “Time for change; the future is renewable.”

Because the Nazca Lines are fragile and footprints can last hundreds of years, not even heads of state are allowed to walk there without special authorization, and even then, they are required to wear special shoes. More than 20 people were arrested for the act, but after being bailed out, they skipped the country and as far as I can determine,Greenpeace’s “Nazca Destroyers” have avoided Peruvian justice to this day.

Shortly after that, India’s intelligence bureau declared Greenpeace “a potential threat to national economic security,” calculating the cost of the organization’s activities in India between 2 percent and 3 percent of its gross domestic product each year. Indian officials claim the group has damaged property, engaged in financial fraud, and has falsified data. In early 2015, India restricted the international travel of Indian Greenpeace activists and blocked their access to foreign funding. By September 2015, India had pulled Greenpeace’s license to operate in the country entirely, giving it a month to close down all operations.

More recently, on May 31, 2016, Resolute Forest Products (RFP) sued Greenpeace in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. Resolute claims Greenpeace has violated federal racketeering, trademark and defamation laws.

According to Resolute, Greenpeace’s six-year-old public relations campaign against Resolute — titled “Resolute: Forest Destroyer (RFD)” — falsely accuses the company of destroying endangered forests and species, exploiting aboriginal peoples, and “impairing the [Boreal forest’s] ability to mitigate climate change.”

During the campaign, Greenpeace successfully pressured Home Depot and Best Buy to shift orders or stop purchasing lumber from Resolute. Resolute says Greenpeace’s RFD campaign has cost the company as much as $100 million in lost sales and, as a result, 300 jobs have been cut from operations in Ontario and Quebec.

In March 2013, Canadian courts handed Greenpeace a significant legal setback when it required the group to apologize to Resolute and offer an official “notice of correction” for some of the false statements it made about Resolute’s activities.

In an effort to end the RFD campaign and recoup some of its losses, Resolute sued Greenpeace in 2014 in Canada for defamation and “intentional interference with economic relations.” Greenpeace tried and failed to have the case thrown out, but the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to hear Greenpeace’s appeal of a judgment rejecting its motion to quash Resolute’s claim in January 2015. The Ontario Court of Appeal also ordered Greenpeace to pay Resolute $20,000 in court costs.

Resolute’s is not a “destroyer” of the Boreal forest, as Greenpeace claims. Canada retains about 90 percent of its original forest cover, and agriculture and urbanization — not logging or Resolute’s timber operations — are responsible for the 10 percent of the forest lost in region over the past few hundred years. Less than 0.5 percent of the Canadian Boreal forest is harvested annually. Only a small portion of that is harvested by Resolute.

Every acre Resolute harvests is promptly regenerated naturally, by seeding, or by planting. On average, from 2010 to 2012, Resolute has planted more than 60 million trees per year. The efforts made by Resolute and other companies operating in Canada have resulted in virtually no logging-related permanent loss of Boreal forest acreage. By contrast,Greenpeace has planted no trees in the Canada’s Boreal forest.

Contrary to Greenpeace’s claims, Resolute’s operations have improved, not impaired, the Boreal forest’s uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Numerous studies show — and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has acknowledged — harvesting in large, older forests provides a significant means of mitigating climate change, because young forest absorb substantially more greenhouse gases than older forests do. In fact, older growth often emits more greenhouse gases than they absorb.

I asked ecologist Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace and the former leader of Greenpeace Canada for 15 years, what he thought of Greenpeace’s RFD campaign, only to discover he has been helping Resolute in its battle against Greenpeace.

“I am proud to have worked with Resolute for more than three years on this issue,” said Mr. Moore. “They are the only company in North America to stand up to the lies, blackmail, and extortion tactics employed by Greenpeace.

Greenpeace has placed fundraising ahead of the truth, and they should be made to pay for the damage they have done,” Mr. Moore said.

I wish more companies had the backbone to stand up to Greenpeace’s extortion tactics. Until they do, when I need forest products, I’ll be purchasing from retailers that buy from Resolute, and I’ll advise my friends to do the same.

[Originally published at the Washington Times]

Categories: On the Blog

A National View of Minnesota: New College Savings Plan: Good for Politicians, but Providing Little Relief

Somewhat Reasonable - July 01, 2016, 1:52 PM

In 2016, Minnesota became the 35th state to approve tax deductions on contributions made to 529 college savings plans. Some politicians in St. Paul can now appeal to youthful voters in time for November by using this legislative measure as political fodder. But in reality, Minnesota barely scratched the surface in helping alleviate the burden of rising college tuition costs.

The decision to allow tax-deductible contributions to 529 plans is a positive baby step toward helping parents save for their children’s educational future. But it may be too little and too late to solve the growing student-debt burden facing Minnesotans.

The deduction will allow Minnesotans who contribute to college savings accounts to qualify for yearly tax deductions of up to $1,500 ($3,000 if filing jointly). While that may seem like a good deal on the surface, rising tuition costs make such a small amount nearly useless.

For instance, at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus, the total cost of tuition and related expenses — which on the school’s website are broken into categories such as “tuition and fees” ($14,186), “costs to live on campus” ($8,962), “transportation expenses” ($1,700), “books and supplies” ($1,000), and “miscellaneous” ($2,000) — is nearly $28,000 for the 2016-17 academic year. This means the proposed tax credit would only provide to joint filers a maximum of approximately 10 percent of one year of study — and approximately

5 percent for single parents and students. And the University of Minnesota is not even close to being one of the state’s most expensive schools.

Making matters worse, the cost of attending college is expected to continue increasing in the coming years. In 2009, the American Institute for Economic Research reported a 284.4 percent increase in college tuition and fees between 1990 and 2008, making college the most inflated consumable good in the United States, even passing the highly publicized cost increases for health care. And tuition only has further increased since then.

On the 2015-16 “College Planning Essentials” website, run by J.P. Morgan Asset Management, it is reported that the average 2014-15 academic year’s tuition cost increased

16 percent compared to the previous year. The report figured that if college costs rise 5 percent annually, the cost of an average public university will rise from $19,548 per year in 2016 to $47,045 in 2034. That means families will be looking at four-year-degree costs averaging over $188,000.

Minnesota is fifth in the nation in college loan debt per resident with an average balance of $32,000 in loans, according to a report in the Star Tribune. Departments within the state, such as the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, have attempted to address this problem with additional government social programs. In January, a new student loan refinancing program, SELF Refi, was created using the sales of revenue bonds to help ease the financial burdens faced by many Minnesota residents. SELF Refi offers a maximum refinancing amount of $70,000 for a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree.

Such refinancing options can only help alleviate existing student loan troubles.

Allowing better tax incentives on savings accounts for future costs can make a stronger impact on current and future college spending. There needs to be greater tax-credit incentives that actually match the current and expected future costs of college. Contrary to what many politicians are saying, $3,000 a year doesn’t cut it.

Since 1994, 35 states have implemented legislation to include tax breaks for those saving for a college education, four of which offer tax deductions on the full amount of contribution. Four additional states offer deductions of up to $10,000 for single taxpayers and $20,000 for joint filers. Of the 35 states with programs, the only states offering fewer monetary incentives than Minnesota’s recent legislation are Indiana, Maine, Utah and Vermont.

Though Minnesota’s elected officials likely will brag to voters this year about the significance of this legislation, they’re offering very little relief for a surging, significant problem. Politicians who prey upon this legislation as a political talking point during this election season are doing a disservice to the individuals and families facing rising college costs as well as to the economy of the state as a whole, which will need affordable education to prosper in the future.

[Originally published at the Duluth News Tribune]

Categories: On the Blog
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