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Ex-Soviet Economist on Comrade Hillary - LewRockwell LewRockwell.com

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - 2 hours 10 min ago
By June 25, 2016 Today we have two presumptive candidates and it is obvious to anyone with the ability to think clearly that Trump’s opportunity cost is…

Kansas Schools Don’t Need More Money

Blog - Education - 2 hours 44 min ago

The Legislature is preparing to embroil itself in a special session after the Kansas Supreme Court threatened to close public schools over a funding dispute amounting to less than 1 percent of the state’s education budget.

Gov. Sam Brownback and like-minded state lawmakers are considered by many in the media to be the enemy here, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. Have you ever heard of an elected official who is praised for cutting education spending?

For that matter, have you ever heard an education official say education spending at current levels is sufficient?

But has anyone paused to consider if the education system actually needs so much money and, if so, why?

The widely accepted belief that throwing money at schools will improve educational quality has been disproved time and time again, including during the federal takeover of the Kansas City, Mo., school district. In a 1981 study, researcher Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University found that “there is no relationship between expenditures and the achievement of students.” The Kansas Policy Institute used data from the National Center for Economic Statistics to show in its April 2016report that “graduation rates have steadily increased, regardless of funding levels.”

If more money is not a cure for America’s failing schools, what’s to be done?

First, let’s stop automatically demonizing elected officials for cutting education spending. Ask education departments specifically what they are spending taxpayers’ money on and whether they can show, using empirical evidence, such a strategy will lead to an improvement in students’ educational outcomes. Schools need money, but school districts also need to be held accountable.

Legislatures also need to be open to school choice. Kansas currently has only one school choice program available to parents in the state – the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program – and just 73 students participated in the program during the 2015-16 school year. School choice programs save taxpayers money.

What does the state really need to improve educational quality? It’s likely, despite all of the rhetoric claiming the contrary, that money is not really the problem. It’s certainly not a surefire solution.
[Originally published at the Wichita Eagle]

Kansas Schools Don’t Need More Money

Somewhat Reasonable - 2 hours 44 min ago

The Legislature is preparing to embroil itself in a special session after the Kansas Supreme Court threatened to close public schools over a funding dispute amounting to less than 1 percent of the state’s education budget.

Gov. Sam Brownback and like-minded state lawmakers are considered by many in the media to be the enemy here, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. Have you ever heard of an elected official who is praised for cutting education spending?

For that matter, have you ever heard an education official say education spending at current levels is sufficient?

But has anyone paused to consider if the education system actually needs so much money and, if so, why?

The widely accepted belief that throwing money at schools will improve educational quality has been disproved time and time again, including during the federal takeover of the Kansas City, Mo., school district. In a 1981 study, researcher Eric A. Hanushek of Stanford University found that “there is no relationship between expenditures and the achievement of students.” The Kansas Policy Institute used data from the National Center for Economic Statistics to show in its April 2016report that “graduation rates have steadily increased, regardless of funding levels.”

If more money is not a cure for America’s failing schools, what’s to be done?

First, let’s stop automatically demonizing elected officials for cutting education spending. Ask education departments specifically what they are spending taxpayers’ money on and whether they can show, using empirical evidence, such a strategy will lead to an improvement in students’ educational outcomes. Schools need money, but school districts also need to be held accountable.

Legislatures also need to be open to school choice. Kansas currently has only one school choice program available to parents in the state – the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship Program – and just 73 students participated in the program during the 2015-16 school year. School choice programs save taxpayers money.

What does the state really need to improve educational quality? It’s likely, despite all of the rhetoric claiming the contrary, that money is not really the problem. It’s certainly not a surefire solution.
[Originally published at the Wichita Eagle]

Categories: On the Blog

House Takes Stand against Carbon Tax

Somewhat Reasonable - 2 hours 54 min ago

The idea of a carbon dioxide tax fits in seamlessly with the romantic, often quixotic, worldview of the modern environmental movement. It’s a well-intentioned notion that’s untethered to reality, and which would produce few appreciable gains, while causing major damage.

Unfortunately, the idea is also gradually picking up momentum. While no state currently has a carbon dioxide tax on the books, voters in Washington State will decide whether they want to be the first to implement one when they go the polls in November. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District currently oversees a business carbon tax over a nine-county area in Northern California, and a county-wide tax is now in effect in Montgomery County, Maryland. In Canada, carbon dioxide tax legislation recently passed the Legislature of Alberta, making it the third province to enact one since 2007.

In response to this gradual mainstreaming, 237 members of Congress voted to pass a non-binding resolution on June 10, putting them on record in opposition to a federal carbon dioxide tax. The House members supporting the bill argue that such a tax would be “detrimental to American families and businesses” as well as to the economy as a whole. (The Heartland Institute, where I work as a policy analyst, was one of many organizations that co-signed a letter of support for the resolution.)

The purpose of the carbon tax is to decrease carbon dioxide emissions by levying a tax based on the amount of emissions produced. But the tax is a prime example of the recoil being more dangerous than the projectile.

The carbon dioxide tax is inherently regressive and disproportionally harms low-income families. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that a $28 per ton carbon dioxide tax would result in energy costs being 250 percent higher for the poorest one-fifth of households than the richest one-fifth of households.

The reason? According to the CBO:

A carbon tax would increase the prices of fossil fuels in direct proportion to their carbon content. Higher fuel prices, in turn, would raise production costs and ultimately drive up prices for goods and services throughout the economy…Low-income households spend a larger share of their income on goods and services whose prices would increase the most, such as electricity and transportation.

This is why most proposed carbon dioxide tax legislation comes with offsetting cuts to other taxes — known as “tax swaps” — or direct tax rebates to individuals and families. This is the case with the Washington ballot initiative — where even proponents of the carbon tax admit that it would increase gas prices by 25 cents per gallon statewide — as well as another proposed carbon dioxide tax introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives earlier this year.

Another problem with the federal carbon dioxide bill is that any environmental benefits that it might produce would be effectively meaningless without concomitant legislation enacted throughout the rest of the globe. As Manhattan Institute senior fellow Oren Cass puts it:

The effectiveness of a carbon tax…therefore depend[s] not only on how it would directly alter the trajectory of American emissions, but also on its ability to affect global emissions by driving globally applicable technological innovation or by influencing the behavior of foreign governments. On each of these dimensions, the carbon tax fails.

William F. Buckley was fond of saying that as idealism approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive. This is certainly the case with a carbon dioxide tax, which would make everything more expensive for working Americans, leaving them less to spend and save — and all for no guaranteed environmental benefit. There might be some room to absorb the damage of such rose-colored schemes in a healthy economy, but certainly not at a time when the economy is still limping along.

These congressmen should be applauded for taking a stand, however symbolic, against such an ill-conceived proposal. Let’s hope that, if and when the time comes, they remain resolute.

[Originally published at Real Clear Policy]

Categories: On the Blog

Here’s What The New York Times Completely Missed In Its Criticism Of Fracking

Somewhat Reasonable - 3 hours 5 min ago

Although the May 23 New York Times article on hydraulic fracturing, “The Sand Mines That Ruin Farmland,” is an interesting read, it is by no means an accurate one. Author Nancy Loeb relies on unsubstantiated claims in order to push forth her own liberal agenda. Hydraulic fracturing is not the monster that Loeb makes it out to be.

Having grown up on the same farm where my grandfather was born in 1930, nothing makes my heart sink faster than seeing quality farmland disappear. It’s important, however, to understand the reality of the situation: Frac sand, oil, and natural gas must be harvested to meet the needs of our society, and these needs are being met in an environmentally responsible way.

Many critics of fracking seem to think the world can run on solar and wind power alone, and that oil and natural gas are unnecessary to fuel our cars (and farm equipment), keep the lights on at our schools, and power lifesaving equipment at our hospitals. Those notions are simply untrue. According to the Energy Information Administration, the United States generates just 0.4 percent of our total energy from solar power and 1.4 percent from wind energy. Together, these two forms of energy produce less energy than burning wood (2.2 percent).

Natural gas, by contrast, accounts for 28 percent of the nation’s total energy use, and oil accounts for another 35 percent. In order to produce oil and natural gas in the United States, we need to use hydraulic fracturing and, as a result, frac sand.

Hydraulic fracturing is used to extract 51 percent of the oil and 67 percentof the natural gas produced in the United States. Without this technology, it would be significantly more expensive to heat our homes, drive our cars, and power our hospitals. We would also be more dependent on foreign countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Venezuela. It makes more sense to put Americans to work developing these resources at home than to import them from abroad.

Unfortunately, Loeb makes claims about the alleged dangers of silica sand mining without providing proper supporting evidence. However, the Institute for Wisconsin’s Health conducted a health impact assessment of sand mining in Wisconsin and concluded that silica sand operations do not pose a threat to people living near these facilities. While it is true that small particles of silica dust are an occupational health hazard, there are already strict regulations in place to protect workers from ailments such as silicosis.

The facts on water consumption provide similarly good news. Statistics from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources show sand mines used only 0.09 percent of all the water consumed in the state in 2013. Agricultural irrigation used 55 times more water than silica sand mining. In addition, many industrial sand facilities recycle up to 90 percent of the water used.

The berms of topsoil Loeb refers to in passing are used to store the soil for later use so it can be reapplied to the land during the reclamation process when mining is complete, which she fails to mention. This practice helps restore the productivity of agricultural land while greatly reducing the potential impact of these mines on neighboring property values.

Those concerned about disappearing farmland would have better luck protesting the construction of strip malls, subdivisions, and superstores because these developments pose a far greater threat to farmland than sand mining. In fact, from 2007 to 2013, more than three million acres of U.S. farmland were converted into developments, and sand mining accounted for only a tiny fraction of this conversion. In addition, once farmland is paved over for housing, it is essentially gone for good, but sand mines can be reclaimed for other purposes after mining has been completed.

Finally, agriculture simply cannot be conducted without oil and natural gas. Tractors, combines, and the other heavy machinery used on farms run on gasoline and diesel fuel. The nitrogen-based fertilizer used to increase farm yields is made from natural gas. These sources of energy, and the people who work to produce them, are just as vital in ensuring we all have enough to eat as tractors and the farmers who drive them. Far from ruining the nation’s farms, fracking is a boon to agriculture.

[Originally published at Independent Journal Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Sean Parnell: A Shamelessly Uninsured Self-Pay Patient Saving Thousands on Health Care

Somewhat Reasonable - 8 hours 17 min ago

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.

The shamelessly uninsured: Michael Hamilton, host of the Health Care News Podcast and managing editor of Health Care News, and Sean Parnell, author of The Self-Pay Patient: Affordable Healthcare Choices in the Age of Obamacare and a former Health Care News managing editor.

Hamilton and Parnell extol the virtues of going uninsured in order to obtain the most cost-effective health care for oneself and one’s family.

Together they cover how to make sure self-pay patients get the best price from their doctors, how doing a little homework can save you thousands of dollars, and how to combine a savvy self-pay mentality with membership in a health care sharing ministry.

Most importantly, in contrast to some plans to repeal and replace Obamacare proposed at the federal level, Hamilton and Parnell help empower consumers to make free, informed about decisions about obtaining affordable, high-quality health care–as opposed to mere health insurance.

[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

Coming Soon: Internet At The Speed Of Government

Somewhat Reasonable - 9 hours 36 min ago

When government “helps” run something – that something is terrible. The bigger a hand government has in running it – the more terrible it is. If it is exclusively government-run – the terrible-ness is ingrained and inherent. And the longer government runs the show – the worse the terrible-ness becomes.

But one example: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is full-on government medicine – and has been since 1930. A government-only monopoly. And its delivery…is terrible – when it isn’t non-existent.

Untold numbers of veterans are dying waiting for care. We don’t know how many – because government is placing tens of thousands of veterans on secret waiting lists. And government is leaving completely of these lists tens of thousands more.

And there is zero accountability. After this abomination was identified in 2014 – the government actually kept growing the wait lists. No one – NO ONE – has been fired.

Executed in the face of this top-to-bottom terrible-ness was the #1 DC defense – “We aren’t spending enough money.” As is nigh always the case – that is another DC lie.

In 2002, President George W. Bush declared a War on Terror – and the VA budget (in current coin) was $53.5 billion. In 2012, President Obama had mostly ended our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and the VA budget was $125.3 billion. A roughly 250% increase over ten years.

The amount of money we give government – isn’t the problem. (We in fact now set new records every year in coin taken by the Feds.) Government’s incredibly incompetent and horrendously wasteful use of our money – is a huge problem.

Contrast this government VA track record of terrible-ness – with the World Wide Web.

The Web was born in the mid-1990s. At its inception, a bipartisan DC decision was made – to leave the Internet alone. As nigh always happens when the government leaves something alone – the Web exploded. Arguably nothing in human history has grown better, stronger, faster than has the Internet.

Flash forward two decades to 2014 – and the Internet is 6% of the entire U.S. economy. $966 billion in economic activity – and responsible for 3 million jobs.

That is an inconceivably huge growth path. An inconceivably huge private sector success story. So the question is – why on Earth would anyone mess with it? An even better (worse) question is – why on Earth would anyone want the Internet to look more like the VA?

But that’s exactly what the Barack Obama Administration wants. The Democrat-packed D.C. Circuit Court just ludicrously upheldthe Administration’s unilateral, incredibly huge Internet power grab.

The government will now apply to the Internet – 1934 monopoly landline telephone law. But if you apply law written for a monopoly, the regulations will strangle out competitors one by one – until you get down to a monopoly. (That’s from the Department of Duh.) And the proponents of this inanity – want that monopoly to be government:

“(T)he ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”

Well isn’t that special. Government as our sole Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Killed will be thousands of private providers – and untold tens of thousands of attending private companies. And the millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of investment and economic activity they provide.

Born will be a sister agency to the VA – the IA, the Internet Administration.

And we’ve all seen how that will go.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Senate Democrats Block GOP's Zika Funding Bill

Health Care Suite - In The News - 10 hours 13 min ago
A dysfunctional Senate split along party lines on Tuesday and left a $1.1 billion proposal to fight the Zika virus in limbo, despite growing fears and a more…

Greg Gutfeld: Brexit's babies: Why the Leavers won and the losers can't stop crying | Fox News

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - 11 hours 56 min ago
People (I will politely call them that, when referring to celebrities and media on Twitter) are acting like the Brexit vote is the end of humanity. It’s an…

Heartland Daily Podcast – Julie Kelly: GMO Crops are Perfectly Safe

Somewhat Reasonable - June 28, 2016, 11:21 AM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Julie Kelly, one of the leading, non-scientist, voices in the contentious debate over America’s food system, joins the show to talk about Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs).

Through her research to improve the cooking classes she was teaching, she became a staunch defender of American agriculture and biotechnology to improve the world’s food supply. According to Julie, GMOs are perfectly safe to consume – a stance that is supported by numerous scientific organizations. She also talks about the myths surrounding “organic” food, explaining there is no evidence to suggest organic food is more nutritious, good for you, are better for the environment.

The Heartland Institute is also hosting an event with Julie Kelly about GMOs tonight (June 29) at 6 p.m. CT which can be watched here.

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

Categories: On the Blog

British Say “No” to EU Power and Plunder

Somewhat Reasonable - June 28, 2016, 10:57 AM

The political and financial establishments of Europe and the United States were taken by almost total surprise and sent into apparent shock when 52 percent of the voters in the United Kingdom chose for their country to leave the European Union (EU). But it is not the end of the world as we know it, and can be a positive sign and example of opposition to unrepresentative and centralized bureaucratic control over people’s lives.

As the June 23, 2016 vote neared on the referendum as to whether or not the United Kingdom would retain its membership in the 28-nation European Union, public opinion polls suggested that the voting result would be very close but with an edge toward remaining within the EU. The financial and foreign exchange markets all were positive, and the political elites in both London and Brussels, the European Union headquarters, appeared to be taking a sigh of relief that the existing order of things would not be threatened by a major participating nation opting out.

Hysteria and bedlam are the only words to describe the initial reaction when the votes were being counted, with the clear outcome that a majority of the voters had, in fact, said, “No,” to staying under the rule of the Brussels bureaucracies.

What is the European Union, and how and why has it brought about such a reaction from not only the people of the British Isles, but sizeable numbers of people in other member countries from one end of the European continent to the other?

The EU: from Free Trade to Political Plunder

The EU grew out of attempts that began in the 1950s to establish a free-trade zone among a number of Western European countries, both to improve their mutual prosperity and to reduce the potential for conflict after the experiences of the two world wars of the twentieth century.

It formally became the European Economic Community (EEC) with the Treaty of Rome in 1957. But soon the free-trade idea was superseded by various interventionist programs for intergovernmental planning of agriculture and industry, and for a welfare-state social safety net. The EEC was transformed into the European Union in 1992, with additional plans for a single currency, which finally came to fruition with the establishment of the Euro as a circulating currency in 2002, and which is now used in nineteen of the EU member countries.

In 2000 a conference was held in Nice, France, to plan the expansion of the EU to incorporate many new member states in Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of the fall of the Iron Curtain and the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Then in October 2004, at a conference in Rome, the EU member governments agreed to a draft constitution that was meant to lead to a more integrated political regime and eventually to a United States of Europe under which, many critics feared, the individual nations of Europe would be reduced to subservient provinces of a centralized political authority directing and controlling the fates of all the member citizens. But when referenda were taken in May 2005 in France and in June 2005 in Holland nearly 70 percent of the voters in France and over 60 percent of the voters in Holland rejected the threatened loss of national sovereignty.

Recent EU Crises: Greek Debt and Mass Migration

The most recent disturbances and internal conflicts affecting the EU have been, first, the Greek financial crisis, and, second, the massive influx of Middle Eastern and North African refugees in the face of the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

The Greek government, having lived far beyond it financial means for decades to feed a bloated bureaucracy, an unsustainable welfare state, and a corrupt crony capitalist economy was faced with fiscal bankruptcy and default on a national debt it could not sustain. The financially more stable EU members were expected to cough up the money to cover the Greek government’s budget needs and revalue downwards the Greek bonds held by creditors. Fiscal band-aids and smoke and mirror Greek government budgetary reforms have taken Greece’s continuing financial difficulties off the front page.

Last year’s migration of more than one million refugees into the EU, under the initial openness of the German government, has brought about the most recent crisis among the member countries. Many of these nations have resisted acceptance of many, or any, of this multitude attempting to escape from war and find a better life for their families. The recent terrorist attacks, especially in France and Belgium, have made many among the EU countries fearful and paranoid of the arrival of a vast influx of Muslims within their midst.

Some Valuable EU Pluses, But Far More Negatives

In assessing the European Union, it is certainly true that the EU has brought some desirable changes. Investments may be made relatively freely among the member nations, and this has made a more rational and efficient allocation of profitable use of capital within the member countries. And without a doubt, the establishment of virtual freedom of movement for member citizens within the administrative boundary of the European Union has been a great liberation. Though, of course, the latter liberty has been reduced due to the reestablishment of internal border restrictions in the face of the migration inflow in 2015.

But these advantages must be weighed against the fact that with EU membership comes a vast spider’s web of Brussels-imposed rules and regulations over practically every aspect and facet of manufacturing and market retail life, including labor markets and work conditions. Social regulations and rules impose increasingly one notion of “political correctness” and “social justice,” which member nations and their citizens have limited liberty to resist.

Furthermore, the European Union bureaucracy collects hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tax revenues through EU-wide import duties on goods entering any of the member nations from other parts of the world, and receives a portion of the value-added tax (VAT) collected by member nations within their respective national boundaries, as well as tax revenues representing a percentage of the each member nation’s gross national income.

The largest special interest benefactor from European Union spending of these tax revenues is the farming community. In 2014, about 40 percent of all EU expenditures were on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Inefficient, high-cost and wasteful farmers from one end of Europe to the other receive vast sums of money at the expense of non-farm business and manufacturing, as well as the EU consumers who pay for this financial transfer through their taxes and end up paying far higher prices for food than would be the case if there was a free market in farming.

The next largest spending category is called “regional support,” and comes to over 35 percent of the EU budgetary outlays. This is a catchall of infrastructure and crony capitalist spending to favored parts of the European Union defined as less developed or economically poorer, but ends up lining the pockets of huge networks of special interest groups working hand-in-hand with the EU bureaucracies.

A good part of the rest of the EU budget goes for the funding of the fads and fashions of political correctness in the arts and sciences, or wasteful and misdirected subsidized work and training programs for young people in the form of imaginary jobs to nowhere.

The European Union, in other words, is a huge and intrusive system of interventionist, redistributive, and corrupt bureaus, agencies and departments run by over 40,000 staff members and regulators. They impose regulations and controls over the social, economic, cultural, and political affairs of over 500 million people who reside within the European Union. And they are, seemingly, answerable to almost no one, and certainly not to the citizens and voters of the countries over which they impose their centralized authority of social engineering and economic planning and political correctness.

British Voters Wanted Democratic Self-Determination

At the heart of most of the arguments for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union has been the desire to return self-determination to the people of Great Britain and out of the unrepresentative hands of the EU commissions and bureaucracies in Brussels. The people of Great Britain should hold their political, economic and cultural destiny in their own hands, it was declared.

This is why the supporters of Britain’s departure from the EU have been called it a triumph of “democracy.” Firstly, in the sense that the holding of the referendum meant that the people being ruled by a political authority should have the freedom to decide whether it wished to remain under the control of that authority. And, secondly, now that the vote has been taken, that the people, especially in England within the United Kingdom, have stated that they want that political decision-making returned fully to the government within the boundaries of their nation island.

The advocates of the UK remaining within the European Union are playing Chicken Little, warning that the United Kingdom, the European Union and maybe the rest of the world might be facing an economic sky falling in the form of banking and market collapses.

There is no basis in fact for such dire predictions. First of all, there are potentially up to two years of negotiations about the UK’s withdrawal and the political and economic ties and relationship that will replace the existing ones between Great Britain and the European Union. And, secondly, there is no reason why the new relationship cannot be similar with the ones that the EU has with a number of non-member countries now, which allow for a wide arena of relatively free trade and movement of capital and people between these partners.

This will be a matter of the ideological dogma and political spite that enter into the negotiations, especially on the part of the EU power structure in Brussels, wanting to set an “example” for any other nations that attempt to withdraw from their tentacles of suffocating control.

The UK’s Future: Free Markets or Homegrown Control?

Will the United Kingdom come out of this departure, in the long run, politically and economically stronger or weaker? That depends upon what the citizens of the United Kingdom do with their reestablished democratic self-determination.

We need to remember that “democracy” is a political means and not an end. It is a way of removing those who hold political office and power without resort to revolutionary violence or destructive civil war. It is a way of changing those in government with the use of the peaceful ballot box rather than through applying the force of bullets.

But what democracy does not do, in and of itself, is determine what it is that those in high elected political office are expected to do, as a reflection of the “will” of the voters. That depends upon the general political and economic philosophy, and attitudes and ideas that govern and guide the thinking of a majority of the voting citizenry.

The real choice facing the people of the United Kingdom, once those tentacles of political, economic and cultural control emanating from Brussels are fully removed, is to decide what they want their own government to do. Will it be an underlying and implicit conception of human freedom, which sees government as the protector of citizens’ rights to life, liberty, and honestly acquired property, with human relationships based on freedom of association and voluntary exchange?

Or will it be a view of government as bestower of favors, privileges, subsidies, and anti-competitive protections from domestic and foreign market rivals, and which is also expected to redistribute wealth and establish societal constraints in the form of homegrown political correctness? In other words, will the UK’s democratically elected political leaders and domestic bureaucrats be expected to merely continue with most of the same type of policies that the political elite and bureaucrats in Brussels currently impose through the European Union structures of control and regulation, and which their own Labor and Conservative Party governments have been doing all along since the end of the Second World War, anyway?

There are friends of liberty in Great Britain who have participated in and even led the movement to leave the European Union. They want to return control of these political, economic and culture matters to direct British jurisdiction because they hope that will result in a more open and freer market society than the one currently lived under through the EU. If they are able to influence British politics in a more classical liberal, free market direction, with less regulation, lower taxes and reduced monetary and fiscal manipulation, the future can offer greater liberty and more prosperity for the British people.

But the fact is that the collectivist and interventionist mindset that dominates the European Union elites and power structures in Brussels have their long-established counterparts in the United Kingdom. The UK has plenty of its own domestic social engineers, crony capitalist special interest groups, and ideologically driven collectivists.

Which of these two intellectual and institutional alternatives – a more competitive capitalist system or more interventionist control and command – will determine the future of the British people. Exiting the European Union, therefore, is the beginning, and not the end.

If they chose the road leading to greater personal freedom, more free market competition, and less intrusive and taxing government, the British people will not only have redeemed themselves, but set an example for the rest of Europe and the world. History waits to see what happens.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Will the War Against Parental Choice Ever End?

Blog - Education - June 28, 2016, 10:45 AM

No matter how many courts have rejected their pleadings, enemies of school choice appear committed to a 100-year-long judicial war in quest of some ultimate edict that will keep American students forever captive in government schools.

Consider that blunderbuss of a lawsuit in Florida that began in 2009 with an effort by activists led by the Southern Legal Counsel to persuade the state judiciary to declare the Sunshine State’s school system in violation of a state constitutional requirement “to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” (Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education.)

In 2014, as if to throw every possible allegation against the wall with the hope something would stick, the “adequacy” litigants added the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and the McKay Scholarship for Pupils with Disabilities to their challenge, along with charter schools, teacher evaluation and even testing. Specifically, they sought to demonize the parental-choice programs as drains on The One True System: failing, traditional public education.

On May 24, Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds rejected all charges in a 29-page opinion supplemented by 200 pages of documentation. The judge found private-choice innovations — far from being a fiscal diversion — have been an integral part of Florida’s educational progress in recent years.

Undeterred, lawyers for the litigants immediately vowed to appeal. Kathleen Oropeza of Fund Education Now termed courtroom advocacy of governmental supremacy “a marathon, not a sprint” — in other words, a century-long war.

Does it seem odd the very litigants who deem Florida’s public schools “inadequate” would kill scholarship programs currently enabling more than 100,000 poor and/or disabled students to find workable alternatives — and thereby force them back into substandard institutions? Sure, their logic may be screwy, but bear in mind that to socialists and statists, “adequacy” means sucking all money possible out of productive society and funneling it directly into a monolithic, all-controlling system.

Ultimately, the blunderbuss may be less significant than a more precisely targeted second lawsuit the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, filed in 2014 against the state’s tax-credit scholarship.

Enacted in 2001, the Florida Tax Credit awards corporations a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations going toward scholarships enabling needy children to transfer to private schools.

The amount of good done the first 15 years has been impressive: The number of aided children has steadily risen to 78,120 students who were enrolled in 1,594 private schools during the 2015-2016 school year. Scholarships are limited to $5,886 per student or the cost of tuition, whichever is less. A little more than two-thirds of recipients are black or Hispanic. The average annual income of aided families is a modest $25,557. Several studies have documented that a majority of scholarship students had been struggling in their assigned public schools but are now doing better in their chosen private schools.

In McCall v. Scott, the Florida Education Association, in alliance with public-education interest groups and the state NAACP), complains this charitable money from the private sector rightfully should be taxed instead and funneled exclusively to the government schools.

A great many courts have shot down the preposterous argument private money never reaching the public treasury nevertheless belongs to Big Education interests such as the teachers unions masquerading as champions of the taxpayer. The list stretches from several states’ judiciaries to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held in 2011 in Winn v. Arizona tax-credit scholarships are funded entirely and legitimately by voluntary private donations, not state appropriations.

A local judge in Tallahassee rejected FEA’s case in 2015, and an appellate court now has it under review. If the union loses yet again, FEA president Joanne McCall, the lead plaintiff, is on record saying the fight will continue to the Florida Supreme Court.

If a judicial deathblow ever should befall this program, it is hard to see anything good happening to students — or to the public-school system for that matter. Nearly 80,000 pupils will stream back into public schools that already are overcrowded. The sudden added expense likely will result in a reduction of per-pupil spending. Worst of all, many underprivileged youngsters will be kicked out of schools that were working for them and be shipped back to schools that were not.

That last outcome has prompted many longtime supporters of the NAACP to plead with the Florida chapter to terminate its partnership with the education establishment and return to its historic mission of liberating black children from oppressive systems that call all the shots as to where and how students will be educated.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

Will the War Against Parental Choice Ever End?

Somewhat Reasonable - June 28, 2016, 10:45 AM

No matter how many courts have rejected their pleadings, enemies of school choice appear committed to a 100-year-long judicial war in quest of some ultimate edict that will keep American students forever captive in government schools.

Consider that blunderbuss of a lawsuit in Florida that began in 2009 with an effort by activists led by the Southern Legal Counsel to persuade the state judiciary to declare the Sunshine State’s school system in violation of a state constitutional requirement “to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” (Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education.)

In 2014, as if to throw every possible allegation against the wall with the hope something would stick, the “adequacy” litigants added the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and the McKay Scholarship for Pupils with Disabilities to their challenge, along with charter schools, teacher evaluation and even testing. Specifically, they sought to demonize the parental-choice programs as drains on The One True System: failing, traditional public education.

On May 24, Leon County Circuit Court Judge George Reynolds rejected all charges in a 29-page opinion supplemented by 200 pages of documentation. The judge found private-choice innovations — far from being a fiscal diversion — have been an integral part of Florida’s educational progress in recent years.

Undeterred, lawyers for the litigants immediately vowed to appeal. Kathleen Oropeza of Fund Education Now termed courtroom advocacy of governmental supremacy “a marathon, not a sprint” — in other words, a century-long war.

Does it seem odd the very litigants who deem Florida’s public schools “inadequate” would kill scholarship programs currently enabling more than 100,000 poor and/or disabled students to find workable alternatives — and thereby force them back into substandard institutions? Sure, their logic may be screwy, but bear in mind that to socialists and statists, “adequacy” means sucking all money possible out of productive society and funneling it directly into a monolithic, all-controlling system.

Ultimately, the blunderbuss may be less significant than a more precisely targeted second lawsuit the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, filed in 2014 against the state’s tax-credit scholarship.

Enacted in 2001, the Florida Tax Credit awards corporations a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations going toward scholarships enabling needy children to transfer to private schools.

The amount of good done the first 15 years has been impressive: The number of aided children has steadily risen to 78,120 students who were enrolled in 1,594 private schools during the 2015-2016 school year. Scholarships are limited to $5,886 per student or the cost of tuition, whichever is less. A little more than two-thirds of recipients are black or Hispanic. The average annual income of aided families is a modest $25,557. Several studies have documented that a majority of scholarship students had been struggling in their assigned public schools but are now doing better in their chosen private schools.

In McCall v. Scott, the Florida Education Association, in alliance with public-education interest groups and the state NAACP), complains this charitable money from the private sector rightfully should be taxed instead and funneled exclusively to the government schools.

A great many courts have shot down the preposterous argument private money never reaching the public treasury nevertheless belongs to Big Education interests such as the teachers unions masquerading as champions of the taxpayer. The list stretches from several states’ judiciaries to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held in 2011 in Winn v. Arizona tax-credit scholarships are funded entirely and legitimately by voluntary private donations, not state appropriations.

A local judge in Tallahassee rejected FEA’s case in 2015, and an appellate court now has it under review. If the union loses yet again, FEA president Joanne McCall, the lead plaintiff, is on record saying the fight will continue to the Florida Supreme Court.

If a judicial deathblow ever should befall this program, it is hard to see anything good happening to students — or to the public-school system for that matter. Nearly 80,000 pupils will stream back into public schools that already are overcrowded. The sudden added expense likely will result in a reduction of per-pupil spending. Worst of all, many underprivileged youngsters will be kicked out of schools that were working for them and be shipped back to schools that were not.

That last outcome has prompted many longtime supporters of the NAACP to plead with the Florida chapter to terminate its partnership with the education establishment and return to its historic mission of liberating black children from oppressive systems that call all the shots as to where and how students will be educated.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]

Categories: On the Blog

Record breaking N. American winters not due to climate change

Environment Suite - In The News - June 27, 2016, 8:50 PM
by Judith Curry A new study finds that human-caused warming in the west tropical Pacific was not responsible for a series of frigid North American winters…

Michael Mann, climate scientist: Data ‘increasingly unnecessary’ because ‘we can see climate change’

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - June 27, 2016, 6:31 PM
In this June 4, 2016, file photo, a woman, at right, takes photos of the flooded banks of the Seine river in Paris. An international team of scientists has…

New Study Finds Electronic Cigarettes Helped 15 Million Quit Smoking

Somewhat Reasonable - June 27, 2016, 4:37 PM

 

The journal Addiction published a study in late June, finding the use of electronic cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) have helped 15 million smokers quit smoking tobacco cigarettes and/or cut back, in the European Union (E.U.). Using data from the 2014 Eurobarometer survey, which recorded responses of 27,460 participants, the study concluded that 48.5 million E.U. citizens had tried e-cigarettes and 7.5 million were currently vapers. Of the group reporting regular e-cigarette usage, “35 percent reported that e-cigarettes helped them quit smoking, while 32 percent said they were smoking less thanks to e-cigarettes.”

This research comes on the heels of a study published by the British Medical Journal earlier in June, that measured the “effectiveness and safety of electronic cigarettes at 24 months” using data from respondents that used e-cigarettes and VNPs to quit smoking and those that remained on traditional tobacco cigarettes. The study concluded that 61 percent of respondents had remained “abstinent from tobacco” and that only 23.1 percent of tobacco users reported abstinence.

The study by Addiction is only the latest bit of research concerning the health implications of electronic cigarettes and VNPs. After U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced in May to regulate electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, more studies have been finding greater evidence that e-cigarettes and VNPs may actually save more lives than endanger, and help ease the health burdens that are associated with tobacco.

Prior to the FDA’s ruling, there had been scant evidence, but there was evidence that indicated health benefits. Public Health England published a study in 2015 that found e-cigarettes being “95% less harmful … than normal cigarettes”. In April 2016, the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians published Nicotine without Smoke: Tobacco Harm Reduction and concluded that e-cigarettes produced a “relatively high quit rate” and furthered the health risks of e-cigarettes as “unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoke tobacco products.”

It is now time that the FDA reconsider the position to regulate e-cigarettes and VNPs as tobacco products. This new industry could save Medicaid billions according the advocacy group State Budget Solutions. The FDA needs to reign in their influence, as they are doing a disservice to their mission statement by not speeding up “innovations that make medicines more effective, safer, and more affordable,” but hindering it, in the area of tobacco harm reduction.

Check out our E-cigarettes ideas page for more information.

Categories: On the Blog

Education Reform: One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All

Blog - Education - June 27, 2016, 3:43 PM

Lately, education scholars at Washington, D.C.-based, nominally conservative think tanks have spun themselves into a tizzy about the education reform movement’s splintering into quarreling factions.

Who knew such a monolithic movement existed? Even among strong advocates of parental choice, lively arguments have raged for decades over vouchers versus tax-credit scholarships, with each side arguing its proposal is the most powerful and/or practical way to empower families. Debate is healthy in a democracy, is it not?

Thinking in terms of a single, cohesive agenda is perhaps more common in Washington, where think-tankers attend each other’s seminars and flock to government briefings. Why should any of this matter to the folks back in Grapevine or Grand Forks? Because advocacy from think-alike think tanks may influence policy in their school districts.

Within these inner sanctums, there is concern about contrary ideologies intruding. In a May 25 essay, Thomas B. Fordham Institute Fellow Robert Pondiscio controversially observed, “Like the proverbial frog in a pot, education reformers on the political right find themselves coming to a slow boil in the cauldron of social justice activism.”

As an example, Pondiscio reported conservative reformers “feeling unwelcome, uncomfortable, and cowed into silence” at a recent meeting of the New Schools Venture Fund in San Francisco. He fretted about leftists aggressively promoting a new orthodoxy on issues of race, class, and gender within the context of education reform while excluding conservative ideas. But what is wrong with having the gumption to debate the reform newcomers instead of acting as though your side owns this turf?

Speaking of taking ownership, the long-time CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, Jeanne Allen, issued a 22-page “manifesto” on June 15 — under her byline — seeking to reframe choice-based reform in terms of “innovation and opportunity,” as though those objectives are new. “This is a clarion call,” she announced in the opening sentence.

Much of the manifesto deals in great detail with the level of tolerance for semi-autonomous charter schools within government-controlled school systems over the years. There is nothing about the tremendous promise of the next-generation voucher, the education savings account, and there is little about a steady increase in states adopting private-choice programs and the phenomenal growth of homeschooling.

Allen’s manifesto expresses frustration that “our efforts to drive change have hit a wall. The reality is that more was accomplished in the first nine years of the education reform movement than in the past 16.”

That reference is to the pace of states adopting strong charter-school authorization laws since 1991. Some states and localities now seek to drag charters back under a regulatory umbrella, and that legitimately concerns advocates. (Of course, charter schools are far from constituting the entirety of the education reform movement.)

Charters have helped thousands of families find a tuition-free alternative to conventional public schools, and that is a good thing. However, because charter schools operate within the governmental system, the nature of the larger, controlling agenda becomes relevant.

In that connection, the manifesto actually laments the demise of the federal No Child Left Behind law because it helped set the bar for student proficiency and defined the terms of accountability. The manifesto goes further and hammers the debate over Common Core as a “distraction” that “has drained our collective energies and focus on students.”

Actually, the parents across the nation who have stood up against nationalized standards being imposed on their schools are entirely focused on students — their children and their neighbors’ children. And they see clearly that Common Core uniformity and true choice in education are incompatible. The manifesto is likely to deepen their suspicion that choice becomes problematic when linked to an agenda imposed from the top down.

So, what is the clear call for action, the clarion call? Its name is the New Opportunity Agenda, the tenets of which are to be “innovation, flexibility, opportunity, and transparency.” The ideas discussed include drawing on new educational technologies, starting new schools, allowing public funds to follow children to schools of choice, and reporting test data in ways that can show how schools and districts are performing.

The prospect of yet another agenda being developed by Washington insiders and passed down to the people may excite some who call themselves “education reformers,” but a different kind of reformer will argue for families having the freedom to pursue their own agendas for their children — with their individual decisions contributing to a vibrant marketplace that reshapes the face of U.S. education.

Even though there is not a single education reform movement, there are ideas on which agenda-driven and liberty-loving advocates may agree. They should be able to talk with each other — and even welcome social-justice warriors to the conversation.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Education Reform: One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All

Somewhat Reasonable - June 27, 2016, 3:43 PM

Lately, education scholars at Washington, D.C.-based, nominally conservative think tanks have spun themselves into a tizzy about the education reform movement’s splintering into quarreling factions.

Who knew such a monolithic movement existed? Even among strong advocates of parental choice, lively arguments have raged for decades over vouchers versus tax-credit scholarships, with each side arguing its proposal is the most powerful and/or practical way to empower families. Debate is healthy in a democracy, is it not?

Thinking in terms of a single, cohesive agenda is perhaps more common in Washington, where think-tankers attend each other’s seminars and flock to government briefings. Why should any of this matter to the folks back in Grapevine or Grand Forks? Because advocacy from think-alike think tanks may influence policy in their school districts.

Within these inner sanctums, there is concern about contrary ideologies intruding. In a May 25 essay, Thomas B. Fordham Institute Fellow Robert Pondiscio controversially observed, “Like the proverbial frog in a pot, education reformers on the political right find themselves coming to a slow boil in the cauldron of social justice activism.”

As an example, Pondiscio reported conservative reformers “feeling unwelcome, uncomfortable, and cowed into silence” at a recent meeting of the New Schools Venture Fund in San Francisco. He fretted about leftists aggressively promoting a new orthodoxy on issues of race, class, and gender within the context of education reform while excluding conservative ideas. But what is wrong with having the gumption to debate the reform newcomers instead of acting as though your side owns this turf?

Speaking of taking ownership, the long-time CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, Jeanne Allen, issued a 22-page “manifesto” on June 15 — under her byline — seeking to reframe choice-based reform in terms of “innovation and opportunity,” as though those objectives are new. “This is a clarion call,” she announced in the opening sentence.

Much of the manifesto deals in great detail with the level of tolerance for semi-autonomous charter schools within government-controlled school systems over the years. There is nothing about the tremendous promise of the next-generation voucher, the education savings account, and there is little about a steady increase in states adopting private-choice programs and the phenomenal growth of homeschooling.

Allen’s manifesto expresses frustration that “our efforts to drive change have hit a wall. The reality is that more was accomplished in the first nine years of the education reform movement than in the past 16.”

That reference is to the pace of states adopting strong charter-school authorization laws since 1991. Some states and localities now seek to drag charters back under a regulatory umbrella, and that legitimately concerns advocates. (Of course, charter schools are far from constituting the entirety of the education reform movement.)

Charters have helped thousands of families find a tuition-free alternative to conventional public schools, and that is a good thing. However, because charter schools operate within the governmental system, the nature of the larger, controlling agenda becomes relevant.

In that connection, the manifesto actually laments the demise of the federal No Child Left Behind law because it helped set the bar for student proficiency and defined the terms of accountability. The manifesto goes further and hammers the debate over Common Core as a “distraction” that “has drained our collective energies and focus on students.”

Actually, the parents across the nation who have stood up against nationalized standards being imposed on their schools are entirely focused on students — their children and their neighbors’ children. And they see clearly that Common Core uniformity and true choice in education are incompatible. The manifesto is likely to deepen their suspicion that choice becomes problematic when linked to an agenda imposed from the top down.

So, what is the clear call for action, the clarion call? Its name is the New Opportunity Agenda, the tenets of which are to be “innovation, flexibility, opportunity, and transparency.” The ideas discussed include drawing on new educational technologies, starting new schools, allowing public funds to follow children to schools of choice, and reporting test data in ways that can show how schools and districts are performing.

The prospect of yet another agenda being developed by Washington insiders and passed down to the people may excite some who call themselves “education reformers,” but a different kind of reformer will argue for families having the freedom to pursue their own agendas for their children — with their individual decisions contributing to a vibrant marketplace that reshapes the face of U.S. education.

Even though there is not a single education reform movement, there are ideas on which agenda-driven and liberty-loving advocates may agree. They should be able to talk with each other — and even welcome social-justice warriors to the conversation.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Questioning “The Secret Dirty War to Stop Solar Power”

Somewhat Reasonable - June 27, 2016, 3:35 PM

“American taxpayers spent an average of $39 billion a year over the past five years financing grants, subsidizing tax credits, guaranteeing loans, bailing out failed solar energy boondoggles and otherwise underwriting every idea under the sun to make solar energy cheaper and more popular. But none of it has worked.”

In the United States, by mid-2016, the Big Three politically correct renewable energy sources wind power surpassed 75 Gigawatts, solar power surpassed 27 Gigawatts, and biofuels surpassed 16 billion gallons per year (mostly ethanol from corn).

In the article “Obama Legacy Will Be Power Blackouts” June 6, 2016, Professor Larry Bell wrote:

If you have heard some really exciting news that the Obama administration has already doubled the amount of total U.S. energy derived from ‘renewable alternative’ sources (solar, wind and biofuels), that would be true. Thanks largely to $150 billion in generous federal subsidies, combined total renewables grew from supplying slightly more than 2 percent of our ‘primary fuel’ (including electricity) to a whopping 4 percent today.

Solar Energy: Subsidies Required

There are many disadvantages to solar energy because it is unavailable most of the day—availability is expressed as capacity factor defined as the fraction of total annual solar energy produced compared to a facility operating 24-hours daily, 365 days per year. Capacity factors of solar plants in Southwest desert areas are 0.19 compared to capacity factors of 0.9 or greater for nuclear and fossil-fueled electricity plants.

Other disadvantages are solar plants require vast land areas when used for utility-scale power generation (6 acres per Megawatt) and have limited useful plant lifespans of about 25 years. Nuclear and fossil-fueled power plants have small land requirements (less than one square mile for 1000 Megawatts) and lifespans of 60 years or more.

Solar electricity is more expensive than conventional electricity from fossil fuels of coal and natural gas. Subsidies are required to promote its use in the form of payments or tax credits for construction of solar systems, rapid depreciation of solar systems, forcing power companies to pay above market prices for excessive electricity production called feed-in-tariffs, mandates for use of solar energy without regard to cost, and a host of other subsidies.

The vast array of subsidies is provided by the U. S. government, state governments, and municipalities.

Subsidies for individual states and municipalities are given by aDepartment of Energy website operated by North Carolina State University “Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency”.

A report from The Taxpayers Protection Alliance “Filling the Solar Sinkhole” said, “American taxpayers spent an average of $39 billion a year over the past 5 years financing grants, subsidizing tax credits, guaranteeing loans, bailing out failed solar energy boondoggles and otherwise underwriting every idea under the sun to make solar energy cheaper and more popular. But none of it has worked.”

‘Secret Dirty War’ to Stop Solar?

In spite of all the subsidies, promoters of solar energy complain they are treated unfairly in what they claim to be a competitive electricity production market. Author, radio broadcaster, and liberal jack-of-all-trades communicator Thom Hartmann produced two YouTube shows on solar energy carried on RT television. RT television, originally Russia Today, has been accused “of broadcasting ‘materially misleading’ content’”.

The first of the six-minute videos called “The Secret Dirty War To Stop Solar Power” is an interview between Thom Hartmann and Brendan Fischer, General Counsel, Center for Media and Democracy. They claimed the Koch brothers, Walton family, and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is trying to stop implementation of roof-top solar for residences.  ALEC is a nonprofit organization of conservativestate legislators and private sector representatives that drafts and shares model state-level legislation.

The Koch brother’s opposition to solar energy is supposedly due to their owning oil interests. But oil is used for transportation and chemicals and less than 1 percent of the nation’s electricity is generated with oil—principally in Hawaii.

Further disparaging remarks about the Koch brothers are given by New York Times writer Paul Krugman, “Meanwhile, buying politicians is a pretty good business for fossil-fuel magnates like the Koch brothers.” It would be interesting to compare philanthropic activities of the Koch brothers with their liberal critics.

The Walton family is said to oppose roof-top solar because it competes with utility-scale solar energy. The Walton family owns First Solar, which makes solar panels for utility solar facilities and builds commercial solar facilities.

ALEC is claimed to oppose roof-top solar because it helps state legislators or Public Service Commission’s craft rules to insure fairness for electricity customers. ALEC opposes net metering—the feed-in-tariff that forces utilities to reimburse solar electricity producers the full utility-produced retail price for solar electricity returned to the grid.

A summation of the six-minute video is its total baloney. Net metering is having utilities pay solar customers the full retail price for excess solar electricity returned to the grid. Yet this price, a huge subsidy that the utility (really other customers) must pay to the generally more affluent solar early adopters.

The U.S. average residential price for electricity is about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, it costs utilities about 4–5 cents per kilowatt-hour to produce electricity at their power stations. The rest of consumer’s costs are profit (maybe one cent per kilowatt-hour), cost of billing, and cost of constructing and maintaining distribution systems (transmission lines).

Hidden Subsidies

Utilities pay the costs of restoring power when wind, ice, and snow storms knock down utility lines. These costs are more than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Roof-top solar generates most of its electricity from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.with a maximum output around noon. These are times when residential use is smaller because residential occupants are at work or school. Thus the amount of solar electricity returned to the grid for net metering is large. In addition, utilities lose all the income from electricity produced by roof-top solar systems.

Therefore, net metering and residential solar use takes away needed operating income from utilities and forces non-solar customers to make up that loss through higher electric bills.

An analogy would be for states to reimburse bicycle riders with gas tax money used to build and maintain road structures for every mile they use their bicycles. Riding bicycles replaces driving cars that damage road surfaces. Due to loss of gas tax revenue given bicycle riders, states have to raise gas taxes for auto owners to make up lost revenue.

Net metering is totally unfair to electricity users. This is one of many subsidies by governments paying residential users of solar energy. Another subsidy is a 30 percent federal tax credit for the cost of building solar systems. The annual loss of income for the federal government is many billions per year. This is for a government going into debt at the rate of $1.5 billion per day.

Other subsidies are paid out by some states in the form of tax credits. Georgia used to have a pay back of 35 percent. Additional subsidies may be in the form of depreciation deductions on state and federal taxes. Another form of subsidy is mandates from states a certain fraction of electricity generation has to come from solar energy.

Solar Battle Royale

The Solar Power Battle Now Being Fought” features a discussion of solar power in Hawaii between Thom Hartmann and Adam Browning, Co-founder and Executive Director of Vote Solar. Hawaii has the highest solar electricity penetration in the U. S. with 12 percent of their residences having roof-top solar. The U. S. Energy Information Administration reports Hawaii produced 4.84 percent of their electricity from solar for March 2016; the highest in the nation.

Hawaii has the highest priced electricity in the U. S. with a residential rate for March 2016 of 27.35 cents per kilowatt-hour. This makes residential roof-top solar very attractive from an economic point of view; especially with net metering.

Note: Along with the highest electricity prices in the U. S.,Hawaii has high gasoline prices with Honolulu averaging $2.54 a gallon June 13, 2016 versus the national average of $2.38. These high prices are due to oil being Hawaii’s main source of energy. Natural gas can be substituted for oil in both electricity production and transportation with considerable savings in prices. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is shipped to Hawaii as a substitute for oil. Compressed natural gas (CNG) used for vehicles has an energy density about one-third gasoline which limits vehicle range to under 190 miles. For the small distances traveled in Hawaii, CNG poses no problem. Energy savings using LNG in Hawaii also apply to near bankrupt Puerto Rico.

Adam Browning claimed utilities in Hawaii are discouraging additional residential use of roof-top solar. Hawaii has net metering. Thom Hartmann responded high penetration of solar energy has taken place in Germany with no problems. (He forgot to mention Germany has residential electricity rates close to triple that in the U. S. and on occasion Germany has to unload excess electricity production on its neighboring countries.)

Hartmann then mentioned half the electricity in the U. S. is produced by for-profit utilities and the other half by non-profit municipal co-ops or electric membership corporations (EMC). Electricity in Hawaii is produced by for-profit utilities. He speculated non-profit utilities would be delighted to have additional roof-top solar implemented by the residential sector. Adam Browning thought this was a great idea and heartily agreed with him. They thought cities in Hawaii should form co-ops.

Neither speaker was astute enough to recognize net metering, as well as solar electricity used, takes away income for utility operating expenses that has to be produced in some fashion. The only way out of this problem is to increase electricity rates for all users. Once again non-solar users pay higher electricity rates to subsidize roof-top solar producers.

Final Comment

Solar energy exists only because of the multitude of subsidies produced by federal and state governments. It is essentially a new 21st century electricity source. The lifetime of solar panels is about 25 years and they become junk that will require disposal of toxic materials. This will be a future loss for tax payers.

[Originally published at Master Resource]

James H. Rust, professor of nuclear engineering and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. Since 1992, Prof. Rust has endowed over 50 scholarships for students studying engineering

Categories: On the Blog
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