Sunday, June 29, 2008

California Wild Fires

Since last Monday, I have been forced to stay indoors with my windows shut due to the pall of hazy smoke hanging in our air. We have had a plethora of wild fires in California and they have created a major health hazard. I work from home but I still had to run errands and even though I limited my exposure to the smoky air, I could still feel heaviness in my chest due to polluted air. Interestingly, the usual suspects of environmentalist groups have been rather silent during this whole fiery event.

Today, the air is clearer and visibility has improved. I can finally open my windows and the sun doesn’t glow a hazy red-orange. The stench of burnt wood has subsided. But I can’t help but to feel annoyed and peeved at the hypocrisy of groups like the Sierra Club who have successfully managed (through lawsuits) to obstruct management of our forests and wooded areas in the name of “saving” them. Incredibly, the Sierra Club has been hostile to clearing brush and to even creating fire trails. I have no doubt that the extent of these wild fires could have been reduced if a sensible land management plan was currently in place.

The amount of carbon dioxide that has been pumped into the air over the last week must have been massive (there are still fires that are currently burning and may burn for the entire summer) and the amount of state resources needed to combat the fires have also been massive. I don’t understand how environmental groups--who purport to want to save the planet from global warming by reducing carbon dioxide--adopt policies that would invariably, do harm to the environment!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs are forced upon us

The Bobo Files has an interesting post on congress’ recent passing of a bill that will ban incandescent light bulbs completely by 2014.

Monsanto vs. Whole Foods

The WSJ (subscription required) reported that aversion to genetically modified foods have fallen by the wayside as food prices around the globe have sky-rocketed. This is a pleasing trend since the fear of GMO’s is highly politicized and in my opinion, highly irrational. There is absolutely no evidence that genetically modified foods are harmful to humans despite all the ravings of environmentalists. Genetically modified foods are safe, cheaper, and will yield more staple crops needed by the world’s poor and hungry. Note that organic food providers haven’t fared very well as food prices have climbed; this goes to show that at this point, organic foods are essentially a luxury item for rich societies.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Let’s Nationalize The Refiners!!

This is how far this country has gone down the looney road, folks. I guess some of our citizens have already forgotten the failed socialist experiments of decades past. No sir, it seems that we need to repeat some of these mistakes, so that we may feel the sting of its boot upon our collective butts. To the fore comes the specter of American style Resource Nationalism—it’s not just for Saudi’s and Russians anymore. Look Chavez, we wanna be just like you!

The taxpayer would, of course, be on the hook (yet again) for the folly that nationalizing the refiners would undoubtedly bring. I suspect that our government would run the refineries with as much efficiency as the post office before semi-privatization and hard competition from Fed Ex and UPS.

Somebody should tell the lady in this video, Malia Lazu (an Obama supporter—what a surprise), that refiners’ profit margins are actually being squeezed by high prices and that nationalizing them will not result in a drop in gas prices. Since most of the cost of a gallon of gasoline comes from crude oil (70-75%) and refining makes up about 10% or so, how exactly does Ms. Lazu believe that a government operation is going to be able to cut that down any more? Refining is a tough and dangerous business with high maintenance costs and heavy environmental regulations to boot. The government wouldn’t know what to do with a refinery except maybe cause a fire.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The idle oil field fallacy

When the Democrats tell the public that oil companies are sitting on oil leases that they have willfully not developed in order to push the price of gas higher, they fail to tell the full story. From the WSJ

A company bids for and buys a lease because it believes there is a possibility that it may yield enough oil or natural gas to make the cost of the lease, and the costs of exploration and production, commercially viable. The U.S. government received $3.7 billion from company bids in a single lease sale in March 2008.

However, until the actual exploration is complete, a company does not know whether the lease will be productive. If, through exploration, it finds there is no oil or natural gas underneath a lease – or that there is not enough to justify the tremendous investment required to bring it to the surface – the company cuts its losses by moving on to more promising leases. Yet it continues to pay rent on the lease, atop a leasing bonus fee.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Confidence in Congress: Lowest ever for any institution

From Gallup

Just 12% of Americans express confidence in Congress, the lowest Gallup has measured for any institution in the 35-year history of the confidence in institutions question.

If you watch c-span as much as I do, then you can understand why Congress gets such a low rating. A partisan spin on every touchstone issue is the norm.

On NIMBY elitists…

One of the best written synapses I have read of the off-shore drilling debate is from Tom Rants:

So, apparently President Bush and Senator McCain are both listening to reason on offshore drilling. The political deal with the devil that Bush made to push drilling in Alaska, where it's politically popular, and not off the shores of the lower 48, where local politicians opposed drilling in their backyard, may turn out to be the biggest mistake of his Presidency. Unfortunately at the time, environmental extremists owned the ANWR issue because they made it about greedy oil companies and greedy Alaskans trying to hurt the lichens. You can't be a much more defenseless underdog than a lichen. With oil prices at $1 a gallon, it was hard to sell the American people that drilling mattered much and, with little to focus public concern, it was easy for the elites to push the idea that preventing US drilling in the Arctic was the best way to protect the Arctic environment. (Read More)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What about those “unused leases” that Democrats keep talking about…

One of the talking points used by Democrats against off-shore drilling is that the oil companies are sitting on thousands of leases that are not being pumped for oil. They accuse oil companies of sitting on millions of barrels of oil and that oil companies should drill from those leased lands instead of opening up new areas for drilling.

Well, one of the best counter arguments I have read that trumps the Democratic response against offshore drilling and their claim that oil companies are sitting on unused leases was made by Bobo over at the Bobo files:

What they also have failed to inform the general public about these leases is that many of them cannot be drilled because there is no oil in them. The government makes these oil companies purchase these leases before they are allowed to survey them. The company geologists then survey, find there’s nothing in there, and now the big oil companies are stuck with these leases that they can’t do anything with..and…who pays the cost for those non-productive leases? We the people do as a pass through expense. It’s just another scam by the government and something they don’t want everyone to know about.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

True Progressivism

From Don Boudreaux over at Café Hayek

According to today's Wall Street Journal, Barack Obama alleges that "Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers." If this presidential wannabe is correct, then some of the world's most prosperous workers must be the people in that newly discovered tribe in Brazil -- persons with absolutely no contact with the global economy or with modern technology.

Less extreme cases, of course, include persons not so cut off from the world as these Brazilian tribes. Sub-Saharan Africans should be more prosperous than eastern Europeans, who, in turn, should be more prosperous than Americans and western Europeans.

Of course, if the facts don't follow this pattern, then I guess that Sen. Obama will soon publicly apologize for either misspeaking or admit that his thesis is flawed.

Comment: The Democrats have been bashing free-trade at every turn as if it were the worst thing since the plague: Attempting to re-negotiate free-trade treaties will not bolster our image either. And “fair-trade” is just a code word for protecting union interests over the interests of everybody else. Maybe if we all went back to running around in loin cloths and put an end to globalization and technology would we get the worker equality that Barack speaks of.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mexico imposes price controls on food

I guess Mexican president Felipe Calderon has taken a cue from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and has decided to ruin his country’s food supply. How long before we start to read about shortages in some of the 150 foods targeted for price control? Well, at least this hapless experiment is set to lapse after six months:

Food manufacturers promised Mexico's government to freeze prices on more than 150 food products Wednesday to help families cope with rising costs.

President Felipe Calderon announced that prices for goods such as cooking oil, flour, canned tuna, fruit juices, coffee, ketchup and canned tomatoes will remain fixed until Dec. 31. (Read More)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Americans don’t want to return to the 1970’s

From CNN: As much as Americans fret over the rising price of gas, one thing worries them more: the possibility of having to wait in long lines to buy rationed gas.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll released Tuesday shows that 55% of those surveyed are more worried about long lines at gas stations and rationing than about the high prices that drivers have paid in recent months. The poll shows 40% of the respondents are more concerned about the high prices.

While gas rationing is not expected at this time, it was a hallmark of the 1970s- era energy crisis, when drivers lined up outside gas stations and sales of gas were limited to certain days of the week.

However, at that time, gas was in short supply, which is not the case today.

I’ll tell you this, if current politicians repeat the mistake of enacting price controls in order to placate the public and to pander for votes, we will see gas stations run out of gas and the return of rationing.

Thought Of The Day

"The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there."

---Robert M. Pirsig

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rich actor’s pocket taxpayer funds

In another example of the “unintended consequences” of trying to subsidize industry in order to create jobs and a viable economy:

When [Massachusetts] Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation a year ago to expand state tax subsidies for the film industry, he predicted it would help lure new movies to Massachusetts and pump millions of dollars into the economy.

But a new government study suggests much of the money will go to high-paid Hollywood actors, raising questions about the value of the incentives. (Read More)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

86% say economy is getting worse

From Gallup Poll

During the first week of June, Americans continued to show near-unanimity that the economy continues to deteriorate, with 89% of those making less than $90,000 a year saying things are getting worse and 83% of those making $90,000 or more saying the same.

Food crisis softens resistance to genetically modified food

From CSM: Opposition to genetically modified (GM) foods, still strongest in Europe, is starting to erode in the face of the global food crisis.

But the pressure for change, so far, is more economic than political.

Partly this is because genetically modified crops are not regarded as an immediate answer to farming problems in poor regions; partly it is because genetic alteration remains controversial. Europe bans most of the use and growth of crops whose seeds have been modified with genes of other organisms to make them more resilient.

Yet the economics of the food crisis may already be forcing changes in Europe, and in smaller farm nations, experts say. For the first time, Japan and Korea are allowing snack and drink manufacturers to quietly start using GM corn, after prices for non-GM corn doubled last year.

Comment: It’s terrible that hungry people would rather reject Genetically Modified food than to accept it and therefore feed themselves. But these are the times we live in, where people reject immunizations because of the fear that their children will contract autism, or that somehow technology and civilization should be rejected for a world ideal in which all should revert to a time and place that was fresh, pure, and unmolested by science. Was there ever such a time? And is it possible to be part of a society and not have the inventiveness that affords us civilization? I seriously doubt it. It's ironic that environmental advocates that oppose GM foods are also inhibiting the process of creating more disease resistant varieties of crops that would allow less use of pesticides on farms. Less pesticide use on farms means less pesticide run-off into rivers. I have found that irony and competing interests are the norm with advocates against GM foods--foods that could possibly feed millions of hungry people.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Where the name comes from

If you’ve ever wondered where the name for this blog came from…well, here it is. I still remember those quiet summer nights as a kid reading this book. Halcyon Days.

Senate votes to privatize it’s failing restaurants

From the Washington Post: Year after year, decade upon decade, the U.S. Senate's network of restaurants has lost staggering amounts of money -- more than $18 million since 1993, according to one report, and an estimated $2 million this year alone, according to another.

The financial condition of the world's most exclusive dining hall and its affiliated Capitol Hill restaurants, cafeterias and coffee shops has become so dire that, without a $250,000 subsidy from taxpayers, the Senate won't make payroll next month.

The embarrassment of the Senate food service struggling like some neighborhood pizza joint has quietly sparked change previously unthinkable for Democrats. Last week, in a late-night voice vote, the Senate agreed to privatize the operation of its food service, a decision that would, for the first time, put it under the control of a contractor and all but guarantee lower wages and benefits for the outfit's new hires.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Rules and Administrations Committee, which oversees the operation of the Senate, said she had no choice.

"It's cratering," she said of the restaurant system. "Candidly, I don't think the taxpayers should be subsidizing something that doesn't need to be. There are parts of government that can be run like a business and should be run like businesses."

Comment: The free-market trumps the welfare statists yet again. Finally, taxpayers won’t be footing the bill to feed these blowhards.

HT: Mark J. Perry

Monday, June 9, 2008

U.S. policies limit our oil production

While China readies to drill oil not far off the coast of Florida, our congress refuses to tap into the vast oil reserves off of our coast. Read a great post at The Real World on our terrible energy policy and what is needed to remedy it.

Who would win if the election was today?

Currents odds: Obama 59.7% and McCain 36.3%

From Intrade: the prediction market.

On environmentalists that oppose cap and trade

There is a great post by A Disgruntled Republican on how some environmental groups opposed the Lieberman-Warner Bill; I understand that many were primarily concerned with the bill allocating some funds for Nuclear power plants. I think that this country needs more nuclear power and less coal plants. And I have always felt that environmentalist groups (like Greenpeace) have been primarily responsible for polluting our air and making some of our citizens suffer from breathing ailments due to their zeal in blocking the construction of nuclear plants but not stopping (with the same zeal) the construction of coal fired plants. Yes, you read it correctly—groups and individuals that resist nuclear power plants (This includes the great eco-messiah, Al Gore) have done more to destroy and despoil our environment than even the federal government---the greatest polluter in the country.

Yet, on the Lieberman-Warner bill, groups like Greenpeace and I found common ground.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lieberman-Warner boondoggle goes down in flames

If you haven’t heard, the bill failed cloture by a vote of 48-36. Whew. I’m sure that it will be back up in a new ugly form sometime next year. We must be vigilant against this money sucking bill.

Please, don’t mess with my beer

OK, I understand that the price of just about everything has jumped up in price since the Fed has neglected to do its job. Now I see this article in the WSJ this morning about how some restaurants and bars are switching 16-ounce pint glasses with 14 ouncers. Yet, the customer still pays for a “pint.” For crying out loud, is nothing sacred? I’ll keep my eye open for “falsie” pints and refuse to be a patron of any establishment that pulls this crap. Poke me in the eye, raise my taxes, but leave my beer alone! ARGGGHHH!!!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

New cap and trade chart!

I received this new chart from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It is simply mind-boggling. This cap and trade scheme is a bureaucratic nightmare.

Click here to see the full chart in PDF
HT: Brad Peck at Chamberpost

Climate bill in Senate turns into a squabble

From Road Runner: A Senate debate over global warming legislation turned into late-night drama Wednesday marked by an eight-hour reading of the 492-page bill and a call for senators to return _ some of them from their homes _ to cast a procedural vote not long before midnight.

An angry Majority Leader Harry Reid demanded senators return to the Capitol for the late-night vote after Republicans blocked his attempt to limit amendments on the bill, arguing there were not enough senators in the chamber for Reid to proceed.

Comment: One of the law-makers had to show up in shorts and a t-shirt for the procedural vote that eventually failed. Majority leader Harry Reid had the temerity to accuse the Republicans of “making political points” because they disapprove of this massive bureaucratic bill. Yet, the entire spirit of the bill is about scoring “political points.” If the sponsors of this bill really cared about carbon emissions, why don’t they push for a far simpler carbon tax? They don’t because they want to hide the true cost of this boondoggle from the American taxpayer. Is it any wonder why the legislative branch of government has a lower approval level than the hated George W. Bush?

A big Hat Tip to Bobo at The BoBo Files for this story.

The failure of CAFÉ standards

In another example of how a government mandate has failed to accomplish its stated lofty goal, this article by the Foundation for Economic Education sums up the canard that gets repeated over and over by those that believe that CAFÉ standards aren’t strict enough: The inconvenient truth is that CAFÉ standards do more harm than good.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cap and Trade is not a market solution

Here is a great article on the cap and trade scheme and how it is a poor way to reduce carbon emissions. Note that the article points out that most politicians favor cap and trade because they fear the word “tax.”

Cap and Trade debate

I spent several hours watching C-Span yesterday as Senators debated one another regarding the Lieberman-Warner “Cap and Security Act” scheme. One of the constant defenses thrown around by advocates (Senators Boxer, Kerry, Warner, and Lieberman) for this scheme was that a similar cap and trade model worked to perfection in the Northeastern United States during the 1980’s when it came to reducing acid rain.

Of course, what they fail to mention is that part of the program’s success back then was the fortuitous timing of the price of low-sulfur coal: It had started to drop just around the time of the cap and trade enforcement. Many coal fired plants switched over to the cleaner burning coal and therefore found an easy and less expensive way to clean up their act. Secondly, the technology needed to trim sulfur dioxide was available at the time of that cap and trade scheme. The sort of technology that is needed to cut carbon dioxide on such a grand scale as the Lieberman-Warner bill mandates is not yet available. Also, somebody could inform the Senator’s (sadly, John McCain backs this bill) backing this bill that the current cap and trade scheme in place in Europe is not working as planned. Why do we want to adopt a huge bureaucracy that doesn’t work? That means that this bill, if made into law, will be another expensive large government program.

And just like the Farm Bill, get ready to empty your wallets dear taxpayer---Cha-Ching!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Oil prices drop

Fed chairman Ben Bernanke hints that “interest rate hikes are unlikely,” and oil prices take a skid as the dollar strengthens. Wow. What a surprise. We wouldn’t have oil prices as high as we have now if we had a stronger dollar. Perhaps the Fed is starting to get a clue

Trade barriers blamed for high food prices

It’s becoming more popular in the U.S. to consider trade protectionism in the name of “fair” trade and alleged worker protection; The Democrats have justified a block a of free trade deal with Colombia under such dubious reasons. Yet, even the U.N. has recently admitted that trade barriers, and in a particular-- food prices, have an adverse effect on world food prices and the world’s poor. In the long run, trade protectionism and government subsidies to hand picked industries do more harm than good.

Obama supports the Farm Bill

Small government types shouldn’t be surprised by Obama’s endorsement of the massive Farm Bill; if Obama does become President, don’t expect a small, efficient and less costly government.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Solving Pump Pain

Jerry Taylor from the Cato institute spells out the way to ease pump prices and how the U.S. can still do things now that will positively impact our future energy needs.