Saturday, January 31, 2009

at least liberals are tied with conservatives in this category

The research on charitable giving reflects more activity (time and money) from conservatives rather than liberals.

Now, researchers at George Mason University have found that Republicans and Democrats are "equally likely" (the title of the article) to perform "green actions". (The Dems have higher numbers, but perhaps not in a statistically significant manner.)

Here's the overview article from Tara Laskowski...

Political party affiliation has little bearing on the number of “green” actions people take, a new study by Porter Novelli and Mason's Center of Excellence in Climate Change Communication Research shows.

According to the survey of more than 11,000 American adults and nearly 1,000 of their children, Democrats and Republicans differ only slightly when it comes to taking actions to protect the environment, despite great differences in their perceptions of danger related to global warming.

While Democrats were almost twice as likely as Republicans to believe that global warming is a serious problem and a threat to all life on the planet, on average they perform only about 15 percent more “green” actions than Republicans.

For example, 65 percent of those surveyed who always vote Republican and 71 percent of those who always vote Democrat said they are actively reducing energy use in their homes....

For more information on the survey and methodology, and to see the full study, visit

Jatropha (revisited)-- on Kiwi planes!

I've blogged on this intriguing bio-fuel previously...

Here's an update from World...

Air New Zealand will test biofuels on a Boeing jumbo jet to see whether fuel made from jatropha trees can displace costly jet fuel. One engine on the flight departing from Auckland will run on a mixture of half jet fuel and half jatropha oil....

Click here to read about the successful first flight on December 30th.

disposable diapers are better for the environment

From World...

Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spent £50,000 to research whether disposable or cloth diapers left a smaller carbon footprint.

The conclusion? Disposable diapers...

cloth diapers could compete environmentally, but only if their users kept them for years, air dried them, and washed them at temperatures below 60º C (140º F).

UPS now the opposite of NASCAR

NASCAR is famous for their left-hand turns.

UPS is focusing on right-hand turns-- to save time and money.

From World... mapping software and traffic modeling has led them to conclude that delivery drivers should avoid making left turns...[since they] waste time and gas idling while waiting for left-hand turn signals...By mapping out routes that aim for only right-hand turns, the company saved 3.3 million gallons of gasoline [and $9 million] in 2007.

almost as impressive as water into wine?!

From World, how to turn wine into fuel!...

Britain's Prince Charles recently jumped on the biofuels bandwagon, converting his seldom-used 1960 Aston Martin DB6 to a biofuel system that allows him to run his classic convertible on wine rather than gasoline....The prince gets his wine from an English vintner who would otherwise have to destroy any wine produced above the European Union quota. Charles' switch to a biofuel may curb a smidgen of carbon dioxide emissions, but it likely won't save him much money: The wine costs only slightly less than the gasoline he'd buy for his classic.

Aside from the tech advance, note the quota on wine-- to keep prices higher for sellers and consumers.

that car is slick or cookin' (or insert other lame slang to describe a cool innovation)

From Bill Wolfe in the C-J (although not available on their website), who starts with his own nice little pun...

When Larry Greenwell fills up his diesel-engine Volkswagen Beetle, he can laugh all the way to the tank....Greenwell's 2006 VW runs on used cooking oil that he buys for about $2 a gallon. One 13.5-gallon tank takes him nearly 600 miles -- an average of about 44 miles per gallon, slightly less than he might get with standard diesel....Greenwell's car is one of nine vehicles converted to burn vegetable oil for Legacy Development Corp., where he is purchasing manager....

The company's love affair with conversions began in 2006, when it bought six new Volkswagens and had them converted by a Louisville company, The GoodOil Boys, using kits made by Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems in Easthampton, Mass. Since then, it has added a 2004 Jetta, an Isuzu box truck and a Ford F-450.

A major attraction was the reputation of vegetable-powered engines to run more cleanly than petroleum-fueled vehicles....

Conversion includes installing a second fuel tank for the vegetable oil and running a second set of fuel lines. Converted vehicles can burn either regular diesel or oil -- and must be started and warmed up on petroleum, especially in cooler weather. Once the engines are warm, the driver flips a lever to switch from diesel to vegetable oil.

When shutting down, the driver switches back to diesel for a moment "so the vegetable oil doesn't coagulate in the line."

The company buys its oil from GoodOil Boys, filtered and ready to burn, 300 gallons at a time, he said....

solar-powered AC on the Prius

Another example of technological advance and market processes within the auto industry-- this one in an AP article in the LA Times (hat tip: C-J)...

Toyota's Prius gas-electric hybrid will become even greener next year with solar-powered air conditioning on some high-end models...The solar panels on the roof of the new Prius model will provide 2 to 5 kilowatts of electricity...

Toyota has made hybrid technology the pillar of its growth strategy, promising to deliver hybrids in every model in its lineup soon after 2020. Toyota has sold more than 1 million Prius models over the last decade and is planning to sell 1 million hybrids a year sometime after 2010....

Adding solar panels to a model targeting mass consumers would mark a first for a major automaker...

Toyota and the market for hybrids

From Rick Newman in U.S. News & World Report...

Again, not as exciting with lower gas prices for now, but still interesting given technological advance, business strategy, and market processes...

For a company that hates to gamble, Toyota put a big stack of chips on the table when it decided, in 2003, to build pickup trucks in Texas. After debating the move for years, the Japanese automaker broke its own rules in order to plant a flag in the heart of truck country, hoping a Texas-built Tundra would earn the all-American cred needed to invade the one bit of automotive turf still dominated by its domestic competitors....By the time trucks started rolling off the line in 2006, the project seemed more like a public-works boondoggle than the kind of lean operation Toyota is famous for, with costs ballooning to $1.3 billion—60 percent over budget.

It got worse from there. Toyota ended up introducing the new Tundra (city gas mileage: 15 mpg) just as gas prices were beginning their ascent toward $4 per gallon. The housing meltdown and slowing economy have further constricted sales, since builders and contractors are prime pickup buyers...

Yet no car company stands to gain more than Toyota as skyrocketing gas prices and the eroding economy batter all the automakers. Despite missteps like the Tundra, Toyota's renown in the car business borders on mythic: It had the vision, after all, to introduce the Prius hybrid back in 2000, when gas was a mere $1.50 a gallon and most American car buyers cared more about cupholders than gas mileage. Toyota sold 181,000 Priuses last year and can hardly meet demand. The company now offers six high-mileage hybrids—more than any other automaker—and has more on the way. That's helped Toyota remain steady while sales have plummeted at the Detroit automakers. Toyota now sells more cars in the United States than Ford or Chrysler, and it could catch up to General Motors before long....

The stakes are huge: The automaker that seizes the plug-in market could dominate for years. And already GM has targeted the pole position on plug-ins, with the Chevrolet Volt, due in 2010....Toyota has answered GM...[and will] field a "significant fleet" of plug-ins available to commercial customers, matching GM's 2010 target date....

NBC rejects this Super Bowl ad?!

Apparently NBC rejected this pro-life ad for the Super Bowl...

Poignant but hard-hitting...

Hopefully, a lot of people will see it for free!


UPDATE: Here's a website promoting it further...

plumber's advice for power outage in a freeze

The best thing on today's C-J editorial page: a letter from a Jeffersonville plumber, Daniel Brown...

If you leave your house with your water turned off, when your electricity comes back on, your icemaker's solenoid valve will burn out if you have not turned off your ice maker. If you have not drained the water out of the pipes by opening all faucets, the pipes may still freeze and burst.

Flush all toilets. Then pour RV anti-freeze in the bowl and a little down every drain to prevent drain traps from freezing and breaking. Sponge the water out of the tank of your toilet. If your water heater is electric, you may want to drain it. If your water heater is gas, you may want to turn the thermostat all the way down. To get the heat from the center of the house to pipes near outside walls, open all kitchen sink and vanity cabinet doors and remove what is under there. Open all shower doors and curtains.

shape up or....get fatter?!

Turning from the state of Indiana to the national stage, the WSJ editorialists comment on the state of state budgets-- and the relationship to "the stimulus package" (current and future)...

When Detroit's auto makers begged for a federal bailout last month, Congress demanded that their CEOs make changes to their operating model in return for a check from Uncle Sam. If only Congress would demand the same from the state and local politicians now seeking $200 billion from federal taxpayers....

[Review & Outlook]

But the states aren't innocent victims. Their revenues have collapsed of late, but the main reason so many states are broke today is because lawmakers thought the days of living well would last forever.

The state spending binge of the last five years has been almost unprecedented in American history....They also loaded up on debt, which doubled to $2.23 trillion in 2008 from $1.14 trillion a decade earlier. This doesn't include nearly $1.5 trillion in unfunded health and pension liabilities....

The states with the biggest deficits tend to be the most profligate....

A federal bailout for these distressed states means redistributing income to these big spenders from the most fiscally responsible states. Federal aid also creates a disconnect between the people who pay for the local services and those who benefit from them....

This creates an incentive for state and local officials to pad their budgets as their lobbyists race to capture as many federal dollars as they can. One especially ill-designed idea from the Obama Administration is to allow the federal government to pay a greater share of state Medicaid costs. So instead of reforming policy to slow the stampeding cost of medical care, states will have an incentive to spend lavishly, because every health-care dollar lures more money from Washington....

what will Gov. Daniels and the IN legislature do with "the money"?

It's a bad idea to borrow money (more debt; higher taxes or less spending later) to try to buy ourselves out of a recession now/soon, especially with a dog's breakfast of spending largely in the future.

But once it's rolling, the question then becomes how to best spend the resources you've been given.

Gov. Daniels wrestles with this in an article by the AP's Mike Smith in this AM's C-J...

Indiana's primary goal for spending any money it gets from a federal economic stimulus package should be putting more residents to work and doing so quickly, according to Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Indiana's state and local governments and schools would receive up to $5 billion under an $819 billion spending and tax-cut package approved by the House on Wednesday....

Daniels said Thursday that the stimulus package is designed mostly to help states facing far worse fiscal concerns than Indiana, so money sent here should be spent for one-time purposes that do not increase state and local budgets to base levels that cannot be sustained when the payments stop....

Daniels said of the $5 billion Indiana is expected to receive, between $1.5 billion to $2 billion would be for capital projects, including roads and bridges; mass transit; renovation, repairs and lab spaces for public schools; and clean-water projects....

When asked if some of the money could be used for a one-time state tax cut, Daniels said it was a possibility if cuts were directly related to job creation.

According to the Daniels administration, more than $1 billion from economic stimulus money is expected to go directly to schools. He said school officials, too, should look to spend the money for one-time purposes.

How is that going to stimulate the economy? Perhaps construction jobs, but that will take years to implement!

In any case, this is an amazing bow to the teachers' unions.

how is future spending going to help us now?

There are three lags which make it far more difficult for "fiscal policy" to deal with a recession: one must recognize the problem (no problem today), one must implement a solution (that's going pretty well), and the solution must manifest itself (when will the tax and spending changes get into and filter through the economy).

With the current proposal, the latter is a huge problem. This signals ignorance of economics-- and most certainly, a focus on "politics": a preeminent goal to satisfy special interest groups with particular spending items &/or to take credit for the recession when it will end on its own.

Here are the WSJ editorialists on the stimulus package moving through DC...

The stimulus bill currently steaming through Congress looks like a legislative freight train, but given last week's analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, it is more accurate to think of it as a time machine. That may be the only way to explain how spending on public works in 2011 and beyond will help the economy today.

According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, a mere $26 billion of the House stimulus bill's $355 billion in new spending would actually be spent in the current fiscal year, and just $110 billion would be spent by the end of 2010. This is highly embarrassing given that Congress's justification for passing this bill so urgently is to help the economy right now, if not sooner....

In addition to suppressing the CBO analysis, Democrats have derided it. Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D., Wis.) called it "off the wall," never mind that CBO is now run by Democrats....

The stimulus bill is also a time machine in the sense that it's based on an old, and largely discredited, economic theory. As Harvard economist Robert Barro pointed out on these pages last Thursday, the "stimulus" claim is based on something called the Keynesian "multiplier," which is that each $1 of spending the government "injects" into the economy yields 1.5 times that in greater output. There's little evidence to support this theory, but you have to admire its beauty because it assumes the government can create wealth out of thin air. If it were true, the government should spend $10 trillion and we'd all live in paradise....

The problem is that the money for this spending boom has to come from somewhere, which means it is removed from the private sector as higher taxes or borrowing....Mr. Barro wrote about this way back in 1974 in his classic article, "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?", in the Journal of Political Economy. Larry Summers and Paul Krugman must have missed it.

The government spending will be a net stimulus only if its $1 goes to more productive purposes than those to which private investors would have put that same $1. There are some ways we may want the government to spend money -- on national defense, say -- but that doesn't mean it's a stimulus....

Apart from the inevitable waste, the Democrats are taking a big political gamble here. Congress and Mr. Obama are promoting this stimulus as the key to economic revival. Americans who know nothing about multipliers or neo-Keynesians expect it to work. The Federal Reserve is pushing trillions of dollars of monetary stimulus into the economy, and perhaps that along with a better bank rescue strategy will make the difference. But if spring and then summer arrive, and the economy is still in recession, Americans are going to start asking what they bought for that $355 billion.

It is an interesting political gamble: will they get credit for getting rid of the recession if it goes away on its own-- or like FDR, will the recession continue largely unabated (or worsen), saddling the country with more debt and sacking the incumbent party?

stimulus analysis mostly parallels editorial

Here's an article in this AM's C-J from the AP's Andrew Taylor on the stimulus (with plenty of interesting examples)-- redundant with the parallel editorial in places, and without blame-shifting to the Republican minority...

They call it "stimulus" legislation, but the economic measures racing through Congress would devote tens of billions of dollars to causes that have little to do with jolting the country out of recession.

There's $345 million for Agriculture Department computers, $650 million for TV converter boxes, $15 billion for college scholarships - worthy, perhaps, but not likely to put many Americans back to work quickly.

Yes, there are many billions of dollars in "ready-to-go" job-creating projects in President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill. But there are also plenty of items that are just unfinished business for Congress' old bulls.

An $800 billion-plus package, it turns out, gives lawmakers plenty of opportunities to rid themselves of nagging headaches left over from the days when running up the government's $10 trillion-plus debt was a bigger concern.

...lawmakers are able to thin out their in-boxes, even if they aren't doing much to create jobs.

C-J on the stimulus bill

Here are the C-J editorialists with another mixed bag of analysis and opinion...

Whatever else they think about the $819 billion economic recovery plan passed Wednesday by the U.S. House, all sides should keep in mind that the federal government and the nation are in uncharted waters.

No one really knows if measures contained in the bill will work to resuscitate the economy, which is battered by an extraordinary mix of financial, credit and housing crises.

And if some steps do succeed, which ones will they be and how quickly will we see positive results?

Great comments/questions to open things up...

The one point almost everybody agrees upon is that doing absolutely nothing is not a responsible option. The most promising course is to try a lot of different approaches and see what proves to be helpful.

The first sentence is not true-- among those with some expertise and those without a special interest in seeing more spending. The second sentence is a.) weird; b.) the sort of thing we did in the Great Depression; c.) reminds me of a euphemism regarding offal and a wall; and d.) contradicts the opening (if we do a bunch of stuff, we won't have any better idea of cause and effect after this is over).

That said, House Republicans are right that the bill contains too many items -- such as money for Head Start, the National Endowment for the Arts and Pell Grants for college students -- that have little value as an economic stimulus. Most are worthy causes, but they should be considered as separate legislation -- and appropriations....

Aside from the assertion that such things are "worthy causes", the C-J'ers are definitely correct that they are not particularly "stimulative" and should be considered separately.

The editorialists wrap up with this excellent sentence-- except that it is aimed at Republicans. Again, for the C-J, blame mostly flows one direction.

Narrow political calculations must be put on hold.

C-J on McConnell

Here are the C-J editorialists in this AM's paper...

Sen. Mitch McConnell...called the GOP a party of "equality and opportunity." This will be news to most Americans, who consider it the party of the well-heeled and well-connected...

Nice rhetoric, but not true any more. Many if not a majority of the wealthy are Democrats. And Dems are comprised of and supported by a higher proportion of well-connected special interest groups.

...the party whose assaults on government and government regulation have helped give us all an opportunity to experience what our relatives endured in the 1930s.

Nice rhetoric, but the party's assault on us has been a function of much more govt spending and regulation. It's always funny hearing people describe Bush and his (Democratic and Republican) Congresses as small-govt. And of course, for the C-J, the Dems apparently get no blame.

...urged bipartisanship by, among other things, scolding Democrats for not recognizing the mandate won by George W. Bush in 2004 and the Republican Congress and putting "Social Security reform on the agenda."

Here, McConnell is in error. It was the Republican Congress that most notably lacked the passion, heart, and intellect to carry SS reform forward. That said, it's a shame to see the C-J get in the way of a progressive agenda. Some day...

shelter at SE

Sorry that I just found out about this...

If you-- or more likely, someone you know-- still needs a place to stay as the area recovers from the recent storm....

The C-J reports today that:

Southeast Christian Church says it can take up to 300 people in a shelter it is opening at its Sports & Fitness Center.

The shelter opened last evening, but is not equipped for those needing medical attention. Guests are asked to bring their own bedding and toiletries. No pets are allowed.

Southeast Christian Church is at 920 Blankenbaker Parkway. Use entrance 3 or 4 off Watterson Trail to access the Sports & Fitness Center.

Friday, January 30, 2009

taxing Zipcars

There's the economics of Zipcars-- and then there's part of the politics of Zipcars, including taxes.

Interesting questions here-- taxation in general, taxation with respect to externalities, differential taxation, and so on.

Here's Sarah Nassauer in the WSJ...

In cities around the country, fans of Zipcar Inc. and other car-sharing companies are seeing prices rise for those jaunts to the grocery store. For that, they can blame the taxman.

As car-sharing companies have enjoyed skyrocketing growth in recent years, several state and city governments have ruled that car-sharing companies need to charge their members car-rental tax....

Rental-car taxes are already paid by the big players like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Hertz. But since customers often use car-sharing services for just a few hours, those extra charges can end up making members' bills a lot higher....The issue is creating a lobbying headache for the small, up-and-coming car-share industry and putting it at loggerheads with traditional car-rental companies.

The concept of car sharing started in the U.S. as small, local, mostly non-profit ventures with explicitly green ambitions, but as national for-profit players Flexcar and Zipcar started to grow, city and state governments started to take note. Then Cambridge, Mass.-based Zipcar bought Flexcar last October, making it the largest and only national game in town, raising the question -- is "car sharing" the same as "car rental" and should services' members be paying rental-car tax?...

Car-sharing companies argue that they shouldn't be required to pay rental-car taxes because their concept -- members renting cars for short periods of time from parking spots close to their home -- reduces the number of cars on the road, eases parking and traffic problems and gets people to drive fewer miles. Some independent research backs up their claims....

Rental-car taxes are particularly popular among politicians because they believe the levies tend to target visitors, not voters....

Car-sharing companies' biggest adversary in the tax battle is often the legacy car-rental companies, which vehemently object to exemptions for car-sharing members, but not their customers....

Traditional rental-car companies point out that they now offer hourly rates, too, that appeal to local users -- and deliver the same environmental benefits as their car-sharing competitors....


A cool economic and environmental innovation in a number of cities-- to rent cars by the hour...

Here's Katy Marquardt in U.S. News & World Report...

The story opens with Megan Graff's interest in Zipcars and her periodic use of a car named...

Armson belongs to a fleet of cars owned by Zipcar, a company that has turned the concept of car rental on its head. There's no waiting in line, and there's no spiel on upgrades or insurance. In fact, there's no face-to-face interaction at all. Customers apply to become members—or "zipsters"—and reserve vehicles online.

And forget about getting stuck with a Ford Taurus or Chevy Cobalt. Zipcars, which are scattered throughout city neighborhoods, are fun and whimsical (think Mini Coopers and Volkswagen Jettas with names like "Dagwood" and "Jinglebell"). Car doors unlock with the flash of a pass card over a sensor on the windshield, and a key hangs from the steering column. Gas and insurance are included in an hourly rate, which tends to range from $6 to $10.

Run out of a sunny, warehouse-style office in Cambridge, Mass., Zipcar aims to offer urban dwellers "the same freedom and feel of owning a car but without the baggage and without the hassle," says chief executive Scott Griffith, 48, a former Boeing executive...The company, founded in 1999 by an MIT business school graduate and a Harvard environmental science scholar, today claims 200,000 members in 50 cities and 5,000 vehicles (1,300 of which are in New York City). A huge boost—including five new cities—came late last year, when Zipcar merged with the industry's other major player, Flexcar....

About two thirds of Zipcar's members are under 35, an age that's been trending up over the past few years. Based on survey data, the company says that more than 40 percent of Zipcar users either sell their car or decide not to buy one. The target market is the 20 million people who currently live within a five- to 10-minute walk of a Zipcar, Griffith says, more than half of whom don't need to drive every day....

The company is making a big push to intercept customers early by revving up its presence on college campuses. So far, the service is available at 70 universities...

Traditional rental-car companies are beginning to eye Zipcar's market....

Carbon: tax, trade or deregulate?

The title of a debate/discussion between Lynne Kiesling, Ronald Bailey and Fred Smith (of CEI)-- moderated by Matt Welch in Reason...

You can here it on video by clicking here...

On August 11, 2005, Ronald Bailey, reason’s science correspondent and the author of such enviro-skeptic books as Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of Environmental Apocalypse, wrote the following words at reason online: “Anyone still holding onto the idea that there is no global warming ought to hang it up. All data sets—satellite, surface, and balloon—have been pointing to rising global temperatures. In fact, they all have had upward-pointing arrows for nearly a decade.”

Although there are still plenty of free market thinkers who aren’t yet ready to “hang it up,” the center of the debate has shifted in recent years from contested science to proposed policy. And with the prospect of an anti–global warming crusader...joining forces with a Democratic Congress carrying years of pent-up environmentalist frustration, significant new global warming regulation isn’t a matter of “if” but “how much.”...

Bailey painfully concluded that climate change “is a real problem” and reluctantly favored a tax on carbon. Kiesling pointed to the difficulty of assigning property rights to the atmosphere and tentatively came out for a “cap and trade” system of creating a market for pollution credits above a government-imposed ceiling. Smith robustly rejected both ideas in favor of private innovation....

That's the intro, click here for a text of the discussion...

energy subsidies-- in 1999 and 2007

We should never take money from people to give to corporations-- for energy or anything else.

To the extent that there are social costs associated with pollution, then a relevant tax can be an improvement (at least on paper). But subsidies put govt in the position of trying to pick winners as a second-best solution-- rather than dealing with the root of the problem.

In any case, here's some info from tables in a report by the Energy Information Administration within the Dept. of Energy (hat tip: Michael Platner at the American Petroleum Institute who graciously replied to my email query)...

A reduced version of Table ES1 (Table 1 in the Executive Summary) provides "Energy Subsidies and Support by Type and Fuel, FY2007 and FY1999 (in millions of 2007 dollars)"

Coal $932
Refined Coal 2,370
Natural Gas and Petroleum Liquids 2,149
Nuclear 1,267
Renewables 4,875
Electricity (Not fuel specific) 1,235
End Use 2,828
Conservation 926
Total $16,581

Coal 567
Natural Gas and Petroleum Liquids 2,077
Nuclear 740
Renewables 1,417
Electricity (Not fuel specific) 314
End Use 2,135
Conservation 191
Federal Electricity Programs 753
Total $8,194

Some basic observations:
-Marked increase overall, more than doubling for all forms of energy.
-Oil and gas were up 3%; overall share of subsidies fell from 24% to 12%.
-Coal and nuclear were up 70%.
-All coal (including "refined coal") was up 6x.
-Renewables were up 3.5x; conservation was up 5x.

-I'm not sure this is what one would expect from the stereotype of Bush.
-The continuing emphasis on coal reflects geographical and unfortunate political realities.

Drill, baby, drill??

Is there a better example of the short time horizons of politicians-- and behind that, those of the general public?

In the campaign, it was all about gas prices until the Fall-- and then it was all about the macro-economy.

Now that gas prices are low again-- because of the improving dollar (for now) and reduced demand (for now)-- no one's talking about drilling anymore. A convenient political issue and a bright shiny object which distracts the public.

But if it was a good idea in June, it's still a good idea now.

Here's Daniel Henninger in the WSJ from June...

Brazil discovered only yesterday (in November) that billions of barrels of oil sit in difficult water beneath a swath of the Santos Basin, 180 miles offshore from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The U.S. has known for decades that at least 8.5 billion proven barrels of oil sit off its Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts, with the Interior Department estimating 86 billion barrels of undiscovered oil resources.

When Brazil made this find last November, did its legislature announce that, for fear of oil spills hitting Rio's beaches or altering the climate, it would forgo exploiting these fields?

Of course it didn't....

At this point in time, is there another country on the face of the earth that would possess the oil and gas reserves held by the United States and refuse to exploit them? Only technical incompetence, as in Mexico, would hold anyone back. But not us. We won't drill....

Some portion of the current $4-per-gallon gasoline may be attributable to the Federal Reserve's inflationary monetary policy or even speculators. But we can wave goodbye to the $1.25/gallon gasoline that in 1990 allowed a President Bush to airily lock away the nation's oil and gas jewels. This isn't your father's world of energy. New world powers are coming online fast, and they need energy. We need to get back in the game.

The goal shouldn't be "energy independence," a ridiculous notion in an economically integrated world. It's about admitting the need to strike a balance between the energy and security realities of the here-and-now and the potentialities of the future....

Lomborg in the WSJ

Speaking of Lomborg, here are some excerpts from a book review he wrote about Thomas Friedman's book in the WSJ...

In his latest dispatch on the state of the world, "Hot, Flat, and Crowded," Thomas L. Friedman makes it clear that he wants to improve conditions for mankind....But because of climate change (hot), ever-more people (crowded) and higher material aspirations of all in a competitive global economy (flat), he believes that the world's growth is leading us toward catastrophe.

Mr. Friedman, a columnist for the New York Times, describes this threat in the grimmest of terms....Relentlessly, Mr. Friedman spins toward an extreme answer: We desperately need a green revolution involving a rapid reduction in CO2 emissions....

Let's be clear. Global warming is real and man-made. I take as my starting point the findings of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Denying climate science is foolish. But so is denying climate economics, the costs of which could run into the hundreds of trillions of dollars. Depressingly, Mr. Friedman throughout "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" simply does not talk seriously about the costs of his proposed solutions. He also fails to weigh those costs against the benefits, and he doesn't consider the threat of global warming in the context of other significant threats to the world's well-being....

Mr. Friedman is a smart guy, and he has interviewed a lot of interesting people for "Hot, Flat, and Crowded." The problem is that they are essentially all on the same side of the issue. His sources are mostly climate campaigners, politicians who've made climate a big issue and businessmen who would gain a lot from regulation. Not surprisingly, they fundamentally agree on the size of the problem and its solutions....

Underlying Mr. Friedman's argument is a deep consideration for the world's poorest people. He talks about how global warming will dramatically add to the many burdens of the poor, including disease and hunger -- global warming, in a sense, is the straw that will break the camel's back. But instead of focusing on removing this single straw at extreme cost, maybe we should remove some of the great loads from the camel's back at much lower cost. In other words, if we want to help real people, let's tackle malaria, famine, the lack of clean water directly. It is a shame Mr. Friedman ended up selecting the worst solution to the least solvable challenge....

The Rational Environmentalist

The title of an interview with Bjorn Lomborg by Ronald Bailey in Reason-- on what should have priority over "global warming"...

Where in the world can we do the most good? That is the basic question addressed by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank founded six years ago by the Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg. To answer the question, the center periodically convenes panels of leading economists, who weigh and prioritize the solutions experts have proposed to the world's biggest problems.

Lomborg, a boyish 43-year-old, first burst onto the intellectual scene in 2001 with his best-selling book The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. There the former Greenpeace member argued persuasively that most of the planetary doom scenarios imagined by ideological environmentalists were contradicted by the available ecological and economic data. The book provoked a furious green backlash, the low point of which was a 2003 ruling by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty that "the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty." Lomborg was vindicated later that year when the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation overturned the ruling, calling it "completely void of argumentation."...

Lomborg was appointed director of the Danish National Environmental Assessment Institute, a group whose explicit aim is to "get the most environment for the money." In 2004, under Lomborg's guidance, the institute convened the first Copenhagen Consensus conference, in which eight leading economists, including four Nobel laureates, were asked to allocate a theoretical $50 billion to solve the world's biggest problems. The panel was presented with 30 proposals from other researchers for ranking and evaluation. The top four priorities left standing at the end of the conference were: controlling HIV/AIDS, providing micro-nutrients to children, liberalizing trade, and rolling back malaria. Addressing climate change ranked near the bottom. This infuriated many environmentalists...

In 2007...Lomborg published Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, in which he acknowledged that man-made global warming is a problem but challenged the notion that it is the biggest threat to human well-being. Instead of draconian and poverty-inducing cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, Lomborg argued, rich countries could more effectively tackle the problem through massive research and development into low-carbon energy technologies....

In May 2008, Lomborg convened the second Copenhagen Consensus Center conference....The panel's top four solutions: providing vitamin A and zinc supplements to poor children, liberalizing trade, fortifying salt and staple foods with the micronutrients iodine and iron, and expanding childhood immunization. Cutting greenhouse gases came in at the bottom, although another approach to global warming—R&D spending on low-carbon energy technologies—was a mid-list priority....

That's the intro...For the interview, click here...

I haven't read any of Lomborg's stuff-- aside from essays and interviews-- but it sounds interesting!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

giving a kidney causes no long-term problems

From the AP's Stephanie Nano in the C-J...

Donating a kidney doesn't appear to have any long-term health consequences for the donor, a reassuring study shows. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found those who gave up one of their two kidneys lived a normal life span and were as healthy as people in the general population. The donation also didn't raise the risk of having kidney failure later

Kidney donation has generally been considered safe, although with surgery, there are always risks. The new research of nearly 3,700 donors dating back more than four decades is the largest and longest study to look at long-term outcomes, said the researchers. They reported their findings in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine....

More than 78,000 people are on the national waiting list to receive a kidney from a deceased donor. The need for kidneys has soared with the rise in diabetes and obesity and the wait can last for years.

Living donation has increased as more people became willing to donate and newer surgery techniques shortened recovery time. In 2007, more than a third of the 16,629 kidneys transplanted in the U.S. came from living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing....

you'd think that having a govt-established monopoly would be enough...

Here's the AP's Randolph Schmid in the C-J on the Postmaster's request to reduce first class mail service to five days a week...

I have a better idea: after endless deficits and innumerable complaints about service quality, why don't we allow competition and the private sector into the market?

Massive deficits could force the post office to cut out one day of mail delivery, the postmaster general told Congress on Wednesday, in asking lawmakers to lift the requirement that the agency deliver mail six days a week. If the change happens, that doesn't necessarily mean an end to Saturday mail delivery. Previous post office studies have looked at the possibility of skipping some other day when mail flow is light, such as Tuesday.

Faced with dwindling mail volume and rising costs, the post office was $2.8 billion in the red last year. "If current trends continue, we could experience a net loss of $6 billion or more this fiscal year," Postmaster General John E. Potter said in testimony for a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

Total mail volume was 202 billion items last year, over 9 billion less than the year before, the largest single volume drop in history.

And, despite annual rate increases, Potter said 2009 could be the first year since 1946 that the actual amount of money collected by the post office declines....

It's that crazy "elasticity of demand curve" thing. Increasing rates-- for the post office or marginal tax rates-- does not necessarily increase revenues. As such, we might expect the USPS to continue its downward spiral.

The next postal rate increase is scheduled for May, with the amount to be announced next month. Under current rules that would be limited to the amount of the increase in last year's consumer price index, 3.8 percent. That would round to a 2-cent increase in the current 42-cent first class rate.

The agency could request a larger increase because of the special circumstances, but Potter believes that would be counterproductive by causing mail volume to fall even more.

OK, Potter's paying attention to E100: if increasing rates hurt revenue, maybe it'd be stupid to keep doing that!

Gore's testimony contributes to whatever global warming we may be experiencing

Here's the AP's Dina Cappiello in the C-J on Al Gore's testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (?) on global "climate change"...

Former Vice President Al Gore presented lawmakers on Wednesday with a new inconvenient truth: Action on global warming cannot wait until the economy recovers....

Is it "global warming" or "climate change"?

Gore pressed Congress to pass President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan as a first step to bringing greenhouse gases under control....

Huh? I pressed the gas pedal today to stop my car. Or I hit the brakes to accelerate. Or I smoke crack to remain sober.

To underscore his point, Gore flipped through more than four dozen new slides showing melting ice caps, western wildfires, deforestation and oxygen-depleted seas in a hearing room where the lights were dimmed....

It's interesting to see Gore's primary take-away from his 1992 dealings with Ross Perot.

The Bush administration pulled out of the last treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, citing a lack of participation by developing countries and harm to the economy. In the late 1990s, during the Clinton administration, the U.S. Senate balked at ratifying the agreement. Negotiations on a new pact are scheduled for December in Copenhagen, Denmark....

As Horner notes, Clinton didn't push this either. If you don't like this outcome, blame both of them.

Gore said that he thought nuclear could play a small role, but would not be a "silver bullet."...

Interesting-- in that he accepts a role for nuclear and that Mr. Silver Bullet doesn't see this as a silver bullet.

a cool picture of the Inauguration

A cool picture of the Inauguration...

with commentary on how it was done...

hat tip: Aunt Mary!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Ten Principles of Energy Policy"

Excerpts from the introduction to Joseph Bast's "Ten Principles of Energy Policy"...

It covers 10 of the most important energy issues facing the country, with each section ending with recommended actions and suggested readings. A thorough bibliography appears at the end of the booklet....

Three themes appear frequently in this guide:

  • Energy issues are often environmental issues, and vice versa. Restrictions on access to energy are often defended in the name of environmental protection.
  • Newspaper stories and advocacy spin are often at odds with sound science and facts.
  • Markets usually do a better job than governments at giving consumers what they want and directing capital and other scarce resources to their best and most efficient uses....

The second theme, sound science, is in response to the fact that debates over energy policy often are driven by exaggeration and scare tactics used by advocates to boost public support for their agendas. Environmental groups embrace these tactics as a way to generate public sympathy for their cause, while business groups embrace them to secure subsidies for themselves or regulations that harm their competitors....

How do we balance energy and environmental concerns with the individual rights and freedoms we hold dear?...

Unhindered and unsubsidized competition among energy technologies is the best means to discovering tomorrow’s new energy sources. Elected officials should refuse to try to pick winners, even though doing so may score points with one group or another in the short term.

The 10 topics....
1. Energy independence is an illusion
2. Gasoline prices are market-driven
3. Global warming is not a crisis
4. Air pollution is not a major public health problem
5. Mercury is not a major public health problem
6. Biofuels should not be subsidized
7. CAFE standards sacrifice lives for oil
8. Electric deregulation is still necessary
9. Liquefied natural gas is part of the solution
10. Nuclear energy is part of the solution

The full PDF version is available here...

Inconvenient Truths: Get Ready to Rethink What It Means to Be Green

The title of a series of articles in Wired from June, structured around "10 environmental myths" and "Green heresies":

Live in Cities:
Urban Living Is Kinder to the Planet Than the Suburban Lifestyle

A/C Is OK:
Air-Conditioning Actually Emits Less C02 Than Heating

Organics Are Not the Answer:
Surprise! Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier on the Planet

Farm the Forests:
Old-Growth Forests Can Actually Contribute to Global Warming

China Is the Solution:
The People's Republic Leads the Way in Alternative-Energy Hardware

Accept Genetic Engineering:
Superefficient Frankencrops Could Put a Real Dent in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Carbon Trading Doesn't Work:
Carbon Credits Were a Great Idea, But the Benefits Are Illusory

Embrace Nuclear Power:
Face It. Nukes Are the Most Climate-Friendly Industrial-Scale Form of Energy

Used Cars — Not Hybrids:
Don't Buy That New Prius! Test-Drive a Used Car Instead

Prepare for the Worst:
Climate Change Is Inevitable. Get Used to It

famous places under environmental siege

On the supposed costs of "global warming"-- and other environmental threats to famous sites around the world...

Here's a graphic, inspired by Julian Smith, in U.S. News & World Report...

The Great Pacific Climate Shift

My meteorologist friend Randy Baker mentioned to me at church. I stuck a note in my blogging files and don't remember exactly what he said-- except that this is a significant piece of the puzzle. (Perhaps he'll comment and elaborate.)

Here's an excerpt from Sallie Baliunas' paper posted at the Heritage Foundation.

Every 20 to 30 years, the Pacific Ocean changes sharply. The sudden shift is called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, or PDO, and produces an ocean, air, and wind current shift. Fishermen will notice, for example, migrations of fish species along the West Coast.

In 1976-1977 the Pacific Decadal Oscillation shifted, and is labeled the Great Pacific Climate Shift of 1976-1977. As a result, temperatures changed dramatically from their former average (since around 1946), and returned to warmth seen from around 1923 to 1946. So sharp is the shift that the appropriate thing to do is to look for a secular trend (which might be the human-made trend) before 1976-1977, and then after 1976-1977. But drawing a straight line through that natural event should be avoided.

The PDO is natural, because proxy records--of tree growth, for example--detail the oscillation going back several centuries, which is prior to human activities that significantly increase the content of greenhouse gases in the air.

And also known from computer simulations is that the human-made warming trend is supposed to grow steadily over decades. So, a shift all at once in 1976-1977 is ruled out by those two reasons. One, it's not what the models project; and two, we see this event before the build-up of human-made greenhouse gases, and it is therefore natural.

Here are two more papers by John D'Aleo-- the original paper and an addendum.

a pro-life cartoon in the C-J!

Lisa Benson's effort, originally published in the Victor Valley (CA) Daily Press and (hat tip: C-J)...

How did that get in the C-J? Maybe it was the implied anti-eugenics angle...

Political Cartoons by Lisa Benson

Horner IV: the politics and economics of Global Warming

More from Christopher Horner's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism...

I'm dividing this review into four parts: some lovely quotes on global cooling; his discussion of global warming and cooling; "the debate" including the tactics of those in the "consensus" view; and the political and economic responses (below).

Horner opens his preface by noting that "global problems demand global solutions...thus helping to bypass the irritating obstacles posed by sovereignty and democratic decision-making" (p.

We see the same sort of thing with the "trade deficit" (in goods and services). A problem is blown-up and extended to a national concern, implying national solutions are required (protectionism).

Interestingly, from the apocalyptic rhetoric, Horner wonders whether any policy imaginable would solve the problem. He cites Gore who compares all of this to World War II and wonders whether Gore's war will also feature "internment camps, food and fuel rationing, and conscription" (p. xiv).

Horner spends a lot of time on how little Kyoto is expected to do-- even if you got compliance and virtually ignoring its impact on the economy and individuals (especially the more marginal). In any case, he notes that Clinton and Bush both deferred on the issue-- despite clamoring that Bush was different/worse (p. 277). Horner documents Enron's primary role in Kyoto and their connections to the Clinton administration (p. 194-199). And Horner also has words for John McCain (p.

At least Senators McCain and Lieberman have the humility to declare theirs to be "a modest first step". One trembles for the economy when they imagine Mr. McCain's immodest second step.

Greens are sometimes nicknamed "watermelons" (p. 7)-- green on the outside and red on the inside. Of course, this is ironic, given the environmental records of Communist countries (p. 8). In fact, capitalism (including regulation for externalities) offers the best way forward.

Horner III: modeling and marketing Global Warming

More from Christopher Horner's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism...

I'm dividing this review into four parts: some lovely quotes on global cooling; his discussion of global warming and cooling; "the debate" including the tactics of those in the "consensus" view
(below); and the political and economic responses.

On the public "debate", Horner opens with:

Greens are persuasive in their passion...really believe in what they preach-- at least in their cause if not the claims....The greens have one great weakness: they are wrong both in the economics and science of most every issue they now pursue (p. 14-15).


Stephen Schneider: To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective and being honest (p. 40).

2006 Greenpeace press release (prematurely released): "In the 20 years since the Chernobyl tragedy, the world's worst nuclear accident, there have been nearly [FILL IN ALARMIST AND ARMAGEDDONIST FACTOID HERE]." (p. 43)

Al Gore: I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous [global warming] is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are (p. 209).

Horner spends all of ch. 10 blowing up Gore-- and devotes an entire section [p. 120-131] to the "Hockey Stick" model debacle. About all of this, Horner concludes:

The easiest job in the world would be "director of research" for an alarmist environmental group, given their propensity for simply making things up...Greens are remarkably hard-wired to turn every conceivably relevant occurrence into proof of their current alarm (p. 40).

I think this is changing now, but Horner argues that "Debate and dissent are intolerable: No honest person could disagree with the catastrophists; therefore, dissenters must be dishonest" (p. 4). Beyond that, he quotes author Mark Lynas and 60 Minutes reporter Scott Pelley who both compared Global Warming deniers to Holocaust deniers (p. 35).

Part of this was in amassing a large body to make up the undeniable consensus. Here's Richard Lindzen:

"Why are the opinions of scientists sought regardless of their field of expertise?...Apparently, when it comes to global warming, any scientist's agreement will do. The answer most certainly lies in politics." (p. 93)

The other side has matched this bogus approach to public advocacy. But clearly the GW'ers fired the first (bunch of) shots.

Horner quotes Dyson who said that only one climate model predicts El Nino before noting that climate models are "essential tools for understanding climate [but] they are not yet adequate tools for predicting change" (p. 113).

And from Horner (p. 233-234): The global cooling alarmists in the 1970s loved to cite one positive feedback loop: as things got cooler, more snow and ice would cover the planet, reflecting more of the sun's rays (thus absorbing less), causing the surface and the water to cool even more. Thus, cooling leads to more cooling. Today, they tell us that warming leads to more warming. Except for [some] who argue that warming leads to a new ice age. The alarmist consensus is that a little bit of warming will cause something disastrous.

It's interesting that lefties envision and have tremendous faith in dynamic environmental models (at least those that fit within their worldview)-- and static economic models (e.g., in failing to imagine the impact of regulation, bailouts, tax policy, etc.).

Horner II: on global warming

More from Christopher Horner's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism...

I'm dividing this review into four parts: some lovely quotes on global cooling; his discussion of global warming and cooling (below); "the debate" including the tactics of those in the "consensus" view; and the political and economic responses.

Despite the frequent claims that the debate is settled, Horner argues that

The main hole in the "settled" theory of catastrophic Manmade global warming is that it is not catastrophic, manmade, or global (p. 65).

Horner continues by allowing that:

Yes, on average, the planet is getting warmer...mostly at night, in the winter, and at the North Pole...[but] not unprecedented...just emerged from something called the Little Ice Age...currently colder than it was during the well-established Medieval Warm Period....uncertain about the extent of the what extent is human activity responsible for the current warming? Probably very little. Many factors, including the volatile sun, can contribute to temperature change....We cannot even be sure that the Earth's warming is a bad thing [on net]... (p. 66)

Manmade greenhouse gases are a tiny fraction of one factor (p. 69).

Warming is happening, but it is slight, it is relative, and it is not "global" in that it is not warming everywhere (p. 70).

Don't most flora and fauna live in warmer areas...the same reason that 90% of Canadians are huddled near their southern border?...Finally, we need to ask whether warmer is necessarily worse...Cold is not only not pleasant, but it kills like heat rarely can (p. 74).

Horner I: some wonderful quotes on global cooling

Time to review another book I read in preparation for the Congressional campaign: Christopher Horner's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism.

I was anticipating more questions about global warming (at least in the debates). My response on this topic had been one of my two weak answers in the Bloomington debate. I gave a measured-- and it turns out correct-- response. But Hill was either ignorant in his avid advocacy or smart in playing poker. He came out swinging and I was neither sure enough nor prepared enough to provide a tight rebuttal.

I also read Singer & Avery's
Unstoppable Global Warming-- Every 1500 Years. (I reviewed it earlier.) By way of comparison, as you probably can tell by the title, Horner's book is less academic, more cynical and sound-bitey of the two. Horner's book is funny and clever-- and a nice intro for those looking for a lighter (but still effective) touch on a serious subject.

I'm going to divide this review into four parts: some lovely quotes on global cooling (below); his discussion of global warming and cooling; "the debate" including the tactics of those in the "consensus" view; and the political and economic responses.

Betty Friedan in 1958 Harpers: "Certain signs, some of them visible to the layman as well as the scientist, indicate that we have been watching an ice age approach for some time without realizing what we are seeing...Scientists predict that it will cause great snows which the world has not seen since the last ice age thousands of years ago."

Hmm...This may explain this week's snow storm! And it's good to see Betty expand her horizons from feminism to climatology.

Nigel Calder (1975): The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind.

I guess he was right in that neither happened. That was very clever-- to compare the probability of two events to each other.

Reid Bryson (1971): The continued rapid cooling of the earth since WWII is in accord with the increase in global air pollution associate with industrialization, mechanization, urbanization, and exploding population.

A beauty of a quote, huh? And of course, I hate when my population explodes. We all know how painful that can be.

Douglas Colligan (1975): The world's climatologists are agreed...Once the freeze starts, it will be too late.

Absolutely. So when is it going to start, Doug?

Newsweek on global cooling (1975): "this trend will reduce agricultural productivity".

OK, I'm sure they were glad to hear about global warming!

Fortune (1954): Despite all you may have heard, read, or imagined, it's been growing cooler-- not warmer-- since the Thirties.

Wow, maybe they were correct after all?

Horner has a few nice lines too:

Cooling does paint a far more frightening picture given that another ice age would be truly catastrophic, while throughout human history, warming periods have always ushered in prosperity. Maybe that's why the greens tried "global cooling" first (p. 62).

If, like the greens, we are willing to cite a short period of time in order to claim a long-term trend, then a possible cooling trend began in 1998, despite further, massive, worldwide increases in fossil fuel use (p. 116-117a).

Horner also notes a Business and Media Institute report, finding that the New York Times "has engaged in at least four separate campaigns about climate change...since warning of a new ice age in 1895" (p. 182-183). It was cooling in 1895, a concern reinvigorated in 1924 and 1975-- with warming articles starting up in 1933 and over the past 15 years or so.