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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Heartland Daily Podcast – Rome: Heartland Attacked By Name at Vatican Climate Conference

April 28, 2015, 4:30 PM

The Vatican’s climate conference took place today, April 28, in Rome. The Heartland Institute’s Jim Lakely was there, along with a contingent of scientists and experts in theology and climate policy that included Lord Christopher Monckton, who obtained press credentials from the Vatican.

Lakely talks to Monckton about what he learned inside the walls of the exclusive climate summit — including is encounter with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon; the shockingly one-sided presentation of the science to Vatican officials; and the remarks of Peter Raver, an author for the UN’s IPCC who not only noticed Heartland’s presence in Rome, but expressed his dismay that our contingent might have any affect on the proceedings.

Monckton’s take: The United Nations climate officials are afraid to debate the science, afraid to present a balanced picture of the climate, and are afraid of The Heartland Institute.

Listen to this important podcast!

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

Categories: On the Blog

Legislators Mull Medicaid Reform in Oklahoma

April 28, 2015, 1:54 PM

State legislators in Oklahoma are moving forward with a proposal to transform the management of Medicaid. The legislation was put forth by state Rep. Glen Mulready and state Sen. Kim David, and is said to represent a “significant reform” of the state’s Medicaid system. The goal: making the tempting federal Obamacare funding less alluring in the future, according to the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs (OCPA).

Medicaid is the fastest-growing part of Oklahoma’s state government spending, and, due to this trend, total state spending on health care currently exceeds total spending on education in the state.

One of the chief objectives of reform put forth in the bill, HB 1566, is to better coordinate care among providers in order to improve the health outcomes of individual Medicaid beneficiaries — individual people, with unique health needs and circumstances. The long-term objective is transitioning many of those patients out of Medicaid and on to private insurance.

Oklahoma’s Medicaid system is currently a strict fee-for-service arrangement, with little focus on responsible health behavior by the individual, an admittedly shortsighted policy that has “led to severe cost overruns,” according to the OCPA.

States across the country are reforming their Medicaid systems to control cost overruns, including Illinois, which may cut $1.5 billion in Medicaid funds this legislative session, the governor’s office has announced.

For further information, go to, http://www.ocpathink.org/post/medicaid-reform-urgently-needed

Categories: On the Blog

(At Least) Three Reasons Why Government Being in the Broadband Business is a Terrible Idea

April 28, 2015, 12:12 PM

Likely the least regulated private economic sector going into the Age of the Barack Obama Administration – at least at the federal level – was the Internet. Which is largely why the Web has become an ever-evolving, free speech-free market Xanadu.

This Administration views this is a tremendous failing – that they are rushing to rectify.

Just after this last election, the President’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – at the interloping behest of the President his own self – imposed two huge Internet power grabs.

There has been much examination of the ridiculous Network Neutrality grab – where the Feds will now slam down onto the Net the ridiculous tax and regulatory superstructure that is 1930s landline telephone laws.

Let’s look at the other.

FCC Overturns State Laws Limiting Government Broadband

How’s that for federalism? Where in the Constitution is the federal government empowered to do that?

Why are there twenty states with laws limiting their local governments from getting into the broadband business?

Reason 1: Government stinks at doing…well, just about everything.

Government couldn’t make money selling sex. So it probably shouldn’t be in the business of trying to be a business. ObamaCare, anyoneVeterans AdministrationPostal serviceTrains?

The federal government is over $18 trillion in debt. It clearly stinks at doing…well, just about everything.

Twenty states watched local governments throughout the nation fail spectacularly over and over again at being Internet providers. Often residents of entire states end up on the hook to bailout the failed local government attempts. So these twenty decided to pass laws to limit the damage.

The only question is – what are the other thirty states thinking?

The Administration, of course, steamrolled the states showing eminently good sense.

Government getting into the Internet business is an egregiously bad idea in at least two other ways.

Reason 2: Government is the referee – and playing for the opposing team.

Far and away the biggest impediments to private Internet providers being Internet providers – are local governments.

Local governments and their public utilities charge (Internet Service Providers) ISPs far more (for building rights) than these things actually cost. For example, rights of way and pole attachments fees can double the cost of network construction….

These (government) incumbents  the real monopolists  also have the final say on whether an ISP can build a network. They determine what hoops an ISP must jump through to get approval.

This reduces the number of potential competitors who can profitably deploy service. The lack of competition makes it easier for local governments and utilities to charge more for rights of way and pole attachments.

It’s a vicious circle…(A) system of forced kickbacks….(also) includ(ing) ISPs…building out service where it isn’t demanded, donating equipment, and delivering free broadband to government buildings.

Think about these local governments – which hold the intrinsic fate of every private Internet provider in their greedy, giant hands – also competing with them as Internet providers.

Think the government shakedowns are bad now? Think its hard to get the government to grant you permission to do business now? Wait until the government is trying to sell what you’re trying to sell.

And government can ultimately do this:

The Postal Service (USPS) has a legal government monopoly on delivering first-class mail…. (Prospective competitors) are required by law to charge a high minimum price and cannot undercut USPS rates.

Reason 3: Government is taxing private providers – and using that money to fund competitors to these private providers.

Imagine if Office Depot could tax Office Max – and use that money to fund Office Depot.

Nearly every local government taxes Internet providers (I’d bet it’s every – I’m playing a safety). Which means Internet providers that pays taxes to local governments that are in the Internet provider business – are funding competitors to their businesses.

All of this is a lot of things. It certainly ain’t fair – and it certainly ain’t additionally competitive.

For these reasons – and many, MANY more – governments should as always rigorously adhere to the Yellow Pages Rule:

If you can find it in the Yellow Pages, the government shouldn’t be doing it.

[Originally published at RedState]

 

Categories: On the Blog

The Myth of Global Gluts and the Reality of Market Change

April 28, 2015, 12:08 PM

You may not have noticed it when out buying things in the marketplace in the context of your personal budget, but according to the Wall Street Journal (April 24, 2015) the world is awash with too much stuff. We seemingly have too much of, well, almost everything: too many raw material commodities, too much capital, and too much labor. The world, claims the Journal, is suffering from global gluts.

If this were true, rather than anguishing over such a “horn-of-plenty” we should be shouting hosanna to the heavens. It would mean that we were in or at the threshold of a “post-scarcity” world, that is, more than enough of everything we would need to produce all of everything that we want. Hallelujah, economic utopia has come!

Global Gluts and Keynesian Panaceas

 Instead, the authors of the Wall Street Journal piece lament that there is not enough “aggregate demand” to bring into employment this bounty of riches. Seemingly, we are either not willing or able to buy it all up, even though there are few in both wealthy and poor countries that would say, “Sorry, I already have enough of everything I could want.”

In a lengthy text and a series of charts, the Wall Street Journal authors say that the world has too much oil, too much coal, too much iron, and too much cotton as examples of the global raw material plenitude. Interest rates are low because the supply of savings and capital are excessive in amount. And there is a surplus of workers so large in relation to employers’ demand for labor that wages are being kept depressingly down.

In true standard Keynesian fashion, the writers wish that government deficit spending could serve as the cure-all for the world’s insufficient aggregate demand for the planet’s potential output. But, alas, due to past budget deficit indulgences too many governments have accumulated too much debt to freely borrow and spend more.

This has left the economic fate of the world in the hands of central banks to manipulate interest rates and pump in huge quantities of paper money to get the globe humming at potential output and full employment. But interest rates in many countries are already at historic lows and in spite of a tidal wave of money creation they have not been able to do their magic of generating prosperity through inflation.

There have been few fallacies as fundamentally absurd and so frequently pronounced as the notion of economic “bad times” due to general gluts of too much production in comparison to a presumed limited demand.

Man Runs Toward a Horizon of Desire, and Never Reaches It

 One of the most elementary understandings about human nature and in the study of economics is that human wants are infinite. No matter how satisfied we may be, there are always ends, goals, and purposes always still before us. So no matter how successfully we improve and add to the qualities and the quantities of the things we use as means to fulfill out ends, there are always more or new ends or goals that capture out interest and fancy.

Like aiming at a point on the horizon, no matter how long and how fast we try to reach it, it always recedes into the distance before us. We humans are imaginative and creative creatures, always coming up with new purposes and wants to set our hearts to wanting and our actions to attempting to achieve. Even if it’s only trying to “keep up with the Joneses” next door whose successes and material improvements act as a stimulus for ourselves.

Each individual has various goals he would like to achieve. To attain them he must apply various means to bring those desired ends into existence through production. But man finds that, unfortunately, the means at his disposal are often insufficient to satisfy all the uses he has for them.

The Reality of Scarcity and Man’s Pursuit of Gains from Trade

He faces the reality of scarcity. He is confronted with the necessity to choose; he must decide which desired ends he prefers more. And then he must apply the means to achieve the more highly valued ends, while leaving the other, less valued, ends unfulfilled.

In his state of disappointment, man looks to see if there are ways to improve his situation. He discovers that others face the same frustration of unsatisfied ends. Sometimes he finds that those others have things that he values more highly than some of his own possessions, and they in turn value his possessions more highly than their own.

A potential gain from trade arises, in which each party can be better off if they trade away what they respectively have for what the other has. But how much of one thing will be exchanged for another? This will be determined through their bargaining in the market. Finally, they may agree upon terms of trade, and will establish a price at which they exchange one thing for another: so many apples for so many pears; so many bushels of wheat for so many pounds of meat; so many pairs of shoes for a suit of clothes.

Trade becomes a regular event by which men improve their circumstances through the process of buying and selling. Appreciating the value of these trading opportunities, men begin to specialize their productive activities and create a system of division of labor, with each trying to find that niche in the growing arena of exchange in which they have a comparative production advantage over their trading partners.

As the market expands, a growing competition arises between buyers and sellers, with each trying to get the best deal possible as a producer and a consumer. The prices at which goods are traded come more and more to reflect the contributing and competing bids and offers of many buyers and sellers on both sides of the market.

Goods Trade for Goods, Through the Medium of Money

The more complex the network of exchange, the more difficult is the direct barter of goods one for another. Rather than be frustrated and disappointed in not being able to directly find trading partners who want the goods they have for sale, individuals start using some commodity as a medium of exchange. They first trade what they have produced for a particular commodity and then use that commodity to buy from others the things they desire. When that commodity becomes widely accepted and generally used by most, if not all, transactors in the market, it becomes the money-good.

It should be clear that even though all transactions are carried out through the medium of money, it is still, ultimately, goods that trade for goods. The cobbler makes shoes and sells them for money to those who desire footwear. The cobbler then uses the money he has earned from selling shoes to buy the food he wants to eat. But he cannot buy that food unless he has first earned a certain sum of money by selling a particular quantity of shoes on the market. In the end, his supply of shoes has been the means for him to demand a certain amount of food,

This, in essence, is the meaning of Say’s Law. The nineteenth century French economist, Jean-Baptiste Say, called it “the law of markets”: that is, unless we first produce we cannot consume; unless we first supply we cannot demand. But how much others are willing to take of our supply is dependent on the price at which we offer it to them.

 

Right Prices Move Goods and Balance Markets

The higher we price our commodity, other things held equal, the less of it others will be willing to buy. The less we sell, the smaller the money income we earn; and the smaller the money income we earn, the smaller our financial means to demand and purchase what others offer for sale.

Thus, if we want to sell all that we choose to produce we must price it correctly, that is, at a price sufficiently low that all we offer is cleared off the market by demanders. Pricing our goods or labor services too high, given other people’s demands for them, will leave part of the supply of the good unsold and part of the labor services offered unemployed.

On the other hand, lowering the price at which we are willing to sell our commodity or services will, other things held equal, create a greater willingness on the part of others to buy more of our commodity or hire more of our labor services. By selling more, our money income can increase; and by increasing our money income, through correctly pricing our commodity or labor services, we increase our ability to demand what others have for sale.

Sometimes, admittedly, even lowering our price may not generate a large enough increase in the quantity demanded by others for our income to go up. Lowering the price may, in fact, result in our revenue or income going down. But this, too, is a law of the market: what we choose to supply is worth no more than what consumers are willing to pay for it.

This is the market’s way of telling us that the commodity or particular labor skills we are offering are not in very great demand. It is the market’s way of telling us that consumers value others things more highly. It is the market’s way of telling us that the particular niche we have chosen in the division of labor is one in which our productive abilities or labor services are not worth as much as we had hoped. It is the market’s way of telling us that we need to move our productive activities into other directions, where consumer demand is greater and our productive abilities may be valued more highly.

Money Hoarded Does Not Prevent Market Balance – at Right Prices

Can it happen that consumers may not spend all they have earned? Can it be the case that some of the money earned will be “hoarded,” so there will be no greater demand for other goods, and hence no alternative line of production in which we might find remunerative employment? Would this be a case in which “aggregate demand” for goods in general would not be sufficient to buy all of the “aggregate supply” of goods and labor services offered?

The answers had already been suggested in the middle of the nineteenth century by the English classical economist John Stuart Mill in a restatement and refinement of Say’s law of markets. In an essay titled “Of the Influence of Consumption on Production” (1844), Mill argued that as long as there are ends or wants that have not yet been satisfied, there is more work to be done.

As long as producers adjust their supplies to reflect the actual demand for the particular goods that consumers wish to purchase, and as long as they price their supplies at prices consumers are willing to pay, there need be no unemployment of resources or labor. Thus, there can never be an excess supply of all things – a “glut” relative to the total demand for all things.

But Mill admitted that there may be times when individuals, for various reasons, may choose to “hoard,” or leave unspent in their cash holding, a greater proportion of their money income than is their usual practice. In this case, Mill argued, what is “called a general superabundance” of all goods is in reality “a superabundance of all commodities relative to money.”

In other words, if we accept that money, too, is a commodity like all other goods on the market for which there is a supply and demand, then there can appear a situation in which the demand to hold money increases relative to the demand for all the other things that money could buy. This means that all other goods are now in relative over-supply in comparison to that greater demand to hold money.

To bring those other goods offered on the market into balance with the lower demands for them (i.e., given that increased demand to hold money and the decreased demand for other things), the prices of many of those other goods may have to decrease.

 

Balanced Markets Require Market-Determined Prices

Prices in general, in other words, must go down, until that point at which all the supplies of goods and labor services people wish to sell find buyers willing to purchase them. Sufficient flexibility and adjustability in prices to the actual demands for things on the market always assure that all those willing to sell and desiring to be employed can find work. And this, also, is a law of the market.

Free market economists, both before and after Keynes and the Keynesian Revolution, have never denied that the market economy can face a situation in which mass unemployment could exist and a sizable portion of the society’s productive capacity could be left idle.

But if such a situation were to arise, they argued that its cause was to be found in a failure of suppliers to price their goods and labor services to reflect what consumers considered them to be worth, given the demand for various other things, including money. Correct prices always assure full employment; correct prices always assure that supplies create a demand for them; correct prices always assure the balancing of the market.

Government-Caused “Gluts” and Imbalances

The apparent “gluts” of commodities, capital and labor that the Wall Street Journal reporters see hanging over the global markets and which they forlornly wish governments could “cure” through more deficit spending are, in fact, the relative imbalances, distortions, and misdirection of capital and labor brought about by years, if not decades, of government fiscal, monetary and interventionist policies that have created many of the problems we now face.

They are the residues of housing booms and investment bubbles caused by earlier interest rate manipulations and money creation that artificially misdirected capital, labor and resources into unsustainable activities, given consumers and savers real preferences to demand various goods and save portions of their incomes as the basis for sustainable investment patterns.

Unemployed labor has far more to do with government interventions that impose labor market rigidities and non-market wage levels that over-price too many wanting work from successfully finding it. Anti-competition regulations and restrictions, and high and distorting tax policies prevent reasonable and profitable uses of capital in the service of actual consumer demands rather than political intrigue.

The low rates of interest in many of the leading economies of the world have nothing to do with mythical market-created “gluts” of savings and capital. They are the result of constant and continuous monetary expansion that has undermined the virtual existence of market-based rates of interest to know the reality of actual savings preferences of income earners and the profit-guided investment choices of borrowers based on the actual availability of scarce investable resources for the undertaking of capital projects.

 

A Changing World Means Changing Market Relationships

Overlaying the spider’s web of government intervention, and fiscal and monetary misdirection is a real change through which the world is passing: a transformation of the global economy.

The poverty-stricken “third world” of the Cold War era has become the “developing nations” of the last thirty years. Poor countries are becoming richer; agricultural and resource-dependent countries are industrializing and modernizing. National economies are increasingly interdependent participants in the international global marketplace of production, commerce and trade.

Significant changes in the patterns and forms of the international division of labor are and will continue to go on for decades to come. New niches of specialization for the older industrial and commercial countries will be an inescapable part of this increasingly world economy and global society, as the developing countries find new places for themselves at the global table of supply and demand.

This will partly manifest itself as discovery of relative “surpluses” of capital, labor and resources in some parts of the world, as other places are seen to have relative “shortages” of them, given the current patterns of supply and demand, and the relative structure of prices and wages for consumers goods and the workers and capital goods that are to serve and reflect the shape and direction of changing world-wide consumer demands.

What makes this global transformation “messy” and imbalanced in various ways is precisely the fact that governments in both the older industrial countries and in the younger modernizing nations are imposing their political power in different ways to shelter “threatened” industries and jobs in one part of the world, while using interventionist tools to give anti-free market benefits and advantages to privileged interests in other parts of the world.

But regardless of the “dirty market” aspects of this globalizing process, it has nothing to do with presumed market-caused, worldwide gluts. It is nothing more than the inevitable short-run imbalances of different supply and demands in a changing world that would sort themselves out soon enough, if not for the dead hand of government intervention, fiscal distortion and monetary manipulation that creates many such imbalances and prevents their normal readjustment precisely by hindering the competitive market and the price system from setting it right.

 

[Originally published at Epic Times]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Catholics Should Put Freedom Above Sustainability Fad

April 28, 2015, 10:38 AM

On the occasion of the Vatican’s workshop on global warming, sustainable development and human trafficking, it may be appropriate to remember Pope Benedict XVI’s message of January 1, 2010 celebrating the “World Day of Peace,”

http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20091208_xliii-world-day-peace.html

Pope Benedict expresses his opposition to mindless exploitation of nature without regard to future generations, but he also expresses the need for a balanced approach that respects the special place of human beings in the world. In particular, note this passage (all unusual spellings are stet):

Nor must we forget the very significant fact that many people experience peace and tranquillity, renewal and reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony of nature. There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us. On the other hand, a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person. If the Church’s magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism, it is because such notions eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things. In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the “dignity” of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings. They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms. The Church, for her part, is concerned that the question be approached in a balanced way, with respect for the “grammar” which the Creator has inscribed in his handiwork by giving man the role of a steward and administrator with responsibility over creation, a role which man must certainly not abuse, but also one which he may not abdicate. In the same way, the opposite position, which would absolutize technology and human power, results in a grave assault not only on nature, but also on human dignity itself.[30]

I especially like the fact that Pope Benedict refers to the “human person” and not “humanity” or some broader abstraction. Catholic social thought, having emerged in an age when nearly universal slavery and grinding poverty were considered the natural order of things, has strong themes of respect for the individual rather than the clan, class, or nation, the positive values of “exercising dominion” over the earth, “tilling it and keeping it” (Genesis 3:17-19), and yes, even entrepreneurship. This pro-freedom theme is a major reason the religion spread around the world in record time.

See Orlando Patterson’s wonderful book, Freedom in the Making of Western Civilization, for a full discussion of the positive role of Christianity in the history of human freedom.

Catholics who would put “sustainability” ahead of human freedom are out of step with the most important teachings of their faith.

Categories: On the Blog

Monday Update on Heartland’s trip to Rome for Vatican Climate Summit

April 27, 2015, 4:51 PM

Step outside Heartland’s hotel, look left, there’s the Vatican. [Photo: Jim Lakely]

The Heartland Institute today held and excellent 90-minute event for press today in Rome — especially considering the event was only announced to the press on Friday at about 10:30 a.m. CT.

(Why so late? We decided to travel to Rome only a couple of days before Friday — and arranging speakers, travel, lodging, and event space from the middle of America for the middle of Europe on a tight schedule is a tricky juggle.)

Media in attendance included reporters from:

Associated Press
Reuters
New York Times
Breitbart
CBC Radio (Canada)
Boston Globe
Catholic News Service
Catholic Reporter
Guardian

Other reporters have contacted us about attending our longer event Tuesday afternoon, and we also expect some allies here in Rome to attend. The Tuesday program gives our seven presenters a little more time to address in more detail the science, policy, and moral angles of the Vatican’s climate summit. Yesterday’s event, like Tuesday’s, will be held just steps from St. Peter’s Square.

Tuesday’s event is from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (lunch served at noon) at:

Palazzo Cardinal Cesi
Via della Conciliazione n. 51 (Piazza S.Pietro)
00193
Rome, Italy

Our presenters Tuesday:

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation
Hal Doiron, former NASA Skylab and Space Shuttle engineer
Richard Keen, Ph.D., meteorology instructor at the University of Colorado
Christopher Monckton, chief policy advisor to the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI)
Marc Morano, executive editor and chief correspondent, ClimateDepot.com
Tom Sheahen, Ph.D., vice chairman of the Science and Environmental Policy Project Board of Directors
Elizabeth Yore, J.D., former General Counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia

Video of Monday’s event will be available later this week at this blog, and kept long-term on YouTube and at our page dedicated to this visit and the Pope’s climate summit. (Italy has notoriously bad broadband, and our wifi-only hotel here in Rome is no exception, so it’s a tough upload.) Visit that page to see the latest coverage, research, and commentary from an important trip.

Categories: On the Blog

It is a Bad Time to be in the Renewable Energy Industry

April 27, 2015, 2:37 PM

2015 may go down in the books as the year support for renewable energy died—and we are only a few months in. Policy adjustments—whether for electricity generation or transportation fuels—are in the works on both the state and federal levels.

While the public is generally positive about the idea of renewable energy, the reality of years-long policy implementation that offers it special favors has changed public opinions. An October 2014 report in Oklahoma’s Enid News titled: “Wind worries?: A decade after welcoming wind farms, states reconsider,” offers this insightful summary:

“A decade ago, states offered wind-energy developers an open-armed embrace, envisioning a bright future for an industry that would offer cheap electricity, new jobs and steady income for large landowners, especially in rural areas with few other economic prospects. To ensure the opportunity didn’t slip away, lawmakers promised little or no regulation and generous tax breaks. But now that wind turbines stand tall across many parts of the nation’s windy heartland, some leaders in Oklahoma and other states fear their efforts succeeded too well, attracting an industry that gobbles up huge subsidies, draws frequent complaints and uses its powerful lobby to resist any reforms.”

But, it isn’t just wind energy that has fallen from favor. 2015 state and federal legislation reflects the “reconsider” prediction. Likewise “powerful” lobbyists are resisting the proposed reforms.

Oklahoma is just one state in what has become a new trend.

About a decade ago, when more than half of the states enacted strict Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), Oklahoma, and a few other states, agreed to voluntary targets. Now, nearly one-third of those states are reconsidering the legislation that sounded so good in a different energy era. Back then, it was widely believed that there was an energy shortage and “dealing with global warming” was a higher public priority.

“Roughly 30 bills relating to the Oklahoma wind industry have been filed in the state legislature in the 2015 session, including at least one targeting the tax breaks and others attempting to alter regulatory policies,” reports Fox News. On April 16, the Oklahoma House voted, 78-3, to eliminate the wind energy tax credit. The measure now moves to the Senate, which will review a companion bill introduced by Senator Mike Mazzei—it is expected to pass and will likely be headed to Governor Mary Fallin soon.

Oklahoma isn’t the first state to reconsider its renewable energy policies. That distinction goes to Ohio, which in May 2014, passed legislation that paused the state’s RPS for two years. Governor Kasich signed it in June. Meanwhile, according to Eli Miller, the Ohio State Director for Americans for Prosperity: “the economic well-being of our working families and businesses can be factored in before moving forward.” The International Business Times projects that the two years a commission has to study will lead to a “permanent reduction.”

Earlier this year, West Virginia became the first state to repeal its RPS. With unanimous support in the Senate and a 95-4 vote in the House, renewable energy supporters are dismayed. Calling it “pure political theater and probably a flop,” Nick Lawton, Staff Attorney at the Green Energy Institute dismisses the move: “West Virginia’s withdrawal of its weak renewable energy policy is unlikely to significantly change that state’s energy markets.” Nancy Guthrie, one of the four Democrats who voted “No,” did so because she believes “we are running out of coal, it’s that simple”—which is, of course, totally incorrect.

Last month the Texas Senate voted to end its RPS and another program that, according to the Star Telegram, “helped fuel the state’s years-long surge in wind energy production.” The bill now moves to the House State Affairs Committee. It is expected to pass the House and be signed by Governor Greg Abbott. While Texas is known for its leadership in wind energy, the termination of the RPS will impact the solar industry as well. Charlie Hemmeline, executive director of the Texas Solar Power Association, states: “Increasing uncertainty for our industry raises the cost of doing business in the state.”

Coming up, Kansas, North Carolina, and Michigan have legislation that revisits the states’ favorable renewable energy policies.

New Mexico and Colorado had bills to repeal or revise the RPS that passed in one chamber, but not in the other.

While Louisiana doesn’t have an RPS, it does have generous tax credits for solar panel installations that have exploded the cost to the state’s taxpayers. The credits were originally expected to cost the state $500,000 a year. In 2014 the payouts ballooned to $63.5 million according to the Baton Rouge Advocate. Repealing or revising the policy is a key priority in the current legislative session.

“Taxpayer support for wind energy is also losing momentum in Congress,” says Fox News. It points out: “Capitol Hill lawmakers at the end of last year did not extend the Federal Production Tax Credit (PTC). And in March, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), failed to rally support behind an amendment that would have put a five-year extension on the PTC.”

It is not just wind energy that has lost favor in Congress. The Ethanol mandates—known as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—are being re-examined, too.

On January 16, 2015, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced the “Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015.”

More recently, a “former Obama economic adviser” issued a report that calls for changes to the 10-year-old RFS. Harvard University Professor Jim Stock served on the Council of Economic Advisers in 2013 and 2014. The Hill states: “His report comes at a time of growing angst among lawmakers, regulators and the industry over the future of the RFS, which mandates fuel refiners blend a certain volume of ethanol and biodiesel into their traditional gasoline and diesel supplies.” The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) supports the sentiment calling Stock’s report: “a key voice to a growing chorus of people who say the policy isn’t working.” It continues: “The report adds to a growing body of politicians and experts who are questioning the law’s effectiveness amid regulatory uncertainty and lower prices.”

Hawaii, uniquely, has its own ethanol mandate, but it, too, is coming under attack. KHON states: “Nine years after a major change at the gas pump was forced on Hawaii drivers, many are now calling it a failed experiment and want it gone.”

In both the case of Hawaii and the federal government, lawmakers are looking toward advanced biofuels that don’t raise food costs. However, the Environmental Protection Agency—tasked with implementing the RFS—has repeatedly waived or reduced the cellulosic biofuel requirements because, despite more than $126 billion invested since 2003, the industry has yet to produce commercially viable quantities of fuel.

Addressing dwindling investment in biofuels and growing skepticism, The Economist, on April 18, says: “Campaigners generally find it easier to fulminate against those which damage the environment or food security than to explain exactly how they ought to be grown.” It concludes: “Whether such bright ideas can be commercialised at scale is a different question. Some companies, indeed, are starting to give up. Several algae-to-fuel ventures in America are switching to the manufacture of high-value chemicals instead. Sunlight is a great source of energy. Biology may not be the best way of storing it.”

And this doesn’t include the public’s failure to embrace higher-priced electric cars—even with tens of thousands of dollars of subsidies and tax credits.

Looking at all the policy reviews, the trend is clear. As Watchdog.org, in a report titled: “Why repealing the renewable energy mandates is good for the economy,” concludes: “The best policy for the states is to leave energy consumption decisions to consumers in the market rather than legislate them.”

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Common Core Updates and Homeschooling Regulation

April 27, 2015, 2:04 PM

In today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, we listen in as Managing Editor of School Reform News Heather Kays talks with Paul Molloy in a segment of the Freedom Works Show on Tantalk 1340 in Florida. Molloy and Kays discuss Common Core, standardized testing and the opt out movement.

Kays brings us up to date on all the Common Core news that has occurred across the country. During the interview, Molloy and Kays also talk about a Michigan legislator attempting to further regulate homeschooling after one tragic incident. This proposed legislation would mandate a registry of home-schooled students and require regular check-ups by a government agency.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Global Warming? The Pope is Wrong

April 27, 2015, 11:36 AM

I have devoted the better part of more than two and a half decades speaking out against the charlatans that have created and maintained the greatest hoax ever imposed on modern man. At the heart of this hoax has been the United Nations environmental program and at the heart of that program is an agenda to initiate a massive redistribution of wealth from industrialized, successful nations to those who have suffered, as often as not, from being ruled by despots of one description or another.

It is with profound sorrow and disappointment that I must now speak out against the policy seemingly being pursued by Pope Francis, the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, whom observers have noted has “a green agenda.” He has become an outspoken advocate on environmental issues, saying that taking action is “essential to faith” and calling the destruction of nature a modern sin.

Before proceeding, let me note that I am not Catholic. My thoughts regarding the Pope are rooted in my knowledge of the long record of lies, false predictions, and claims by various environmentalists over the years.

When the Vatican announced it would hold a conference on April 28 called “Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development”, I wondered why the Vatican is not holding a conference to organize the protection of Christians—particularly in the Middle East—against the wholesale genocide that is occurring. The Pope is not alone in this. There appears to be little urgency in addressing a threat comparable to the Holocaust of the last century that consigned six million Jews to death for being Jews.

I frankly do not know what is meant by “the moral dimensions of climate change.” Climate change is something that was occurring long before there was a human population on planet Earth. It is the measurement of the previous global cycles through which the Earth has passed for billions of years. It is profoundly natural. Applying a moral dimension to it makes no sense whatever.

As for “sustainable development”, that is a term that environmentalists use to deny any development that benefits the human population.

Environmentalism is deeply opposed to the use of any energy resource, coal, oil, natural gas, as well as other elements of the Earth we use to enhance and improve our lives with habitat of every description from a hut to a skyscraper. Over the last five thousand years we have gone from being largely dependent on wood to the use of fossil fuel energy that keeps us safe against nature—blizzards, floods, hurricanes, forest fires, et cetera.

At the heart of environmentalism, however, is a deep disdain and antagonism to the human race. From its earliest advocates, one can find allusions to humanity as “a cancer” on the Earth. The Catholic Church has been an advocate for the human race, most notably opposing abortion that kills humans in the womb. Its charitable work is legendary.

To grasp how far the forthcoming conference is from the most basic beliefs of Catholicism, one need only take note of the persons scheduled to speak. They include the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, the leader of the institution in which the hoax of global warming was created and advanced. Another is Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, another voice for global warming, but neither is going to tell those attending the conference that there is no warming and that the Earth has been a natural cooling cycle for the past eighteen years, tied entirely to a comparable cycle of the Sun.

The Green’s response to the voices of those scientists who courageously spoke out to debunk their lies has been to denounce and try to silence them. There is no science to support the global warming hoax.

The one-day summit will include participants from major world religions. The Pope will issue an encyclical on the environment later this year.

Is there a religious or spiritual aspect to opposing the forthcoming conference and encyclical? One need look no further than Genesis. In a Wall Street Journal commentary, William McGurn drew the lesson that it offers “a reminder that God’s creation is meant to serve man—not man the environment.

Quoting Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” concluding that “the Earth is to be worked and that this work and the fruit it bears are also blessed.” The spiritual truth to be drawn from this is that man is the steward of the Earth. That does not mean its resources should be abandoned because of bogus claims that the Earth is doomed.

McGurn reminds us that “it is the have-nots who pay the highest price for the statist interventions so beloved the Church of St. Green.” There are more than a billion on Earth who do not have any access to electricity which, in addition to hydropower, is generated by coal, oil and natural gas. Lacking the means to deter the impact of insects and weeds on agriculture, much of the Earth’s annual crops are lost. Lacking access to the beneficial chemicals that protect humans from the diseases transmitted by insects, millions die needlessly.

The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank is leading the effort to alert people to the dangerous message of the Vatican conference because “many people of faith who are familiar with the science and economics of climate change are worried this event will become a platform for alarmism over a controversial scientific issue” noting that “there is no scientific ‘consensus’ on whether there is any need to reduce mankind’s use of fossil fuels.”

The conference agenda is “profoundly anti-poor and anti-life” says the Institute. Plainly said, the Vatican conference incomprehensibly would advocate policies whose only result would be the reduction of human life in order to “sustain” the Earth.

“These unnecessary policies would cause the suffering and even death of billions of people. All people of faith should rise up in opposition to such policies.”

The Heartland Institute is sending a team of scientists and climate policy experts to Rome where they will be joined by Marc Morano of the think tank, CFACT. Says Morano, ‘Instead of entering into an invalid marriage with climate fear promoters—a marriage that is destined for an annulment—Pope Francis should administer last rites to the promotion of man-made climate fears and their so-called solutions. This unholy alliance must be prevented.”

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

A Message for Pope Francis

April 27, 2015, 9:41 AM

Pope Francis plans to deliver an encyclical on climate change this summer. To pave the way and outline the Pope’s positions, the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences is holding a workshop on the topic, April 28 in Rome. The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Heartland Institute will be there.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, director of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and an author of the draft encyclical, says the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has determined that “our planet is getting warmer.” Christians have a duty to help the poor, “irrespective of the causes of climate change,” and address what Pope Francis apparently believes is an imminent climate crisis. The encyclical will likely present global warming as “a critical moral issue” and increase pressure for a new climate treaty.

That raises serious questions, which I have addressed in many articles – and which prompted Dr. E. Calvin Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation to write an open letter to Pope Francis. The articles and letter reflect our years of studying climate change assertions and realities, and the ways climate-related restrictions on energy harm poor families far more than climate change will.

At the most fundamental level, too many IPCC reports and the apparent new papal position represent the rejection of Judeo-Christianity’s illustrious tradition of scientific inquiry, which has brought monumental improvements to our understanding of nature and creation – and to humanity’s once “nasty, brutish and short” lives on this planet. As Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman explained, we begin with a guess about a law of nature. Then we compute the consequences that would result if our hypothesis is correct – and compare actual observations, evidence and experimental data to the predicted consequences.

If the hypothesis and predictions are borne out by the observations, we have a new rule. But if the hypothesis “disagrees with the experiment, it is wrong,” Feynman says. That is honest, genuine science.

Alarmist climate science is precisely the opposite. That distorted version of science began with the hypothesis that carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels cause global warming. It served as the basis for computer models that assume rising CO2 and GHG levels will cause planetary temperatures and sea levels to soar, and hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts to increase in number and intensity. The models predicted many such “scenarios” over the coming decades.

But Earth stopped warming 18 years ago; no major hurricane hit the USA for a record 9-1/2 years; seas are rising at barely seven inches per century; and even IPCC experts agree that long-term trends in weather disasters are not out of historic norms and are not attributable to human causes. The CO2-driven global warming disaster hypothesis and models do not reflect reality and are obviously wrong.

So alarmists began talking about “climate change,” blaming extreme weather events on human emissions and manipulating temperature data. They say terrible things are happening at unprecedented levels, when they are not. Worst, they say we must slash hydrocarbon energy use that has brought once unimaginable health, prosperity, living standards and life spans to billions of people, after countless millennia of crushing poverty, malnutrition, disease, and death before age 40. Fossil fuels still represent 85% of the world’s energy – and they are essential if the rest of humanity is to catch up and improve their lives.

Denying humanity the use of still bountiful hydrocarbon energy is thus not simply wrong. It is immoral – and lethal. This is the real reason that climate change is a critical moral issue. No one has a right to tell the world’s poor they cannot use fossil fuels to improve their lives, or to tell others they must reduce their living standards, based on speculation and unfounded fears about a manmade climate crisis.

As Dr. Beisner notes, “Alongside good science in our approach to climate policy must be two preferential options: for humanity and, among humanity, for the poor.” This does not mean pitting humanity against nature, any more than to pit the poor against the rich. It means any effort to protect the environment must be centered on scientific truth and human well-being, and in particular the well-being of the poor, because they are more vulnerable, and less able to protect themselves. Climate alarmism does not do that.

Over the past three decades, fossil fuels helped 1.3 billion people get electricity and escape debilitating energy poverty – over 830 million because of coal. China connected 99% of its population to the grid and increased its steel production eight times over, mostly with coal, energy analyst Roger Bezdek points out.

Abundant, reliable, affordable motor fuels and electricity empower people and support mobility, modern agriculture, homes and hospitals, computers and communications, lights and refrigerators, job creation, life and study after sundown, indoor plumbing, safe drinking water, less disease and longer lives. In conjunction with property rights and entrepreneurship, protected by laws enforced by limited, responsive, responsible governments, fossil fuels will continue transforming lives and nations the world over.

They will also enable people to respond and adapt to future climate changes and extreme weather events, floods and droughts, heat waves, new “little ice ages” and other disasters, natural or manmade. More plant-fertilizing carbon dioxidein the atmosphere would enhance wildlife habitats and food production.

However, 1.3 billion people (the population of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe combined) still do not have electricity. In India alone, more people than live in the USA still lack electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 730 million (equal to Europe) still cook and heat with wood, charcoal and animal dung. Hundreds of millions get horribly sick and four million die every year from lung and intestinal diseases, due to breathing smoke from open fires and not having clean water, refrigeration and safe food.

Imposing fossil fuel restrictions and renewable energy mandates – in the name of stabilizing planetary climate that has never been stable – would perpetuate Third World poverty, disease and death. In developed nations, it would reduce living standards, affect everything we make, grow, ship, eat and do – and cause thousands to die during cold winters, because they cannot afford to heat their homes properly.

It would be a needless tragedy – an unconscionable crime against humanity – if the world implemented policies to protect the world’s still impoverished and energy-deprived masses from hypothetical manmade climate dangers decades from now, by perpetuating poverty and disease, and killing millions tomorrow.

Just eight years ago, Pope Benedict XVI warned that any proposed “solutions” to global warming and climate change must be based on solid evidence, and not on computer models, unsupported assertions and dubious ideology. He suggested that concerns about man-made emissions melting ice caps and causing waves of unprecedented disasters were little more than fear-mongering. He argued that ecological concerns must be balanced against the needs of current and future generations of people.

Pope Francis apparently does not share his predecessor’s view about climate change fears. However, if he is truly committed to advancing science, the poor and creation, he should reject climate chaos claims unless and until alarmists can provide solid evidence to back up their assertions and models.

He should recognize that the issue is not global warming or climate change. It is whether human actions now dominate climate and weather fluctuations that have been common throughout Earth and human history – and whether those actions will cause dangerous or catastrophic changes in the future. Science-based answers to these questions are essential if we are to forecast future climate and weather accurately – and safeguard poor families, modern living standards and environmental quality.

Dr. Beisner has posted his letter to Pope Francis, for others to endorse this commonsense approach.

It is unwise and unjust to adopt policies requiring reduced use of fossil fuels, unless it can be conclusively shown that doing so will stabilize Earth’ fickle climate and prevent future climate disasters, Dr. Beisner concludes. “Such policies would condemn hundreds of millions of our fellow human beings to ongoing poverty.” We therefore respectfully ask Pope Francis to advise the world’s leaders to reject those policies.

Categories: On the Blog

ObamaNet vs EuroNet — “Competing” Protectionist Industrial Policies

April 26, 2015, 4:44 PM

The US-EU “competition” of protectionist digital industrial policies — U.S. Title II net neutrality vs. the EU’s emerging “platform neutrality” plans — creates an ironic backdrop to negotiations for the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) “free” trade agreement. Heightening the irony, the Obama Administration, not the European Commission, has been the protectionist digital industrial policy leader, trailblazing the political path for the EU’s Single Digital Market to follow.

At least on the digital markets front, TTIP will be much less a commercial “free” trade negotiation and much more a political “fair” trade negotiation.

The U.S. has long set the tone and trajectory for this digital “fair” trade dynamic in championing net neutrality to protect its Silicon Valley national champions, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, etc., and by skewing antitrust enforcement to benefit Google and Silicon Valley.

Last November, President Obama publicly triggered this protectionist digital industrial policy “competition” dynamic by publicly urging the FCC to mandate the “the strongest possible” telephone utility regulations for the Internet, which the FCC dutifully did February 26th with maximal fanfare.

To protect Silicon Valley commercial interests domestically, the ObamaNet industrial policy effectively has reversed twenty years of U.S. led, global Internet free trade policy. The EU and other countries are embracing the political cover of this American digital protectionism to impose new laws and regulations to advance and protect their sovereign interests.

While U.S. proponents have politically framed net neutrality as non-commercial, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the trade context, net neutrality is all about who pays, i.e. who enjoys a rigged trade surplus or trade deficit.

The essence of the FCC’s net neutrality policy is to permanently mandate a zero price for Silicon Valley’s downstream Internet traffic. This protectionist policy creates a multi-billion dollar implicit subsidy system for the Silicon Valley cartel interests that have leveraged the artificial benefit of zero distribution cost to dominate over 90% of the Internet’s downstream traffic in the U.S. and Europe.

The EU and other sovereign nations know they can never hope to develop their own national digital sectors as long as they continue to massively subsidize Silicon Valley with a one-sided, U.S. definition of net-neutrality, that mandates a receiving-party-pays economic model where their countries and their consumers subsidize Silicon Valley’s distribution costs at the expense of their domestic competitors and consumers.

President Obama’s call for the “strongest possible” telecommunications monopoly rules for the Internet enable the EU and other countries to define net neutrality nationalistically as well and impose a telecommunications sending-party-pays model on Internet traffic, that would level the competitive playing field to maximize their own national economic interests and development.

European interests, primarily France and Germany, reportedly are looking to also impose “platform neutrality” i.e. telephone utility rules on foreign digital platforms, i.e. Silicon Valley companies, to require them to treat domestic competitors “fairly.”

In addition to the FCC skewing net neutrality policy to pick winners (Google and Silicon Valley) and losers (broadband providers), the U.S. has also skewed antitrust enforcement in favor of Google’s and Silicon Valley’s interests.

The Obama Administration has made its antitrust favoritism toward Google and Silicon Valley interests apparent.

In apparent violation of ethics policies that require the avoidance of the appearance of conflict of interest, the Obama Administration appointed two former Google outside antitrust counsels that represented Google before the Obama DOJ and FTC on antitrust matters,Renata Hesse and David Gelfand, to be two of the five Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals for antitrust. In addition, it appointed a Google consultant to be a Federal Trade Commissioner,Joshua Wright. The appearance of antitrust favoritism is clear.

In 2013, the FTC dropped its search bias investigation despite a staff report finding that Google manipulated its search results to favor its own content over others, and despite Google’s ~70% market share, i.e. “gatekeeper” power in the U.S.

Tellingly, during the Obama Administration, Google has acquired 130 companies and Facebook 50 companies.

In stark contrast, former Google outside antitrust counsel, Ms. Renata Hesse, as the acting DOJ deciding official, effectively decided to block two high-profile communications mergers over concerns of “gatekeeper” power.

This week, former Google outside antitrust counsel, and now DOJ decider Ms. Renata Hesseand the FCC effectively blocked the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger by contriving highly-artificial broadband market definitions, since Comcast and Time Warner Cable are not broadband competitors.

In 2011, former Google outside antitrust counsel, and now DOJ decider Ms. Renata Hesse and the FCC also blocked the proposed AT&T-T-Mobile merger, by breaking antitrust precedent and requiring four competitors in a high-fixed cost market rather than the three high-fixed-cost market-competitor precedent of the past.

In sum, the Obama Administration industrial policy to powerfully advantage Google and Silicon Valley interests at the expense of other U.S. communications interests and consumers, leads by example and provides huge political cover for Europe and other countries around the globe to put their sovereign interests ahead of global free trade interests going forward.

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

U.K., U.S. Science, Policy Experts to Probe Falsified Climate Change Data

April 26, 2015, 3:16 PM

A panel of scientists and science policy experts is planning to probe the sources and methods of the researchers who have been reported to have falsified climate change temperature data.

There is concern that the data has been intentionally “adjusted” to fit into the policy point of view espoused by the global Left on climate change, according to a report in the Independent newspaper, a U.K. daily.

The London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), established by climate-change skeptic Lord Nigel Lawson, announced last week that an international team of “eminent climatologists, physicists and statisticians” would investigate the reliability of the current data available to science.

The other commissioners of the data review project include: Petr Chylek, Richard McNider, Roman Mureika, Roger A Pielke Sr and William van Winjngaarden, who are all associated with universities.

The group’s goals for the inquiry are to “review the technical challenges in accurately measuring surface temperature, and assess the extent of adjustments to the data, their integrity and whether they tend to increase or decrease the warming trend.”

Former U.K. chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lawson, established the GWPF in 2009. His book on climate change is entitled An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming.

Categories: On the Blog

Shining Sunlight on Solar City

April 26, 2015, 1:12 PM

Billionaire Elon Musk, one of the top one percent in the world in terms of income and wealth, is among the largest recipients of government largesse. He gets millions of dollars in subsidies, tax breaks and tax credits for his electric car company, Tesla motors – which produces a car only his peers, the wealthy, can afford.
It turns out, however, Tesla is not his only company sucking up tax payer’s hard earned dollars. In a six part expose, journalist Tori Richards, examines the dodgy dealings, questionable business practices, and secretive government backing or Musk’s company, Solar City.

Solar City’s pitch, allow us to install solar panels on your home, for a small front fee and a 20 year contract for electricity at a fixed price. The promise, your electric bills will fall. However, all too often, those signing up see their electric bills rise.

Worse, as the series shows, Solar City’s promises of cheap, clean energy, all too often turn into a nightmare as the installations damage the homes or other electrical systems in the homes, complaints, when they are responded too at all, take months receive a response and even more time to the necessary fix – with the fixes often causing further problems – and with homeowners finding themselves fight liens against their home when disputes over payments arise.

At the same time, Solar City has reaped more than $11 million in stimulus funding and $422 million in tax kickbacks from the federal government for the solar power produced (these figures don’t include state subsidies). Speaking of state subsidies, Solar City is soaking New York taxpayers for $750 million for the promised construction of a manufacturing plant. Since the public is footing the bill, one would think the terms of the contract, promises made, etc… would be open to public perusal and review – one would be wrong. When a local television station tried to examine the contract’s details, rather than being transparent and open for review, the station was informed the contract terms were confidential. Forcing the issue using a Freedom of Information Act request, the station finally go the contract, only to find most of the pages were blacked out and the term redacted.

Richards’ series is a real eye-opener, and she has done the public a great service in exposing federal and state governments’ malfeasance, Musk’s undue influence and the extent to which he has his hands in the public’s pocket, the regularity with which solar power promises are not met and the potential dangers facing people buying into Solar City’s promises of clean, cheap, energy.

Categories: On the Blog

Debate on the Merits, Anyone?

April 25, 2015, 4:24 PM

Co-authored by: Nick Dranias and Justin Haskins

Marching under the banner of “transparency,” there is a growing movement in the U.S. to limit truly free speech. The movement claims to be attacking “dark money,” but the reality is that its adherents want to shut up its ideological opponents. Independent expressions of support or opposition for candidates or political issues are marginalized by irrelevant questions about funding sources. Honest research and well-formulated arguments are denounced as “biased” or “untrustworthy” because of who the donors are rather than based on the merits of the arguments presented.

One doesn’t need to look further than the tragic case of Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Dr. Willie Soon to see how calls for transparency can unjustly harm others and deter future quality research. Soon was recently smeared by the New York Times and organizations like Greenpeace for his allegedly biased scientific research into the theory of catastrophic man-caused climate change.

The Times and others attacked Soon because he did not openly and immediately disclose that he received funding for his research from organizations that have a financial interest in the energy sector. It didn’t matter that Soon’s research was of the highest quality, that Smithsonian received much of the funding itself, or that numerous organizations and individuals who support the theory of manmade climate change also receive funding from parties who have financial interests in the climate debate.

Another attack last week on the Smithsonian was launched last week by MoveOn.org, the activist group founded in the wake of the Clinton impeachment scandals. Activists want to see David Koch – the philanthropist – removed from the boards of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History and the American Museum of Natural History for being a “denier” of climate change. Koch has donated tens of millions of dollars to these museums for research and exhibits.

Regardless of what you may believe about global warming, it’s undeniable that these attacks and related calls for “transparency” are simply tools used by one side of the debate in an attempt to silence the other.

Rather than debate those who disagree with them, these progressive activists have learned it is far easier to bully, to retaliate, and to destroy. But to blackball people effectively, they need to know donor names so they can isolate and disrupt funding networks. You can only get so far with smears of the messenger and innuendo about disclosed funders. That’s why this transparently intolerant movement has transitioned from ad hominem attacks and boycotts to enlisting the coercive power of the state.

For a while, the campaign operated below the radar, using the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to conduct inquisitions against Tea Party and conservative groups about their funding sources and affiliations in the course of applying for tax exempt status. Around the same time, Wisconsin prosecutors quietly launched secret “John Doe” investigations exclusively targeting subpoenas and surveillance to legions of center-right political groups and interests who were aligned with the policies of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

But then, far from being shamed by public revelations about Lois Lerner’s coordination of the IRS campaign against conservative nonprofits, the aggressive transparency movement targeting the center-right upped the ante.

Like the opening shot of a starter pistol, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) deployed his official letterhead during the summer of 2013 to demand that dozens of conservative think tanks confess that they had supported the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Stand Your Ground” laws.

In late 2013, the Center for Media & Democracy and ProgressNow repackaged public form 990 information into lazily crafted so-called exposés to launch ad hominem assaults on private donors and successful advocates of conservative causes, labeling center-right public interest groups “stink tanks.”

By the summer of 2014, Arshad Hasan, executive director of ProgressNow, was openly declaring, “The next step for us is to take down this network of [conservative non-profit] institutions that are state-based in each and every one of our states.”

Supporters of this manifestly totalitarian transparency movement insist the public has the right to know who is financially responsible for various social, cultural, and political movements, because if they don’t know, greedy corporations, manipulative religious zealots, or some other allegedly biased group of people will use their deep pockets and political connections to push oppressive policies regular working Janes and Joes don’t actually want. Transparency, they say, is the only way to hold people accountable.

In reality, as the escalation of ad hominem into coercive state action demonstrates, this campaign is really nothing more than an attempt to silence political opponents. Fear of political or social retribution is used to prevent particular causes from being funded. That’s why legal protections for private civic engagement are necessary to ensure that individuals feel safe donating and advocating for causes they believe in without worrying about being personally attacked as a result. Towards that end, the Heartland Institute recently published a Policy Study, titled “In Defense of Private Civic Engagement: Why the Assault on ‘Dark Money’ Threatens Free Speech–and How to Stop the Assault.” 

The study advocates several methods for protecting the right to private civic engagement, but the passage of two pieces of model legislation are particularly important to protect the First Amendment rights of Americans on all sides of the political spectrum.

The first proposed law is called the “Free Speech Privacy Act,” and it would act as a “federalism shield” for free speech, “prohibiting the enforcement [by the states] of any law directly or indirectly conditioning the exercise of the rights of free speech and association on the disclosure of the identity of a person or entity who fears a reasonable probability of social, political, or economic retaliation from such disclosure.”

The second important reform proposal is the “Publius Confidentiality Act.” Publius would empower individuals by allowing them to register for an official pseudonym that could be used in political and cultural debates of all sorts, thereby forcing opponents to focus attacks on ideas rather than on individuals, their families, or their businesses.

Increasing privacy protections for individuals is an essential part of ensuring the marketplace of ideas is free from coercive fear tactics designed to silence honest debate. Without these protections, politics will continue to devolve into a political war of all against all, rather than focusing on whose ideas are more likely to improve the nation and promote liberty.

[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

China’s Shifting Population Growth Patterns

April 25, 2015, 4:17 PM

As demographers have projected for some time, China’s population growth is slowing. The nation gained population at a rate of 0.49% between 2010 and 2013, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics. This is a reduction from the rate of 0.57% between 2000 and 2010. Further growth rate declines are expected until the 2030s when the total population, according to United Nations projections, will actually begin to decline.

Right now the biggest slowdown is taking place in regions with the greatest and densest urbanization such as in the province of Guangdong, home of the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze Delta, anchored by Shanghai. At the same time, the northern plains economic region of Beijing-Tianjin continues its growth, but following a more decentralized pattern that sees more growth away from Beijing.

Guangdong and the Pearl River Delta

Guangdong is unique in being home to two of the world’s megacities (urban areas over 10 million population), Guangzhou-Foshan and Shenzhen. No other sub-national jurisdiction (province or state) in the world has more than one. The province, anchored along the Pearl River Delta, has been the heart of China’s three decade long economic advance. Between Guangzhou-Foshan and Shenzhen, the Dongguan urban area has 8 million residents. Across the Pearl River, Jiangmen, Zhongshan and Zhuhai all have more than one million residents. If the China’s adjacent special economic regions of Hong Kong and Macau are included, the area’s population reaches 55 million, nearly one-half more than Tokyo, with nearly the same land area. However, with little day-to-day work trip commuting between, they do not, at least as of yet, represent a single labor market (metropolitan area).

This slowdown comes after years of spectacular growth. Between 1990 and 2000, the province added more than 40 million new residents, more people than live in California. On average, the the population rose 2.1 million every year, an annual rate of 2.6 percent. Just between 2009 and 2010 the increase was 3.1 million. However, over the three years between 2010 and 2013 Guangdong added only 700,000 each year, for an annual growth rate of 0.66 percent.,

Shanghai and the Yangtze Delta

Shanghai, a city province that contains nearly all of the Shanghai mega-city, also experienced a huge drop in its population growth rate (Parts of Shanghai’s continuously built-up area are now stretching into neighboring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces). Between 2000 and 2010, Shanghai grew at an annual rate of 3.65% and added nearly 7 million new residents. Over the last three years, the annual rate of population growth has dropped by more than half, to 1.67% as only 1.1 million new residents have been added. Shanghai was estimated to have a population of 24,150,000 at the end of 2013.

Shanghai is at the core of the larger Yangtze River Delta, home to nearly 160 million residents crowded into an area the size of Oregon. The Yangtze Delta includes the provinces of Zhejiang, Shanghai and Jiangsu and stretches from Ningbo, through Hangzhou, Shanghai, Suzhou, Changzhou, and Zhenjiang to Nanjing. Like Guangdong, the Yangtze Delta experienced a substantial drop in its rate of population growth. Between 2000 and 2010, the Yangtze Delta added approximately 20 million new residents, or 1.4 percent annually. This dropped to only 2 million between 2010 and 2013, dropping the annual growth rate  to 0.5%.

Beijing, Tianjin and the Northern China Plain

All the population of the Beijing mega-city is contained within the municipal province of Beijing. With its adjacent megacity of Tianjin (also a municipal province) the two provinces combined have a population of 35 million. When combined with the surrounding province of Hebei (capital Shijiazhuang), the population of this Northern China Plain megalopolis is nearing 110 million. Unlike China’s other two major economic regions, the North China Plain is sustaining its population growth. Between 2000 and 2010, the annual population growth rate was 1.47 percent. Over the past three years, it was 1.46 percent.

Beijing was estimated to have a population of 21,150,000 at the end of 2013.Yet, there has been a substantial slowdown in growth but not as marked as that of Shanghai. Between 2000 and 2010, Beijing added more than 6 million residents, growing at an annual rate of 3.70 percent. Another 1.5 million residents were added between 2010 and 2013, but the growth rate dropped to 2.67 percent.

The trajectory of growth has now shifted to Tianjin. Tianjin is by far the fastest growing provincial level jurisdiction in China. Between 2010 and 2013, Tianjin grew at an annual rate of 4.49 percent, and added 1.7 million new residents. This is more in total numbers than either Beijing or Shanghai, which are both larger. Among the provincial level jurisdictions, only Guangdong, seven times as large, added more residents. Tianjin is estimated to have a population of 14,720,000.

Tianjin appears to be an opportunity corridor for growth. Tianjin is located approximately 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Beijing and is the principal seaport in the area. High speed trains between Tianjin and Beijing operate about 100 times each way daily, completing the trip in 35 minutes. Tianjin is a natural safety valve for the continuing growth of the North China Plain megalopolis.

Hebei continued its stronger than national growth. In the 2000s, Hebei added 5.2 million residents, and added another 1.4 million over the past three years.

This shift of growth from Beijing to surrounding areas could indicate some success in the policy initiatives of the national and Beijing governments to control Beijing’s rapid population growth and shift it to more peripheral areas. More decentralization initiatives are due, such as the plannedseventh ring road, which will traverse most of its distance in surrounding Tianjin and Hebei.

The Dongbei Rust Belt

Population growth continues to elude China’s historic Rust Belt, the Dongbei (“East North,” also called Manchuria). This area, consisting of Lioaning, Jilin and Heliongjiang provinces, with major cities Shenyang, Harbin and Dalian grew by only 200,000 residents, an annual rate of 0.06 percent. This is down from 0.26 percent in the 2000s, which was less than one-half the national growth rate. The Dongbei has nearly 110 million residents.

Other Areas

At the same time, population in the interior province of Hubei (capital Wuhan) has been propelled from 0.14 percent annually between 2000 and 2010 to a near national rate of 0.41 percent since 2010. Adjacent interior province Hunan (capital Changsha) recovered from a 0.01 percent annual growth rate in the 2000s to 0.62 in the last three years. Next to Hunan, city province Chongqingrecovered from a lethargic 0.12 percent growth rate between 2000 and 2010, to an impressive 0.99 percent over the last three years. These cases may also be another indication of the success of government policies to encourage growth away from the East Coast.

Outside of Tianjin, only four regions of China are growing at a greater than one percent annual rate. Three are to the west, including Tibet (1.31 percent), Xinjiang (1.21 percent) and Ningxia (1.12 percent). All are experiencing slower growth than before. To the south, Hainan, the island province, is also growing at just above one percent), about the same rate as in the 2000s.

Floating Population: Slower Growth

China’s large floating population, — internal migrants who have moved to the cities to provide the work force for much of the manufacturing and construction boom — continued to grow, but at a somewhat slower rate. The floating population grew 8 million annually between 2010 and 2013, down from 15 million annually between 2005 and 2010. Of course, that is still a big number. With reform of the internal passport system (“hukou” system) promised, there may be an important incentive for many to remain in the cities, where economic aspirations may be more likely to be met.

China’s Changing Growth Patterns

China is going through an important transition from nearly speed-of-light economic expansion to much slower growth that is, nonetheless the envy of just about every other major economy. Nonetheless, these changes are already bringing spatial changes.

Photo: Dalian (Liaoning), in the Dongbei (by author)

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – H. Sterling Burnett: Reducing Poverty with Cheap Energy

April 24, 2015, 4:10 PM

In Today’s edition of The Heartland Daily Podcast, Director of Communications Jim Lakely speaks with the Managing Editor of Environment and Climate News H. Sterling Burnett. Burnett and Lakely discuss a variety of environmental topics.

The topics discussed by Burnett and Lakely include China’s destruction of the coral reef in their attempts to build an island military base and the upcoming climate conference hosted by Pope Francis. They discuss the messages that will most likely come out of the conference. According to Burnett, reducing CO2 in the atmosphere will do nothing to help the poor and malnourished around the world. He says that supplying abundant and inexpensive energy is the best way to improve the lives of those who live in poverty.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Weekly: Heartland Heads to Rome to Tell Pope Francis: Global Warming is Not a Crisis!

April 24, 2015, 3:34 PM

If you don’t visit Somewhat Reasonable and the Heartlander digital magazine every day, you’re missing out on some of the best news and commentary on liberty and free markets you can find. But worry not, freedom lovers! The Heartland Weekly Email is here for you everyFridaywith a highlight show.

Subscribe to the email today, and read this week’s edition below.

Why the Assault on ‘Dark Money’ Threatens Free Speech Nick Dranias, Heartland Policy Study Our right to free speech is under attack by groups on the Left using Alinskyite tactics and campaign finance laws to silence and intimidate anyone who disagrees with them. Constitutional scholar and Heartland Institute Research Fellow Nick Dranias explores this topic in a new Heartland Policy Study titled “In Defense of Private Civic Engagement: Why the Assault on ‘Dark Money’ Threatens Free Speech – and How to Stop the Assault.” Dranias explains how private civic engagement “serves a critically important purpose in keeping the marketplace of ideas focused on the message, not the messenger. It also protects the messenger from retaliation when speaking truth to power.” READ MORE New Jersey Parents, Activists Raise Student Privacy Concerns Heather Kays, The Heartlander “Parents are upset across the spectrum,” said Julia Rubin, a volunteer for Save Our Schools NJ. “Nobody knew what was going on. Not just that they were monitoring. I think it’s the idea that they are monitoring in coordination with the [New Jersey Department of Education].” READ MORE   Heartland Heads to Rome to Tell Pope Francis: Global Warming Is Not a Crisis! We’re flying a team of scientists and climate policy experts to Rome to challenge the alarmism on tap at a global warming workshop at the Vatican on April 28. Stay tuned to Heartland.org all next week for updates on our effort to bring a measure of truth to the conference and debunk the faith-based climate alarmism of the United Nations. READ MORE   Featured Podcast: Jonathan Williams: Rich States, Poor States Budget & Tax News Managing Editor Jesse Hathaway speaks with Jonathan Williams, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. Williams and Hathaway discuss the findings in this year’s edition of ALEC’s annual “Rich States, Poor States” report. LISTEN TO MORE  

 

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Do you believe in smaller government and more individual liberty? Do you believe free markets solve social and economic problems better than government planning? The Heartland Institute might have just the job for you! We’re looking for eager self-starters to manage several important projects that will have a real impact on policy in this country. READ MORE

  Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Earth Day “As the public comes to understand how immature the science of climate change actually is, their support for the impossible goal of ‘stopping climate change’ will diminish still further. It’s time for Earth Day Network, and indeed all sensible environmentalists, to divorce themselves from the climate scare albatross and focus instead on real environmental concerns over which we have influence.” READ MORE Net Neutrality Is Just as Stupid Internationally as It Is Here Seton Motley, Human Events “Imagine Fuel Neutrality – where the government mandates that 18-wheel tractor trailers (whose owners just so happen to donate huge to Democrats) not be charged to fill up at the pump. That necessarily skyrockets gas prices for the rest of us in our little cars – because the stations have to make up that huge money somewhere.”READ MORE

Americans Have a ‘Right’ to Receive Health Care, Humana CEO Claims Gene Koprowski, Somewhat Reasonable “[Humana CEO Bruce D.] Broussard’s statement that health care is a ‘right’ is an odd one,” said [Justin] Danhof, [an attorney at National Center for Public Policy Research]. “It certainly isn’t provided for in the Constitution. And millions of Americans make rational decisions to either self-insure, or refuse to purchase health insurance.” READ MORE Bonus Podcast: Peter Ferrara – Power to the People, Entitlement Reform Senior Fellow Peter Ferrara joins The Joyce Kaufman Show to talk about his upcoming book,Power to the People: The New Road to Freedom and Prosperity for the Poor, Seniors, and Those Most in Need of the World’s Best Health Care.LISTEN TO MORE Defending the Ethical Enterpriser in an Anti-Business Climate Richard Ebeling for Somewhat Reasonable “Wherever the forces of free market capitalism have been set freest, along with a modicum of acceptance and even respect for business enterprise, that the most dramatic strides have been made in abolishing the worst and most squalid material conditions of mankind.” READ MORE The Whitehouse-White House Inquisition Paul Driessen, Somewhat Reasonable “These senators are abusing their power of office to threaten and silence honest scientists, and destroy their funding, reputations and careers. It’s pure Saul Alinsky, as practiced by Greenpeace, Harry Reid and the other White House: ‘In a fight almost anything goes. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.’ And the vilified scientists and their friends are just supposed to take it, the senators seem to think.” READ MORE   Invest in the Future of Freedom!
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Categories: On the Blog

What Is It About Global Warming

April 24, 2015, 2:35 PM

I may never understand what it is about the global warming debate that causes people I presume are perfectly reasonable and civil in many aspects of their daily lives to write such inaccurate, foul-mouthed, irrational emails.

There’s no reasoning with such people … but I do think there may be value in exposing them. I cannot imagine how proud his neighbors in Bend, Oregon must be of him. I find it especially interesting that someone would use this sort of language in apparent defense of the Pope.

Oh, and yes we’re going to Rome — with real climate scientists and a positive message for the Pope. You can follow our efforts here.

 

From: Bill Howell & Jeanne Wadsworth [mailto:zbskier@gmail.com] Sent: Friday, April 24, 2015 2:14 PM
To: Diane Bast
Subject: The POPE…

To Whom it Concerns:

So, you’re sending your goons to twist the Pope’s arm that the bible says it’s “our duty” to pollute the earth?

It’s no wonder you have guys like James Inhoff doing your phony science.  I’d bet he got his medical degree out of the cracker jacks box.

Also, is it really that satisfying sucking the Koch Brother’s cocks?

You all are the most despicable bunch of numb nutted, limp dicked jackasses in and otherwise great country.

Rot in hell ass holes…Most Sincerely, Bill Howell

Categories: On the Blog

Considerations for the Pope on Climate and the Poor

April 24, 2015, 2:11 PM

I was honored, deeply honored, to be invited to participate in the first papal conference on climate change back in the spring of 2007, the Pontifical Council on Climate Change and Development. It is to my great and lasting regret that I was unable to participate in the conference which I believed would set the tone for future Papal explorations of the issue of climate change.

Mind you, though I’m Christian, I’m not a Catholic, still, the Pope is the leader of the largest Christian denomination on earth and for two thousand years those holding his office have spoken with authority on matters of morals and faith. I have great respect for the office and those holding the title.

Though the issue of climate change is usually thought of as a matter of science, in fact, though science is critical to understanding why and how our climate changes — contrary to popular belief still a matter of open debate — it provides no insight concerning how individuals or governments ought to respond to any threats or benefits that could arise from climate change. These are normative matters. As a moral philosopher by training, I have always argued that while facts may constrain or limit our ethical reach, after all ought does imply can, they rarely dictate our choices. Rather the natural world provides the resources with which and the backdrop against which humans interact with each other and nature and, depending upon the choices we make, the realm in which our actions can be judged as good or bad, right or wrong, which sometimes but not always can track what is efficient or inefficient.

In other words, religious leaders and moral philosophers do have special insight because of their training and study, concerning how we ought to respond to what scientist tell us about climate change, or at least what normative matters we ought to consider.

As I wrote earlier this year regarding Pope Francis’ decision to make battling climate change an important papal cause,

As the leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world, he is charged not just with saving souls but also with alleviating the suffering of the world’s least fortunate, and with leading the Catholic Church in efforts to make the world a better place.

Having said this, I also know moral imperatives and public policies should be grounded in the best-available science, in the reality of the human condition, and in the state of both the planet and the people.

In regard to the latter point, when I have heard Pope Francis speak on the dangers of climate change, I believe he has been badly misinformed and led astray.

First, the Pope should understand the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is just that, a governmental panel with leaders chosen by, the course of research directed by, and what gets reported to the media determined and edited by (or in conjunction with) politicians, not scientists. From the outset, the deck was stacked, since the IPCC was not charged by the politicians establishing it with determining what causes climate change per se, but rather limited to studying the human causes of climate change. Unsurprisingly the very direction of the enterprise, despite the IPCC’s own admissions that it has little or even poor understanding of a majority of factors that affect the climate (see the graphic), dictated the outcome: human greenhouse gas emissions, not nature, was causing global warming. The IPCC has fallen into the instrument trap, “When one only has a hammer, one tends to see every problem as a nail.”

 

Leaving the political nature of the climate science endeavor behind, the Pope should note, a number of factors that should raise question about the dominant meme that human activities, primarily fossil fuel use, are causing dangerous climate change, so government’s must enact greenhouse gas emission restrictions to prevent future disaster.

As pointed out in a recent essay by Max Borders, “Models are not evidence.” Models present simulations of complex processes and when model projections diverge from the evidence, they, not the evidence, are not to be trusted. That is where we stand today, models offer scary projections of melting polar ice caps, species going extinct, more frequent and intense hurricanes and droughts, diminishing winters, crop failures and continuously rising temperatures – yet the actually data say that none of these predictions has come true. Indeed, in many instances, just the opposite is occurring. Crops are setting record yield as is Antarctica’s sea ice extent. Winter temperatures and snowfall show no sign of abating and global temperatures have stalled for 18 years despite rising greenhouse gas emissions. Once again, I hope the Pope recognizes, when model predictions diverge from reality, have faith in the evidence of our senses and instruments of measurement, not model projections.

Borders also two under-appreciated points about the models I believe are inexorably linked. Climate is complex, thus climate models simulating it are also invariably complex as well. However the more complex the model, the easier it is to introduce errors and model outputs are only as good as the inputs. “Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO)” must always be guarded against. The problem is, as climate modelers admit, there are many climate factors climate models are unable to account, for instance: cloud cover, persistent, periodic climate patterns like El Nino, volcanic eruptions, solar activity and long-term ocean circulation patterns. GIGO enters the modelling process from the get-go. This doesn’t mean modelling is a useless exercise, rather we should take model outputs with extreme caution. As Borders writes, “…the lower ‘res’ [resolution or scale] the model, the less it conforms to reality’s details. The higher ‘res’ the model, the more likely it is to be infected with errors. This is one of the great paradoxes of modeling.”

More importantly, the Pope should recognize that those pushing climate fears, and bans or strict limits on fossil fuel use, think people, God’s one creation endowed with a soul, are the problem. Many of them (if they are religious at all) worship the creation not the Creator. Whereas, according to the Bible, God said to mankind in blessing them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground,” climate alarmists believe the earth is overpopulated and it is peoples’ desires for decent standards of living, longer, materially comfortable lives that is driving global warming. Many of the same people pushing the Pope to join the fight against climate change, support forceful population control programs like those operating in China. Hardly a Christian position.

The Pope clearly cares about the poor, and well he should as should we all. Having said that, the climate policies pushed in the West are absolutely the worst possible policies for alleviating poverty around the world. Any policy that denies people access to relatively inexpensive, abundant and reliable fossil fuels as sources for energy is a death sentence for millions around the world. The Pope should recognize, as written in a New York Times article recently, neither the environment nor people are helped when the West tries to suppress the use of fossil fuels for energy:

A typical American consumes, on average, about 13,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. The citizens of poor countries — including Nepalis, Cambodians and Bangladeshis — may not aspire to that level of use, … . But they would appreciate assistance from developed nations, and the financial institutions they control, to build up the kind of energy infrastructure that could deliver the comfort and abundance that Americans and Europeans enjoy.

Too often, the United States and its allies have said no.

“It is about pragmatism, about trade-offs,” said Barry Brook, professor of environmental sustainability at the University of Tasmania in Australia. “Most societies will not follow low-energy, low-development paths, regardless of whether they work or not to protect the environment.”

If billions of impoverished humans are not offered a shot at genuine development, the environment will not be saved. And that requires not just help in financing low-carbon energy sources, but also a lot of new energy, period. Offering a solar panel for every thatched roof is not going to cut it.

Caring for the poor, truly promoting their needs, requires more not less energy use.

In closing, if the Pope could read just one book about climate and energy to inform his ongoing efforts, I wish he would read Alex Epstein’s, clear, cogent, wonderful, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Epstein takes human life, well-being, and flourishing as the standard of value public policy should maximize and examines fossil fuels strictly in relation to their ability to enhance or constrain human well-being. I quote at length from Epstein’s book the most important point I would have the Pope understand concerning climate change and humans:

Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels.… Not only are we ignoring the big picture by making the fight against climate danger the fixation of our culture, we are ‘fighting’ climate change by opposing the weapon that has made it dozens of times less dangerous. The popular climate discussion has the issue backward. It looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.

To sum up: Restricting or ending fossil fuel use, not climate change, is the real recipe for disaster. It would set human civilization back centuries, ringing a true death knell for present and future generations. If the Pope wants to help the world’s poor, this is the message he should deliver.

Categories: On the Blog

Gwyneth Paltrow, THIS Is What Living on Food Stamps Really Looks Like

April 24, 2015, 12:33 PM

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow, one of Hollywood’s more prominent lifestyle gurus, made headlines last week for taking celebrity chef Mario Batali’s “Food Stamp Challenge” (and failing) sponsored by the Food Bank for New York City.

Participants are asked to buy groceries for a week as if they were on food stamps in an effort to show Washington, D.C. how tough it is for impoverished Americans to live on government services.

Paltrow tweeted to her more than 2.1 million followers a picture of “what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (i.e. food stamps) have to live on for a week.”

This is what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (i.e. food stamps) have to live on for a week. pic.twitter.com/OZMPA3nxij

— Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) April 9, 2015

Paltrow’s tweet was shared more than 2,000 times and was featured by countless news, opinion, and celebrity sites, most of which applauded her for her efforts.

This would all be a fantastic story of the power celebrities can have to create change, but there’s a big problem standing in the way: Paltrow’s message is completely and utterly untrue.

For starters, food stamp recipients are not asked to live on $29 per week; the maximum benefits allotted for a single person alone is about $45 per seven days, according to New York’s own Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

Paltrow’s $29 per week figure is based on what the Food Bank for New York City says is the “average” amount a food stamp recipient receives. The reason the average is lower than the maximum allowable benefit, however, isn’t due to some absurd policy by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The difference is the result of the fact that recipients with some income, including income from other social programs, receive slightly less than those who are not receiving any income at all.

Second, Paltrow’s food choices are completely ridiculous. Based on the picture she posted on Twitter, Paltrow bought a carton of eggs, an onion, a tomato, green onions, lettuce, one avocado, a jalapeno pepper, one yam, one ear of corn, kale, black beans, brown rice, dried peas, fresh garlic, cilantro, tortillas, and seven limes. Yup, SEVEN limes.

With those food choices, Paltrow is right the average American would have trouble living comfortably. But what fool would actually purchase the items Paltrow bought if all he or she had was $29, which again, isn’t even an accurate figure. All Paltrow’s stunt proves is that she is completely and totally out of touch with what it’s like to live like 99 percent of the country.

So, in an effort to find out what it’s truly like to live on food stamps, I went to my local Chicago-area grocery store with a strict $45 budget, and here’s what I came up with:

Hey @GwynethPaltrow THIS is what eating on a food stamps budget really looks like. Not nearly as bad as you said. pic.twitter.com/YYtwJRrGiX

— Justin Haskins (@TheNewRevere) April 16, 2015

As you can see, with just $45 I was able to purchase two containers of blackberries, whole wheat English muffins, yogurt, veggie pasta, pasta sauce, milk, eggs, cereal, four avocados, hot dogs, hot dog buns, a block of cheddar cheese, Kashi breakfast bars, a very large container of chicken, and celery. While this may not be as much food as I would have liked, it is certainly enough to get by comfortably for one week.

Don’t get me wrong, Ms. Paltrow’s good-hearted intentions are admirable. She clearly wants to help people, and no one should be insulted for trying to help the impoverished. But if you’re going to take a political stance, Gwyneth, you should probably look into the facts first.

It’s simply not true food stamps only provide $29 for “families on SNAP.” A family of four is actually eligible to receive as much as $150.00 per seven days for purchasing food. While this means a family relying on SNAP will probably not be eating steak and lobster every night, it’s more than enough for a family to get by until parents or guardians can find employment.

Study after study shows, including the newly published 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card released in March by The Heartland Institute, that if lawmakers are actually interested in reducing poverty, reforming welfare is one of the best ways to do it—and it doesn’t involve spending more money on increased benefits.

By establishing cash diversion programs, decreasing the time limits for receiving welfare, putting firm sanctions in place, creating work requirements for recipients, and integrating government services, millions of people could be rescued from poverty and the grips of government services.

The goal of programs like welfare and SNAP should be to move people out of poverty, not make them more comfortable in it. Let’s stop with all the Hollywood-induced rhetoric and start focusing on real solutions.

[Originally Published on Breitbart]

Categories: On the Blog