Posts tagged ‘President George’

Environmentalist vs. Environmentalist

The confrontation may be coming soon in the environmental community over wind power -- it certainly would have occurred already had the President promoting wind been Republican rather than Democrat.  I might have categorized this as "all energy production has environmental tradeoffs", but wind power is so stupid a source to be promoting that this is less of a tradeoff and more of another nail in the coffin.  As a minimum, the equal protection issues vis a vis how the law is enforced for wind companies vs. oil companies are pretty staggering.

“It happens about once a month here, on the barren foothills of one of America’s green-energy boomtowns: A soaring golden eagle slams into a wind farm’s spinning turbine and falls, mangled and lifeless, to the ground.

Killing these iconic birds is not just an irreplaceable loss for a vulnerable species. It’s also a federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines.”

“[The Obama] administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly. Instead, the government is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret.”

“Wind power, a pollution-free energy intended to ease global warming, is a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s energy plan. His administration has championed a $1 billion-a-year tax break to the industry that has nearly doubled the amount of wind power in his first term. But like the oil industry under President George W. Bush, lobbyists and executives have used their favored status to help steer U.S. energy policy.”

“The result [of Obama energy policy] is a green industry that’s allowed to do not-so-green things. It kills protected species with impunity and conceals the environmental consequences of sprawling wind farms.”

“More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country’s wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.

Highway Bait And Switch

Kevin Drum and Ezra Klein both complain that Congress is letting America's highways fall apart by not raising the gasoline tax.  They complain that current gas taxes are no longer high enough to cover costs, as the Federal highway trust fund is empty.  Apparently, Congress and the President were always blithely happy to raise the gas tax to whatever it needed to be to cover costs, and now this current Congress is departing from the historic norm:

We used to have a straightforward way to fund infrastructure in this country: the federal gas tax. In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower raised the tax from 1.5 cents a gallon to 3 cents to help pay for the creation of the interstate highway system. In 1959, he increased it from 3 cents to 4 cents. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan raised the gas tax to 9 cents. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush raised it to 14 cents, with half of the increase going to reduce the deficit. In 1993, President Bill Clinton raised it to 18.4 cents.

In other words, from 1956 to 1993, there was a bipartisan consensus on the federal gasoline tax: Both parties agreed that it occasionally needed to be raised in order to help pay for the nation’s infrastructure. But since 2000, there has been a bipartisan consensus against raising the federal gasoline tax.

But here is what happened since 1993:  Roughly a third of highway taxes are diverted to local mass transit and other oddball non-highway projects.  Simply devoting all the highway trust fund to, you know, highways would add an effective 6-7 cents to the gas tax money without actually raising the tax.

Here is what is going on:  The Left loves mass transit projects, particularly urban rail.  Of all government transportation projects, these have by far the highest cost per passenger mile of anything we do, so diverting money to these projects reduces the bang for the buck but the Left loves these projects for social engineering reasons I will discuss in a post soon.

The Left knows that these transit projects will not stand up well in the appropriations process.  Kansas taxpayers are not going to be happy about paying for another couple miles of the LA subway system.  They will ask, rightly, why local urbanites can't pay for their own damn transit projects if these projects are so great.  But taxpayers generally support tax hikes for highways. So what does a politician on a transit mission do?  He sells the gas tax to the public on it being dedicated to highways.  Then he switches the money away from highways to transit.  This leaves highways falling apart.  So he can again go to taxpayers asking for money, ostensibly for highways, but of which a good portion will eventually be siphoned off to transit (and squirrel bridges and whatever).  Repeat.

In effect, calls for raising the gas tax are NOT to repair highways.  This is a bait and switch.  Gas taxes are sufficiently high enough to fully fund highway work if it was all applied to highway work.  Proposed increased in gas taxes are needed to pay for the continuing diversion of highway funds to egregiously expensive transit projects.  Congress is right to stop this shell game.

We're All Technocrats

The auto bailout is dead, at least for now:

A bailout-weary Congress killed a $14 billion package to aid struggling U.S. automakers Thursday night after a partisan dispute over union wage cuts derailed a last-ditch effort to revive the emergency
aid before year's end.

Republicans, breaking sharply with President George W. Bush as his term draws to a close, refused to back federal aid for Detroit's beleaguered Big Three without a guarantee that the United Auto Workers would agree by the end of next year to wage cuts to bring their pay into line with U.S. plants of Japanese carmakers. The UAW refused to do so before its current contract with the automakers expires in 2011.

Good.  Chapter 11 was made for this kind of situation, and folks will quickly come to understand that productive assets don't go *poof* in a bankruptcy  (though equity values can).

By the way, you will note that Senate Republicans did not suddenly become economic libertarians.  Their objection seems to be that the bill does not micro-manage the auto industry they same way they would want to micro-manage the auto industry.  You can see in these political battles that Congress brings its usual identity politics to these decisions:  Republicans want to hammer the unions, Democrats want to hammer executive pay.  Which is why these restructuring discussions don't belong in Congress.

Best Take Yet on the Bailout

Via Scrappleface:

The foundation of the U.S. economy could crumble, President George
Bush said today, if Congress fails to approve a U.S. Treasury plan to take over
foundering financial firms, a proposal which the president called "a
much-needed 21st-century civil rights act for stupid people."

"To sustain this shining city on a hill," Mr. Bush said, "we need to rescue
the ignorant, irresponsible folks "” from Wall Street to Capitol Hill to
Main Street "” who got us to where we are today. We must guarantee that no American suffers the soft bigotry of being forced to live with the consequences of his bad decisions."

The president, in remarks to the news media clearly aimed at
reluctant Republicans in Congress, said, "Our financial system rests on
a foundation of huge banks, brokerage houses and quasi-governmental
agencies that followed Washington's lead by gambling on long-shot,
poorly-collateralized investments. Now this glorious way of life is
threatened, and we must act to preserve it."

"We need to guarantee that the structures, systems, people and
products that got us to this point won't be tossed on the ash heap of
history," said Mr. Bush. "If these giant companies fail, then America
will be left with nothing but thousands of small to mid-sized financial
firms that made prudent investment decisions during the past 15 years."

Ethanol Updates

Y'all may have already seen these -- being on vacation, I am a little late to the table on both.  The first is a report on the Missouri state ethanol mandate:

A report from a Missouri-based research organization
debunks the claim that Missourians are saving money through a state law
requiring that retail gasoline contain a minimum of 10% ethanol. The
report is in reaction to an assertion by the Missouri Corn
Merchandising Association (MCMA), alleging that Missourians will save
more than US$ 285 million through the E-10 mandate in 2008, and nearly
US$ 2 billion over the following decade.

The MCMA arrived at these numbers by taking the price
difference between pure-grade gasoline and E-10 blended fuel, and
multiplying it by Missouri's projected annual consumption.

However, the report by the Show Me Institute reveals two fundamental flaws with this calculation. One
is that it fails to take into account the fact that E-10 blended fuel
is cheaper because ethanol producers receive tax credits and other
subsidies.

"Government officials cannot simply take tax dollars from
the public, give those tax dollars to ethanol blenders, and then have
ethanol supporters tell the public that ethanol is saving them money
with cheaper fuel as though the subsidy never existed," write the
report's authors, Justin P. Hauke and David Stokes.

The MCMA also does not take into account that E-10
blended fuel is about 2.5% less efficient than pure-grade gasoline,
meaning that Missourians will be filling their tanks more often.

When both of these factors are taken into account, the ethanol blending mandates are shown to be costing Missourians about US$ 118 million per year.

The second is a World Bank report on the effect of ethanol mandates on food prices:

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far
more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank
report obtained by the Guardian.

The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most
detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an
internationally-respected economist at global financial body.

The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's
claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price
rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across
Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of
greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.

Senior development sources believe the report, completed in
April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George
Bush.

"It would put the World Bank in a political hot-spot with the White House," said one yesterday....

[The report] argues that production of biofuels has
distorted food markets in three main ways. First, it has diverted grain
away from food for fuel, with over a third of US corn now used to
produce ethanol and about half of vegetable oils in the EU going
towards the production of biodiesel. Second, farmers have been
encouraged to set land aside for biofuel production. Third, it has
sparked financial speculation in grains, driving prices up higher.

Other reviews of the food crisis looked at it over a much
longer period, or have not linked these three factors, and so arrived
at smaller estimates of the impact from biofuels. But the report
author, Don Mitchell, is a senior economist at the Bank and has done a
detailed, month-by-month analysis of the surge in food prices, which
allows much closer examination of the link between biofuels and food
supply.

The report points out biofuels derived from sugarcane, which Brazil specializes in, have not had such a dramatic impact.

All this stuff was known long before Congress voted for the most recent ethanol mandates.  Why is it that the media, who cheerled such mandates for years, is able to apply any institutional skepticism only after the mandates have become law?  Are we going to have to actually pass some awful version of carbon trading before anyone will consider its inherent problems?