Archive for January, 2011

Blinder tries leading the blinder?

January 31, 2011

Economist Alan Blinder is trying to hoodwink the 112th Congress into a carbon tax.

In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, the former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, Princeton University professor and Clinton administration economic advisor called the carbon tax a “miracle cure” for our ailing economy and federal budget problems.

Blinder said his carbon tax idea would:

  • Leave decision-making in private hands;
  • Create private sector jobs;
  • “Not cost taxpayers a dime”;
  • “Reduce the federal budget deficit significantly”;
  • Reduce our trade deficit;
  • Make our economy more efficient;
  • Ameliorate global warming; and
  • Show the world that America has not lost its edge.

Blinder’s formula would be an $8 per ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions starting in 2013, escalating to $25 per ton by 2015 and to $200 per ton by 2040. And although the tax would be enacted now, it would start and remain at zero for 2011 and 2012.

So how does such a tax “not cost taxpayers a dime”? Just because it stays at zero for its first two years? Just because the initial tax works out, as he claims, to about 8 cents per gallon of gas?

Given that we emit about 7 billion tons of CO2 per year, only an ivory tower academic would call a $56 billion tax (in the first year alone) a free lunch for the already-squeezed. By 2015, the tax would be $123 billion and by 2025 it would be $282 billion, according to Blinder. What part of this is less than a dime?

Blinder fantasizes that the carbon tax would spur the development of so-called “clean energy. As Blinder put it, “America’s entrepreneurs and corporate executives” would “start investing right away” in “carbon-saving devices and technologies.”

Of course, these people have been “investing” in these technologies for more than 30 years to no avail. And what they’ve really been doing is investing in lobbyists to successfully capture taxpayer subsidies. What ever happened to the Recovery Act spending on renewables and “green jobs”? Or was that just an $80 billion mulligan?

I like to think of an entrepreneur as someone who creates something out of nothing. But for decades now, Blinder’s “clean energy” entrepreneurs have been turning something into nothing — at great cost to taxpayers. Blinder was an advocate of Obama’s cash-for-clunkers program. Clean energy is the new clunker.

That Blinder knows little of what he speaks is well-illustrated by his claim that, “Everyone also knows that CO2 emissions are the major cause of global climate change.” He has apparently spent too much time hanging with Princeton climate alarmist Michael Oppenheimer, and not enough time reading the editorial pages of, say, Investor’s Business Daily and the Wall Street Journal, both of which have played a key role in exposing manmade catastrophic global warming for the hoax-cum-rentseeking-orgy to which it aspires.

The recipe for jobs, economic recovery and a balanced budget is simple:

  • Reduce taxes;
  • Eliminate regulatory overkill;
  • Shrink the size of government; and
  • Encourage individualism and self-reliance, and discourage dependence on government.

America’s real entrepreneurs will takeover from there.

Wimp & Sellout Watch — No. 5

January 28, 2011

While we have high hopes that the newly empowered Republican Members of Congress will make every effort to fight the socialization of America, we are also aware that the GOP has an ignominious history of wimping- and/or selling-out, especially on environmental issues. Wimp & Sellout Watch is GreenHellBlog’s effort to spotlight the GOP’s weak links because:

In the 112th Congress, it should take more courage for GOP-ers to retreat than to advance.

Today’s update on potential wimps and sellouts to watch:

Rep. Fred Upton. Here’s yet another reason to worry about whether House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton is truly committed to blocking the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Carbon Control News reported this morning that:

… while publicly calling for a more permanent approach [to EPA regulation, ... Fred Upton] would support a two-year delay. “He takes it and act [sic] like it’s medicine but really he’s happy because the last thing he wants to do is have a 2012 campaign where this is an overhang.”

The source of this comment, according to CCN, is an aide to Sen Lisa Murkowski.

If this comment is accurate, then Upton only sees the EPA controversy as a potential personal political problem, not the threat to our economy and standard of living that it is.

According to the CCN report, Murkowski believes a two-year delay in EPA regulation is too little and too late because she…

… is concerned that simply revoking EPA’s GHG authority might not be enough to address states that have changed laws or revised Clean Air Act state implementation plans (SIPs) to implement EPA GHG rules. Further, EPA has issued federal implementation plans (FIPs) to take over GHG permitting in several states. Both SIPs and FIPs are federally enforceable under the Clean Air Act and their requirements have been upheld by judges even if other laws or rules contained differing requirements.

Sen. Ron Paul. Politico reported today that,

Paul so far is at least keeping his powder dry on a “clean energy standard” that Obama highlighted in his State of the Union Tuesday night. Obama called for 80 percent of U.S. electricity to come from “clean energy” sources by 2035 – including traditional renewable sources like wind and solar but also natural gas and Republican favorites nuclear and “clean coal.”

“I need to see more about it frankly before I can comment on it,” Paul said Thursday. “Let’s think about it and look at the specific proposal.”

We didn’t know that Rand Paul needed to “see more” about energy rent-seeking to oppose it. What kind of libertarian is he? Is Washington D.C. house-breaking him?

Sen. Rob Portman. Portman made Wimp & Sellout Watch — No.2 because of concerns for his “moderate” tendencies and his close friendship with anti-nuclear NRDC activist Dan Reicher. Politico reported today that,

A Portman spokesman said in an email that he wanted to be on the energy panel “because of the potential OH jobs tied to commonsense energy legislation that would spur growth in nuclear energy … clean coal, and natural gas production.”

Not only is “clean coal” a pipedream, it implies the demonization of carbon dioxide emissions, carbon caps and rent-seeking.

Don’t forget to check out previous editions of Wimp & Sellout Watch:

  • No. 4 — Spotlighting Rep. Fred Upton.
  • No. 3 — Spotlighting Rep. Mike Simpson.
  • No. 2 — Spotlighting Sens. Lindsey Graham and Rob Portman.
  • No. 1 — Spotlighting Sens. Chuck Grassley, Rob Portman, Lindsey Graham and Scott Brown, and Rep. Fred Upton.

Electric cars and cold weather don’t mix

January 28, 2011

From Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane:

Count me among the many thousands of Washington area residents who spent Wednesday night stuck in traffic as a snowstorm sowed chaos all around us. Being car-bound in sub-freezing weather for six hours can make a guy think. I counted my blessings. The situation could have been worse, I realized: My fellow commuters and I could have been trying to make it home in electric cars, like the ones President Obama is constantly promoting, most recently in his State of the Union address.

It is a basic fact of physical science that batteries run down more quickly in cold weather than they do in warm weather, and the batteries employed by vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf or the Chevy Volt are no exception.

The exact loss of power these cars would suffer is a matter of debate, partly because no one has much real-world experience to draw on. But there would be some loss. Running the heater to stay warm, or the car radio to stay informed, would drain the battery further.

Here’s how thecarelectric.com, a pro-electric Web site, candidly summarized the matter:

“All batteries deliver their power via a chemical reaction inside the battery that releases electrons. When the temperature drops the chemical reactions happen more slowly and the battery cannot produce the same current that it can at room temperature. A change of ten degrees can sap 50% of a battery’s output. In some situations the chemical reactions will happen so slowly and give so little power that the battery will appear to be dead when in fact if it is warmed up it will go right back to normal output. . . .

“In a car where all power is supplied by a battery pack you can see where this would be a problem. The batteries don’t produce as much power so the car has less power. The batteries also have to work harder so the effective range of the car is also significantly reduced. Charge time will also be longer. Cold has a negative impact on all aspects of battery operation.”

“Alongside the negative impact on the batteries cold also has a negative impact on the driver as well. Drivers need to be warm to operate the vehicle effectively so on top of the reduced range and power of the batteries just from the temperature they also must operate the car heater to keep you warm. This will further reduce the range of the car.

“If you live in an area where the winters get extremely cold an all-electric vehicle will have to be garaged and equipped with some kind of plug-in battery warmer for it to be effective in the coldest months of the year. Keep these thoughts in mind if you’re planning an electric car purchase; we don’t want you finding out the range of your car has been halved when it’s five below zero and you’re fifteen miles from home.”…

RAND: Alternative fuels no help to military

January 25, 2011

From the RAND Corp:

FOR RELEASE
Tuesday
January 25, 2011

If the U.S. military increases its use of alternative fuels, there will be no direct benefit to the nation’s armed forces, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

Any benefits from investment in alternative fuels by the U.S. Department of Defense will accrue to the nation as a whole rather than to mission-specific needs of the military, researchers found. The study is based on an examination of alternative jet and naval fuels that can be produced from coal or various renewable resources, including seed oils, waste oils, and algae.

In response to a congressional directive for a study on alternative and synthetic fuels, the U.S. Department of Defense asked RAND to analyze whether alternative fuels can meet the needs of the nation’s military in a climate-friendly and affordable manner. RAND also was asked to examine the goals and progress of the efforts of the Army, Navy and Air Force in supporting the development of alternative fuel production technology, and in testing and certifying alternative fuels for military applications.

“To realize the national benefits of alternative fuels, the military needs to reassess where it is placing its emphasis in both fuel testing and technology development,” said James Bartis, lead author of the study and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Too much emphasis is focused on seed-derived oils that displace food production, have very limited production potential and may cause greenhouse gas emissions well above those of conventional petroleum fuels.”

The military also has invested in advanced technology to produce jet fuel from algae-derived oils. According to the study, algae-derived fuel is a research topic and not an emerging option that the military can use to supply its operations.

From the perspective of technical viability, a number of alternative fuels can meet military fuel requirements. But uncertainties remain regarding their commercial viability—namely, how much these fuels will cost and what effect they may have on the environment, particularly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Department of Defense consumes more fuel than any other federal agency, but military fuel demand is only a very small fraction of civilian demand, and civilian demand is what drives competition, innovation, and production,” Bartis said. “Further, we found that testing and certification efforts by the military services are far outpacing commercial development.”

Researchers concluded it makes more sense for the military to direct its efforts toward using energy more efficiently. Providing war fighters with more energy-efficient equipment such as aircraft or combat vehicles improves operational effectiveness, saves money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

The RAND study found that Fischer-Tropsch fuels—alternative fuels produced via an updated version of a process used by Germany during World War II—are the most promising option for affordably and cleanly meeting specifications for military fuels. Environmentally sound production requires that carbon dioxide emissions at the production plant be captured and sequestered. With carbon dioxide capture, the study finds that Fischer-Tropsch fuels derived from a mixture of coal and biomass can have lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions that are less than half of those of petroleum-derived fuels.

Most of the defense department’s efforts in alternative fuel development are geared toward proving technical viability rather than establishing a process that yields demonstrating affordable and environmentally sound production. The latter two components are notoriously hard to accomplish, as evidenced by the length of the Department of Energy’s efforts in fuel cell and solar photovoltaic technology development.

The study’s recommendations include:

  • The Department of Defense should complete testing and certification of Fischer-Tropsch liquids for use in 50/50 fuel blends, but testing at higher concentrations is not appropriate considering the very limited commercial production anticipated over at least the next decade.
  • Minimize resources directed at testing and certification of hydrotreated renewable oils, including oils derived from seed crops (e.g., camelina) and algae. Testing and certifying these fuels in high-performance propulsion systems used by the military is simply not on the critical path for resolving the uncertainties associated with these fuels.
  • Considering the absence of military benefits, the Department of Defense and Congress should reconsider whether defense appropriations should continue to support the development of advanced alternative fuel technologies.
  • If the Department of Defense is to continue to support alternative fuels, its role and the Department of Energy’s role need to be clarified.
  • For technical, logistical, and security reasons, research directed at advanced concepts for forward-based production of energy should focus on electric power as opposed to specification-grade military fuels for use in weapon systems.

The study, “Alternative Fuels for Military Applications,” can be found at http://www.rand.org. The study was co-authored by Lawrence Van Bibber.

Research for this report was sponsored by the Defense Logistics Agency-Energy and was conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

Blue day for reds as Browner leaves White House

January 25, 2011

Obama energy and environment czar Carol Browner reportedly is leaving the White House. She can now rejoin her comrades at Socialist International. Dasvidania, Carol. Drop us a line from the scrap heap of history — let us know how Al Gore is doing.

Milloy, Cavuto discuss Obama’s Immelt pick

January 24, 2011

Obama and GE: New Industrial Superstructure

January 24, 2011

By Steve Milloy
January 21, 2011, Investor’s Business Daily

The choice of General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt to chair the new President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness must be one of President Obama’s most ironic appointments.

The purpose of the council is to advise the president on “finding new ways to promote growth by investing in American business to encourage hiring, to educate and train our workers to compete globally, and to attract the best jobs and businesses to the United States.”

Of Immelt, Obama said: “Jeff Immelt’s experience at GE and his understanding of the vital role the private sector plays in creating jobs and making America competitive makes him up to the challenge of leading this new council.”

The White House further burnished Immelt’s credentials by adding in its media release that “Mr. Immelt has been named one of the world’s best CEOs three times by Barron’s, and since he began serving as chief executive officer, GE has been named America’s most admired company in a poll conducted by Fortune magazine and one of the world’s most respected companies in polls by Barron’s and the Financial Times.”

This praise should make us wonder if there is another Jeff Immelt leading another General Electric in some parallel universe .

When the Immelt-we-know took the reins of the GE-we-know from the legendary Jack Welch in the days before the Sept. 11 attacks, GE’s stock price was in the $40 range. More than nine years later, GE’s stock price is struggling to get back to the $20 level. And during the March 2009 depths of the financial crisis, GE’s stock dipped to below $7.

GE was in such bad shape at that time that it required a $139 billion bailout from taxpayers in the form of Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. backing of GE Capital debt. GE then cut its dividend 68%, from 32 cents per share to 10 cents per share.

Its dividend has since recovered to 12 cents per share, and shareholders may get a couple of more pennies per share in 2011, but GE’s financial performance under Immelt is anything but a success story.

Adding to the irony is the president’s notion that Immelt knows about creating jobs and increasing competitiveness.

Immelt actually eliminated 18,000 GE jobs in 2009, despite receiving untold millions in government stimulus and subsidies — like $60 million to build a “technology center” (office building?) in Michigan and $55 million to build a hybrid locomotive battery plant in New York.

As to competitiveness, consider the rather tawdry August 2009 e-mail solicitation of GE employees by GE’s political action committee (GEPAC), which read in part:

“The intersection between GE’s interests and government action is clearer than ever. GEPAC is an important tool that enables GE employees to collectively help support candidates who share the values and goals of GE. … We have made great strides toward convincing key lawmakers that GE Capital should remain a part of (GE). … On climate change, we were able to work closely with key authors of the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill. . .. (It) would benefit many GE businesses. … GE is working relentlessly to ensure funding for F136 Engine, which is a critically important program for GE Aviation.”

One hundred years ago, Thomas Edison innovated to earn profit for GE.

Now Jeff Immelt lobbies for profit because there is no market for failed businesses, higher energy prices and duplicative military hardware.

That GE is so dependent on government largesse should raise the specter of Immelt’s obvious conflict of interest. Will he advise the president on what’s good for America or what’s good for GE?

The Obama-Immelt partnership is best envisioned as two drowning men clinging to each other in order to stay afloat. The failed CEO needs the president’s central planning policies and favor to keep his job. The struggling politician needs the mega-company CEO to camouflage and smooth over his anti-business beliefs and tendencies.

This symbiotic relationship may work out for Obama and Immelt as individuals, but we ought not hold our collective breath waiting for two men without track records of nonpersonal success to create jobs, increase our competitiveness or to fix what’s ailing our troubled economy.

Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery 2009).

Exxon forecast: 25% more CO2 emissions

January 21, 2011

It’s good news for green plants but bad news for green people: carbon dioxide emissions will increase by 25 percent in the next 20 years, according to ExxonMobil.

The UK newspaper, The Guardian, expressed the lament of the green people, observing that the forecast:

in effect [dismissed] hopes that runaway climate change can be arrested and massive loss of life prevented.

Speaking on behalf of green plants, we observe that greater CO2 emissions represents more life for plants and, subsequently, better lives for people (even the green ones, though they’ll never admit it!)

Obama picks loser CEO to head economic council

January 21, 2011

President Obama has picked General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt to head a new White House economic group called the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Here’s what Immelt has accomplished since taking the helm of GE in September 2001:

  • GE’s stock price was about $40 per share when Immelt took the reins at GE. Today it is about $18/share. The stock price went below $7/share in March 2009.
  • GE needed a $139 billion taxpayer bailout during the financial crisis (the FDIC backed GE Capital debt).
  • GE gave 18,000 employees the ax during 2008-2009.
  • GE’s dividend is 63.5% lower than it was two years ago.

Any way you measure GE’s performance under Immelt, he’s been a disaster. What will he do for our economy? We shudder to think.

GE was one of the founding members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership — a coalition of rent-seeking big businesses and radical environmental groups lobbying for cap-and-trade. I suppose we should be glad Immelt participated in that — it failed, too.

Delaware delays socialization of electric market

January 20, 2011

The Delaware Public Service Commission delayed Delmarva Power’s bid to decouple electricity sales from revenue pending greater “consumer education.”

Since 2006, Delmarva has been trying to work out a deal with regulators whereby its revenues would no longer depend on how much electricity it sells. The utility in effect would get to sell less electricity for higher prices, while consumers are forced into energy efficiency and smart meter schemes.

A Delmarva spokesman told Smart Grid Today that,

“We certainly understand the commission’s desire for additional customer education. The decoupling rate design is very complicated. We will hold workshops and put a plan together for how we’re going to get our customers up to speed.”

Decoupling should be rejected, however, because:

  • Pay more, get less. Consumers will wind up paying more for less electricity;
  • Rationing. Decoupling is the first stop on the pathway to electricity rationing; and
  • Anti-capitalist. Through government guaranteed revenues, decoupling undermines fundamental and traditional capitalist business practices and incentives.

You can also judge an idea by its advocates. Obama energy and environment czar Carol Browner, a former muckety-muck with Socialist International, promotes decoupling as means of forcing consumers to use less electricity.

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