Free Markets, Free People

Policy

Keystone XL pipeline: How long will Obama delay this time

In the wake of sequestration, an opportunity to do the right thing for this country arises.  Unfortunately, it arises within an administration ideologically, and therefore adamantly, opposed to the idea of more fossil fuel:

Today the State Department released yet another positive environmental review for the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline project. The State Department approved the original pipeline route through Nebraska, which was supposedly less environmentally friendly, without any problems.

It is no surprise, then, that the State Department also seems to look favorably on this second iteration of the project in this fourth report—a report that should have been unnecessary. For the record, the pipeline also received a stamp of approval from Nebraskans.

Yes, that’s right, the Obama State Department has given the Keystone XL pipeline favorable reviews before.  It has been the executive, in this case, arbitrarily overruling the reports, inserting himself in a process he really has no business in and delaying the project.

IER senior VP Daniel Kish sums it up pretty well:

"This is, as President Obama says, ‘a teachable moment.’  It teaches us why our government’s policies continue to stifle job creation, investment and new energy sources and instead spends valuable time and increasingly limited resources studying things to death.

"While we welcome this report, we also note this is the 4th such environmental report on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal and since it is only a “draft” there will be at least 5 federal environmental studies before a decision is made by our government on the pipeline. The Canadian government made a decision in 6 months; our government has taken 54 months so far.  This is an abject lesson in why – when it comes to energy – no one wants to deal with our government.  This is evident also by continuing falling production on federal lands at the same time U.S. oil and gas production on non-federal lands makes historic gains.  It is time for our Leaders to make a decision….Canada’s did a long time ago.  Too many are hurting and too much is at stake for any more time or money to be wasted on trivial matters and long addressed and re-addressed chimeras advanced by opponents of any and all affordable sources energy."
54 months, numerous positive reports and counting.  Canada, meanwhile, has moved on, planning, while we dither, to sell it’s product to China.  Pipelines don’t have to run through other countries which make life difficult, they can run only in Canada, to their coast for shipment to the Far East.
 
What is Obama delaying?
The project will accommodate up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day, create some 179,000 jobs on American soil, and continue good trade relations with a close ally. The benefits won’t stop with the oil sector, though—the Keystone project will have a positive ripple effect even in areas without the pipeline that will provide goods and services to support the pipeline.
And where do we stand in the wake of this latest favorable report?
Before any real decision is made, there will be a 45-day comment period and some time for the State Department to consider the comments. Then the notably anti-carbon Secretary of State, John Kerry, will give his recommendation and the final decision will lie with the President.
Any feeling of confidence that this administration, no matter how late in the game, will make the right decision isn’t exactly surging in me right now.
 
More than anything, it’s just sad that the lives and livelihoods of so many Americans rest in the incompetent hands of Barack Obama and John Kerry.
 
~McQ

The politics – and failure – of going “green”

“Going green” and “climate change” certainly are interlinked parts of a political agenda that have nothing to do with public opinion or will.  In fact:

Seventeen years of continuous surveys covering countries around the world show that people not only do not care about climate change today – understandably prioritising economic misery – they also did not care about climate change even back when times were good. The new information comes in a study released by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago – a large, long-standing and respected non-profit. The NORC spokespersons said that decades of climate alarmism have had basically no effect on people’s attitude around the world.

Part of that has to do with the fact that they’ve heard it all before.  Dire predictions about population growth that have come to naught.  Warnings about using up the earth’s resources which have proven to be false. Ozone holes. Melting icecaps. Yatta, yatta.

Climate change is just the latest among the apocalyptic prophesies and as the real science – not Al Gore “science” – comes out, fewer and fewer people are staying on the bandwagon.

Of course the promise was a “green economy” in which everyone would benefit.  How’s that worked out?  Well we know how it has worked out in Spain.  Germany is now finding out how mistaken they were to go in that direction.  In fact:

Energy, manufacturing and agriculture are playing a major role in the corridor states’ revival. The resurgence of fossil fuel–based energy, notably shale oil and natural gas, is especially important. Cheap U.S. natural gas has some envisioning the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge as an “American Ruhr.” Much of this growth, notes Eric Smith, associate director of the Tulane Energy Institute, will be financed by German and other European firms that are reeling from electricity costs now three times higher than in places like Louisiana.

Interesting.  It is another reason why they’re also putting manufacturing plants in the US, mostly in Red States.  Skilled labor, right to work and cheap energy.  Obviously neither the “right to work” nor cheap energy are part of any Obama administration design.

And how is it going for green jobs more locally?  Well, the usual state can be consulted for an update on what such a move has wrought and demonstrate for all to see why “going green” is a foolish road to travel – at least in the near future.

It was supposed to be the next big thing. California built decades of broad-based prosperity from the Gold Rush, then Hollywood, then aerospace, and later Silicon Valley. At the turn of the century, “green jobs” were supposed to be the wave of the future. How is that going for them? According to the best numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fewer than 2,500 green jobs have been created in California since 2010.

Wow … bask in the success!  Government again demonstrates how poorly it does picking winners and losers.  Not that such failures ever hinder the central planners from using your dollars to try again.  What’s Einstein’s definition of insanity?

Meanwhile, the “success” of green energy has brought California to a point where it will have to fish or cut bait very soon:

California is weighing how to avoid a looming electricity crisis that could be brought on by its growing reliance on wind and solar power. At Tuesday’s meeting, experts cautioned that the state could begin seeing problems with reliability as soon as 2015.

Of course, had we heeded the experience of others, we likely wouldn’t see California going through this nonsense:

The former chancellor Lord Lawson has urged the Government to keep Britain’s coal-fired power stations working for as long as was needed to avoid any short-term power shortages. In a House of Lords debate on energy policy and electricity generation Lord Lawson also called on ministers to give “every encouragement  it can” to the quickest possible development of shale gas supplies. Lord Lawson urged energy and climate change minister Baroness Verma to assure the House that “if the need arises our coal-fired power stations will be kept open as long as is necessary, regardless of the European combustion plants directive”.

But our dauntless leaders never learn from others.  Just as with healthcare, they seem bound and determined to recreate the failure of others.

We have abundant fossile fuel resources.  They would generate both jobs and revenue for government.  Wind and solar, while great in theory, have in practice been shown to be woefully inadequate to our needs.  We even have communities wanting wind turbines taken down due to health concerns.

Yet our government and this administration continue to pursue an “energy policy” which is detrimental to the welfare of this nation despite a state that has done everything they want to do nationally and is a dismal failure because of it.  They are bound and determined to make all 50 states Californias.

~McQ

Why won’t this administration look at this revenue source?

Because of their false agenda, that’s why.   They’re still convinced that, despite 17 years of no warming (as recently admitted by the head of the IPCC), oil is bad and “green” is good and that they’re doing something to save the world.  Disregard the fact that green is still unviable.  Disregard the fact that everywhere it has or is being pushed, energy costs are skyrocketing.  Nevermind the fact that we are sitting on a sea of fossile fuel products that we only need to access.  Screw the fact that science can find no discernable warming.  Their minds are made up.

That said, there’s also the fiscal side of the house.  The debt.  The deficit.  And the demand by Democrats to raise more revenue.

Unfortunately, because of their agenda, they’re likely to completely screw up a golden opportunity to bring in much more revenue and drive energy prices down, because their agenda is against fossile fuel.  And we all know the party agenda comes before what is best for the country.

Enter the administration with a renewed plan to tax oil companies instead of opening access to the vast natural riches we enjoy.  The result?  Well this chart will help you comprehend the vast differences in the two policy choices (full size here):

So the either/or is “tax ‘em or open access”.  The difference:

According to a 2011 study by Wood Mackenzie, increased oil and natural gas activity underpro-access policies would generate an additional $800 billion in cumulative revenue for government by 2030. The chart puts into perspective the size of these accumulating revenues – enough to fund entire federal departments at various points along the timeline. By contrast, Wood Mackenize also found that hiking taxes on oil and natural gas companies would, by 2030, result in $223 billion in cumulative lost revenue to government.

It only proves the old saw -“If you want more of it, reward it and if you want less, tax it”.  Think about it – money to help run government and pay down the debt (not to mention the thousands, if not millions of jobs created) being passed up in the name of false science and agenda politics.

Meanwhile, we’ll be left in the cold and the dark, thanks to agenda driven policies with no foundation in reality.

~McQ

Speaking plainly about force

One of the most useful things I’ve learned about communication is the importance of stating things plainly and concretely.*  But thinking about that lesson frequently makes politics maddening.

Euphemisms are the health of politics.  If a government really wants to get away with murder, even secrecy can be less useful than making that particular murder sound unremarkable, justifiable, sensible, or even dutiful.

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Just in cased you missed it, our problem STILL isn’t revenue

I continue to be stunned by the apparent willingness of all involved on the left to whistle past the graveyard when it comes to understanding what our fiscal governmental problem is and how to fix it.  Here … let’s try a picture:

Oh, look … it’s spending.  Specifically, spending on entitlements and interest on the money we’ve borrowed to do so.  And what are we talking about cutting?  The military, of course.  Because, you know, it is in the blue slice of the pie.  Make sense?

Pac Man’s revenge.  By 2050, he will have swallowed all of the blue.

But, hey, it’s “absurd” to argue about raising the debt limit. By the way, does anyone remember when Sen. Obama declared that raising the debt limit signaled a failure in leadership?

Ahem …

~McQ

And now the “rich” will pay…

I hate to say “I told you so”, but it isn’t just the rich who will be paying increased taxes. And what should be clear to anyone with the I Q of a turnip, is that this will cost people their jobs.

The compromise called for taxes to rise to 39.6% from 35% on personal income above $400,000. In a 2011 study, the Treasury Department found that raising taxes on incomes over $500,000 would affect roughly 750,000 small businesses organized as S-Corps, partnerships and other small entities.

Of course, you remember the Democrats claiming that this wouldn’t affect small businesses. Well, that was a flat out lie. But then we live in an era of lies which, if there political apparently, we’re willing to overlook. While most of us are. I just had to be one of those who isn’t.   Not that Democrats are the only political liars, but they seem to be the most prolific and the most blatant. Especially when it comes to budget, deficit, and financial matters. They are the quintessential “snake oil” salesman.

And they have sold us are huge bottle of snake oil.

Couple these tax increases with the Obamacare taxes that kicked in on the 1st, and you have two reasons for 750,000 small businesses not to hire. And you can bet none of them will go over 50 employees, and some may even reduce staff to get under that number.

These are your “rich”. They happen to be the “rich” would generate jobs, or what have, if they hadn’t been hit by two new taxes this year.

Your government at work.

~McQ

Gun ownership doesn’t correlate with murder rates

In a recent study two Harvard professors determined that banning guns will not solve the violence or murder problem. That in fact, guns really have nothing to do with it. Instead it is instead a matter of culture.

The reason that gun ownership doesn’t correlate with murder rates, the authors show, is that violent crime rates are determined instead by underlying cultural factors.  “Ordinary people,” they note, “simply do not murder.”  Rather, “the murderers are a small minority of extreme antisocial aberrants who manage to obtain guns whatever the level of gun ownership” in their society.

Therefore, “banning guns cannot alleviate the socio-cultural and economic factors that are the real determinants of violence and crime rates.”  According to Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser, “there is no reason for laws prohibiting gun possession by ordinary, law-abiding, responsible adults because such people virtually never commit murder.  If one accepts that such adults are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than to commit it, disarming them becomes not just unproductive but counter-productive.”

The sort of reasoning Kates and Mauser use for  seems to be foreign to those who want to ban guns. It is not a problem of law abiding citizens because, as the authors state, law-abiding citizens don’t commit murder. Consequently, taking their guns away will have no fact other than to make them easier victims. The counter gun culture tries very hard to correlate guns with violence and murder. But looking at the number of guns owned in America as well as the number of Americans who own guns (45 – 52 million), we see that in reality gun crime and gun violence are statistically small.   As the authors state disarming law-abiding citizens is “not just unproductive but counterproductive.”

Additionally, they use these things called “facts” to gut  the myths that have grown up around gun ownership and violence. For instance, the myth surrounding the Soviet Union and its strict gun control.

In their piece entitled Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and some Domestic Evidence, Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser eviscerate “the mantra that more guns mean more deaths and that fewer guns, therefore, mean fewer deaths.”  In so doing, the authors provide fascinating historical insight into astronomical murder rates in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they dispel the myths that widespread gun ownership is somehow unique to the United States or that America suffers from the developed world’s highest murder rate.

To the contrary, they establish that Soviet murder rates far exceeded American murder rates, and continue to do so today, despite Russia’s extremely stringent gun prohibitions.  By 2004, they show, the Russian murder rate was nearly four times higher than the American rate.

The authors also look at the gun control policies in Europe and find evidence that counters the correlation between gun ownership and violence.

More fundamentally, Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser demonstrate that other developed nations such as Norway, Finland, Germany, France and Denmark maintain high rates of gun ownership, yet possess murder rates lower than other developed nations in which gun ownership is much more restricted.

For example, handguns are outlawed in Luxembourg, and gun ownership extremely rare, yet its murder rate is nine times greater than in Germany, which has one of the highest gun ownership rates in Europe.  As another example, Hungary’s murder rate is nearly three times higher than nearby Austria’s, but Austria’s gun ownership rate is over eight times higher than Hungary’s.  “Norway,” they note, “has far and away Western Europe’s highest household gun ownership rate (32%), but also its lowest murder rate.  The Netherlands,” in contrast, “has the lowest gun ownership rate in Western Europe (1.9%) … yet the Dutch gun murder rate is higher than the Norwegian.”

Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser proceed to dispel the mainstream misconception that lower rates of violence in Europe are somehow attributable to gun control laws.  Instead, they reveal, “murder in Europe was at an all-time low before the gun controls were introduced.”  As the authors note, “strict controls did not stem the general trend of ever-growing violent crime throughout the post-WWII industrialized world.”

Citing England, for instance, they reveal that “when it had no firearms restrictions [in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries], England had little violent crime.”  By the late 1990s, however, “England moved from stringent controls to a complete ban on all handguns and many types of long guns.”  As a result, “by the year 2000, violent crime had so increased that England and Wales had Europe’s highest violent crime rate, far surpassing even the United States.”  In America, on the other hand, “despite constant and substantially increasing gun ownership, the United States saw progressive and dramatic reductions in criminal violence in the 1990s.”

So, if one is honest and reads the evidence clearly, they are left with the understanding that the attempted correlation between gun ownership and violence doesn’t really exist. In fact, it appears that it is indeed the culture that is the cause of violence. One could even argue that disarming the public makes them the culture of victims. For example, one of the things we hear about England is that there has been a vast increase in “hot burglaries” since firearms have been banned. That ban has emboldened the criminals. They no longer fear the homeowner. They know the homeowner does not have a gun. Why? Because they’re law-abiding citizens.

Finally, Kates and Mauser talk about the seeming change in American culture and its impact on violent crime.

Critically, Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser note that “the fall in the American crime rate is even more impressive when compared with the rest of the world,” where 18 of the 25 countries surveyed by the British Home Office suffered violent crime increases during that same period.

Furthermore, the authors highlight the important point that while the American gun murder rate often exceeds that in other nations, the overall per capita murder rate in other nations (including other means such as strangling, stabbing, beating, etc.) is oftentimes much higher than in America.

As should be obvious to anyone, those that are murdered really don’t care about the means that murder. Dead is dead.   The key to reducing murder is cultural. It has nothing to do with the weapon involved. As Kates and Mauser pointed out the per capita murder rate in other nations is often higher than ours. And many if not most of those include countries with strict gun bans.

It should seem clear, given the experience of many European countries with strict gun control, that banning guns does not solve the murder and violence problem. It would be nice for a change if we would learn from the experience of others. As horrific as the Newtown massacre was, it wasn’t perpetrated by a person anyone would consider a law-abiding citizen.  In fact, he had no concept of the principle of law or his responsibility to abide by it.

If we want to learn from that incident, the lesson isn’t about guns.  It’s about how inadequate our means of handling those who pose a danger to society really are.  Megan McArdle does a good job of discussing that very important point.

This study seems to point to what many would argue is obvious. However there is a strong, emotional lobby that continues to want to ignore the primary problem in favor of banning the instrument of murder in this particular case. It is foolish and shortsighted.  It would be feel-good legislation, made in haste as usual and in the end accomplishing nothing. We have a history of knee jerk legislation made in haste in which the consequences are unforeseen and usually unintended.

What should be clear is we don’t want to end up like England.

~McQ

Climate change is one of Obama’s “top three priorities” in second term

If you love ObamaCare,  you’re sure to be thrilled with whatever comes out of this attempt to cash in on taxing thin air.  Climate change is going to be a “priority” because it would be a new source of revenue, nothing more:

President Obama has identified climate change as one of his top three priorities in his second term after coming under fire from environmentalists for giving the issue short shrift during the campaign.

The president, in an interview for TIME’s Person of the Year award, said the economy, immigration, climate change and energy would be at the top of his agenda for the next four years.

The interview took place before the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, an incident that had pushed gun control to a top spot on Obama’s agenda.

Obama said his daughters have influenced his thinking about the need to tackle climate change.

“[O]n an issue like climate change, for example, I think for this country and the world to ask some very tough questions about what are we leaving behind, that weighs on you. And not to mention the fact I think that generation is much more environmentally aware than previous generations,” he told TIME.

The comments continued a trend of Obama vowing to focus on climate without laying out details of his agenda.

You have to be stunned by the irony of his statements.  The man has been “influenced” by indoctrinated children.  Just as stunning is his statement about asking “tough questions about what we are leaving behind”. One has to wonder if he’s looked at the record debt he’s piling on which will have to be paid by future generation in their standard of living, taxes and productivity.    Now he wants to add more cost to that future by involving government in regulating CO2.

That despite the fact, no inspite of the fact, that the science he’d base his “priority” upon has simply fallen apart.

The analysis of global combined land and ocean surface temperature in [the IPCC’s draft report] is inadequate for what it admits is seen as the prime statistic of global warming. It is highly selective in the references it quotes and in the use of time periods which obscures important, albeit inconvenient, aspects of the temperature data. It is poorly drafted, often making a strong assertion, and then somewhat later qualifying if not contradicting it by admitting its statistical insignificance.

Real science simply doesn’t agree with the alarmist creed established by Al Gore, the UN IPCC and the other prophets of doom:

We can now estimate, based on observations, how sensitive the temperature is to carbon dioxide. We do not need to rely heavily on unproven models. Comparing the trend in global temperature over the past 100-150 years with the change in “radiative forcing” (heating or cooling power) from carbon dioxide, aerosols and other sources, minus ocean heat uptake, can now give a good estimate of climate sensitivity. The conclusion – taking the best observational estimates of the change in decadal-average global temperature between 1871-80 and 2002-11, and of the corresponding changes in forcing and ocean heat uptake – is this: a doubling of CO2 will lead to a warming of 1.6-1.7C. This is much lower than the IPCC’s current best estimate, 3C.

But a politician has an inherent ability to sniff out potential revenue sources even when they’re just faintly carried by the wind.

The result of such policy and legislation will be even worse of an economic disaster than ObamaCare.  The “solution” will cost us much more than the “problem” was ever worth in terms of GDP, jobs and economic progress.

However, Obama will then be able to report to his two daughters who’ve been feed the alarmist creed for years that he “did something”, even if that something was, as usual, with your money and has forced you to reprioritize your own life downward.

It is the nature of the beast – and unfortunately we continue to allow the beast to feed at will and seem to find it natural that the beast is involved in all aspects of our life.  All we argue about is which group we’re going to sacrifice to the beast.  This time it’s the “rich”.

Oh, and gun control is also a 2nd term “priority” – more on that later.

~McQ

Score one for religious liberty and minus one for ObamaCare

What’s going to be interesting is to see is if they actually do what they say they’re planning to do. The administration has tried to ignore the court before. Just as interesting will be the substance of the “rewrite”. What will the court accept as an “accommodation” to “religious liberty?”:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius cannot enforce the Obamacare contraception mandate as it is written, but must follow through on a promise to rewrite the rule to accommodate religious liberty, a federal appeals court ordered.

The Obama administration “represented to the court that it would never enforce [the mandate] in its current form against the appellants or those similarly situated as regards contraceptive services,” the three judges hearing the case wrote in their order. The Obama team made that promise during oral arguments against Wheaton College and The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which sued over the contraception mandate but lost at the lower court level.

“There will, the government said, be a different rule for entities like the appellants . . . We take the government at its word and will hold it to it,” the judges wrote. They ruled that the Obama administration must rewrite the regulation by August 2013 and provide updates to the court every 60 days. If the government fails to do so, the lawsuits may proceed.

The court also noted that the Obama administration had not made such an expansive pledge outside the courtroom.

Yeah, I’m sure they haven’t. Of course they could have cooled all the angst fairly quickly if they had. You have to wonder why they didn’t.

Well, not really.

~McQ

ObamaCare tax a “job killer” say 16 Democrats who voted for it

Finally figuring it out?  Or finally admitting it?

Sixteen Democratic senators who voted for the Affordable Care Act are asking that one of its fundraising mechanisms, a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices scheduled to take effect January 1, be delayed.  Echoing arguments made by Republicans against Obamacare, the Democratic senators say the levy will cost jobs — in a statement Monday, Sen. Al Franken called it a “job-killing tax” — and also impair American competitiveness in the medical device field.

The senators, who made the request in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, are Franken, Richard Durbin, Charles Schumer, Patty Murray, John Kerry, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Joseph Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Robert Casey, Debbie Stabenow, Barbara Mikulski, Kay Hagan, Herb Kohl, Jeanne Shaheen, and Richard Blumenthal.  All voted for Obamacare.

In the letter they say:

“The medical technology industry directly employs over 400,000 people in the United States and is responsible for a total of two million skilled manufacturing jobs,” the senators wrote in a December 4 letter to Reid.  “We must do all we can to ensure that our country maintains its global leadership position in the medical technology industry and keeps good jobs here at home.”

For whatever reason, however, these 16 can’t seem to understand how what they’re claiming here applies across the board to all taxes.  That is, they’re job killers.  ObamaCare’s taxes and mandates are particularly pernicious because they have many companies trying to figure out how to avoid them and that will mean fewer jobs, not more and certainly more costs in general.

But then no one ever said our political leadership was particularly sharp.  After all, somehow Maxine Waters is about to become the ranking member (senior Democrat) on the House Financial Services committee and Harry Reid remains the Majority Leader in the Senate.

Of course ObamaCare is full of job killing taxes as we’ve all become aware, and many of them will hit this year.  Add those to the “fiscal cliff” tax increases as well as sequestration and you can bet the Dems will see their “pro-choice” agenda fulfilled this next year – any developing economic recovery will be quickly aborted as exactly all the wrong things government can do to kill such a recover are done.

~McQ