Crude oil prices fell dramatically over the weekend. Between March 4 and March 9, Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell from $51.13 to $34.36 per barrel, a drop of 32.8 percent. As of this writing (the afternoon of March 10, EDT), the price has recovered to $36.89 per barrel. The price of U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude, the standard measure of U.S. oil prices, fell from $46.78 on March 4 to $31.13 on March 9, a drop of 33.5 percent. Pippa Stevens at CNBC wrote that “U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude and international benchmark Brent crude are both pacing for their worst day since 1991.”
Why worst? Implicit in Stevens’s statement is the idea that low oil prices are bad. All other things equal, of course, low oil prices are bad for oil producers. But also, all other things equal, low oil prices are good for oil users. And the latter includes all of us. How do we assess whether the net effect of the plunge in oil prices is good or bad? We have to look at why they fell suddenly. We pretty much know why: a temporary collapse of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC.) For that reason, the drop in oil prices over the weekend is good. It’s roughly a wash for the U.S. economy and it’s good for the overall world economy.
A most useful principle I learned in my Ph.D. economics program at UCLA, about which Professor Benjamin Klein never failed to remind his students, is “Never reason from a price change.” Scott Sumner, an economist at the Mercatus Center and one of my co-bloggers at EconLog, often points that out in his posts.
Let’s apply that lesson here. There are three (and only three) reasons that oil prices drop: (1) demand decreases, (2) supply increases, or (3) the monopoly power of oil producers falls.
When economists say that demand decreases, we mean something very specific—that at any given price, the amount demanded decreases. There are two main ways that can happen: a slowing of the world economy or an increase in the supply of a substitute.
If the world economy slows—and it certainly looks as if it has slowed, or will, due to the COVID-19 virus and people’s reaction to it—the demand for oil will fall. With a given supply, that will cause the price of oil to fall. The fall in the price of oil is not bad per se; rather, it’s a consequence of something bad, namely, the slowing of the world economy. And it certainly appears that a fall in demand due to a slowing economy caused prices to fall before last weekend. But it’s unlikely that there was a sudden fall in demand last weekend. We have to look elsewhere.
The other possible cause of a fall in the demand for oil is an increase in the supply of a substitute for oil. If, for example, solar or nuclear energy became more competitive, the demand for oil would fall. In that case, the fall in oil’s price would be a sign of something good happening in the economy. Did solar, nuclear, or any other energy source suddenly become more competitive over this weekend? No. So that’s not it.
How about an increase in supply? If supply increases, then, with a given demand, prices will fall. Notice that I’m using the word “supply” to mean not the quantity supplied, but the whole supply curve. When an economist says that supply increased, he means that at any given price, the quantity supplied has increased. The whole supply curve has shifted to the right. This sounds wonky and may remind you of an old economics class in which the professor insisted on the distinction between a shift in supply and a movement along a stable supply curve. But here we need a little wonkiness to help us analyze.
But there were no major discoveries of oil or breakthroughs in technology over the weekend that would cause the supply to increase. So that’s not what drove prices down.
There’s one culprit left: a decrease in monopoly power. If buyers and sellers in the stock market think that a major monopolist in the world market has lost market power, the world price of oil will fall. So let’s look more carefully at OPEC to see what went on last weekend.
First, recall that OPEC is a cartel. Government officials of the member countries get together and try to agree on a price. They want a price above what the competitive, non-colluding price would be. To achieve that cartel price, the members must produce an output below the output they would ideally like to produce. Each firm or, more accurately, government (since we’re talking about OPEC) would like to produce more and have every other country produce less. The members of OPEC meet regularly in Vienna to hash out their differences and try to reach an agreement. This time, though, there was real tension between Saudi Arabia’s desires and those of Russia. OPEC lists its members on its website, and although the Russians attended the latest meeting, and typically attend OPEC meetings, Russia is not, and never has been, an OPEC member.
Saudi Arabia is the most important OPEC producer; Russia is the most important non-OPEC producer that attends the meeting. This time, the Saudis and the Russians had a big disagreement. The Saudis wanted to slow or stop the price erosion that had happened due to the drop in demand by cutting output: that of OPEC members and that of other countries that attend OPEC meetings but are not members. The Russians wanted the output cut too but didn’t want to be the ones doing the cutting. As CNBC’s Brian Sullivan put it on Friday, they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. In that respect, the Russians are like the non-Saudi members of OPEC: all of them want the Saudis to cut output. Although the violin I will play for the Saudis’ predicament is very tiny, it is true that they have traditionally been the “swing producer:” the country that sucks it up and reduces output to maintain the price while many other members of the cartel cheat like crazy. At times, the Saudis have produced as little as 4 million barrels a day to support the price; at other times, they have said the hell with it and have produced as much as 10 million barrels per day.
This time the Saudis said the hell with it. They will produce more and the Russians will produce more. Thus the lower price. And it doesn’t take a whole lot more production to drop the price. The reason is that the demand for oil is inelastic: a one percent increase in output will lead to a ten percent drop in price. So all it takes for a 30 percent drop in price is a three percent increase in output.
Is it bad that the price of oil will drop due to a reduction in monopoly power? No, it’s good. Ever since the fall of 1973, when OPEC raised the world price of oil from $3 per barrel to $11, OPEC has had some monopoly power in the world oil market. This causes the price to be higher than the competitive price would be and we oil users respond by using less oil than we would use at that lower competitive price. When the monopoly power comes about, not due to innovation or invention, but due to collusion, as with OPEC, economists almost unanimously object to monopoly: it holds output off the market for which consumers would pay an amount greater than the cost of production. This underproduction causes what economists call a “deadweight loss,” a loss to consumers that is not captured by producers. That’s what OPEC does. In his article on monopoly for The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, the late Nobel Prize winner and University of Chicago (and Hoover) economist George Stigler laid out the reasoning behind deadweight loss.
So the cut in the price brings the world oil market closer to the competitive price.
Does that mean that the price cut is good for the United States? No. The price cut is good for any country that is a net importer of oil. In recent decades, therefore, the United States would have gained big time from the cut in the world price. The loss to U.S. producers would have been less than the gain to U.S. consumers because we consumers would have gained on every barrel we used and the producers would have lost on the smaller number of barrels they produced.
But something important has happened in the last decade: fracking. As I noted in my most recent Defining Ideas article, fracking substantially increased the U.S. supply of oil and natural gas. In December 2019, the United States became, for the first time since 1949, a net exporter of oil. So the drop in prices is bad for the U.S. economy as a whole: the loss to the producers will exceed the gain to consumers. But it’s only slightly bad because the United States is barely a net exporter.
For the world economy as a whole, then, the drop in oil prices due to demonopolization is a net plus. That should be no more surprising than the fact that the increase in competition in the retail sector is a net plus.
So why has the stock market fallen so much? Part of the reason is, no doubt, the increased panic, possibly justified, about the loss in output due to the Covid-19 virus. You might expect that if the only event affecting the stock market was OPEC’s temporary loss in monopoly power, the losses to industries that produce energy would be only slightly larger than the gain to industries that use energy as an input. But that ignores the fact that a large percentage of the gain from the drop in price is to final consumers, and most of us consumers don’t sell stock in our wealth. There’s no stock called David Henderson, Inc., for example. So a large part of the gain is not visible on the stock market.
French economist Frederic Bastiat wrote, back in the 1840s, that we should always take account of the unseen as well as the seen. The seen is the stock market losses of energy producers. The unseen is the gain to ultimate consumers.
We don’t know what will happen in the next few months, either with the Covid-19 virus, the world economy, the stock market, or oil prices. As Danish physicist Niels Bohr said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” But we should be clear that the drop in oil prices due to OPEC’s loss of pricing power is a gain to the world, and close to a wash for the United States.
They want to fix a false problem with solutions that don’t work!
One of the pillars of the internationalist world view that is solemnly proclaimed by the establishment is the dogma of climate change – what it is and how to fix it.
This view is accepted aa a fixture by such institutions as the United Nations and many national governments, including until recently, the United States government. We can thank President Trump for rejecting this nonsense. He withdrew the USA from the Paris Accord (which was negotiated by the Obama Administration, but never submitted to the Senate and therefore not ratified by the USA).
Most Democrat presidential candidates want to eliminate fossil fuels in 10 years although the entire world depends on fossil fuels for survival, and there is no comparable substitute for fossil fuels. Windmills are not only inconsistent, but they also create new environmental hazards. Solar panels seem to have a place for supplementary energy production, but they are not transportable or suitable for transportation.
Even their statement of the problem is out of date. Nobody can look at the violent weather we have been experiencing and doubt that the climate is changing. But when has it ever not been changing? As far back as records go there have been changes in the climate. Remember the Ice Age?
Yesterday the scientists were telling us that there is global warming and the polar ice cap is melting. If that were true, battery-driven cars wouldn’t help us much. The first thing to do would be to move all the seaside structures to higher ground (as Andrew Yang has recommended). But we see large numbers of people who won’t even move their towns away from flood plains after being flooded out every other year. How are we going to move New York City or Los Angeles inland?
Luckily. more recent data are showing that the ice cap isn’t melting anymore. Not only that, but after the Club of Rome’s first two reports (1972 & 1976) scared us all with the idea that pollution is the common enemy of all mankind but was controllable by human carbon emissions, the more sober climatologists have begun to assert that human intervention is vastly overrated. In fact, humans can’t change the weather; that’s just common sense. (In 1996, The Club of Rome admitted that “pollution” was actually used in their early reports as merely an intellectual construct aimed at uniting nations to rally to their cause).
It is true that air, water and food pollution are dramatically affected by human waste and therefore controllable by humans. But most of the damage in today’s world is done by the thickening of the world’s ozone layer (between the sun and the earth’s surface) which in turn is exacerbated by increased emissions of carbon dioxide. These emissions apparently are affected by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum products such as gasoline and fuel oil.
The most prolific producers of these pollutants are developing nations which were not even included in the Paris Accords’ quotas. It was basically an agreement by which the USA would pay for as much of the world pollution as India and China wanted cleaned up. Every Democrat running for the presidency vows to reinstate the Paris Accord.
The actual situation in the USA and the world was summarized in a press release from the UN’s International Energy Agency (IEA) as follows:
In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that the U.S. decrease in emissions was the largest total of any country, at 140 million tons. It also noted that over the last 20 years, U.S. emissions have decreased nearly one gigaton (1 billion metric tons).
Globally, emissions flatlined in 2019. After two years of growth, global emissions remained unchanged at 33 gigatons in 2019, even as the world economy grew by 2.9 percent.” (Fox News story, 2/11/2019)
The distribution of global activity is in the IEA release:
“A significant decrease in emissions in advanced economies in 2019 offset continued growth elsewhere. Emission in the European Union fell by 160 million tons, or five percent, driven by reductions in the power sector. For the first time ever, natural gas produced more electricity than coal and wind-powered electricity nearly caught up with coal-fired electricity. Japan’s emissions fell by 45 million tons, or around 4 percent, as output from newly restarted nuclear reactors upticked this year. Emissions in most of the rest of the world grew by nearly 400 million tons in 2019, with almost 80 percent coming from countries in Asia where coal-fired power generation continued to rise.” (IEA, 2/11/2019)
Thus, not only is the USA already doing its part to alleviate the effects of ozone pollution, but so are many other countries. The “existential crisis” of which Bernie Sanders so often speaks does not exist.
This is not to say that nothing more should be done about ozone pollution. The old saying applies: “Because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you should so nothing.” We can and should do what we can to affect this problem. But our efforts are necessarily limited. For example, we can’t stop volcanoes from releasing more pollution in a day than humans can in weeks if not years. Our ancestors successfully adapted to continuous, sometimes drastic, weather changes. So can we.
I have argued elsewhere that a new set of ethical standards with respect to the world around us should be formed. Traditional Western religion teaches us that all other creatures exist for use by humans. I believe that modern science has given us another view of the complexities of the world. We must learn to treat this world with more respect and more consideration.
Appreciation for the beauty and brilliance of the world God has given us is a good first step. Crying WOLF! WOLF! is not.
A first in human history: Anxious about their future on a hotter planet and angry at world leaders for failing to arrest the crisis, masses of young people poured into the streets on every continent on Friday for a day of global climate protests. Organizers estimated the turnout to be around four million in thousands of cities and towns worldwide. (Somini Sengupta, New York Times, September 20, 2019) (Below: Youth March for Climate Change (New York City, Sept.20, 2019)
What is the motivating force which could impel such an amazing reaction of youngsters all over the world (except China)? Clearly, the threat of extinction is taken so seriously by so many youths that they felt compelled to participate in this effort. What has convinced so many in so many places simultaneously?
Apparently, it is the vision of the planet earth being baked into destruction by the sun’s rays. This vision seems to have originated from the speculations of climate scientists as interpreted and simplified by activists. Cold, neutral, formulaic science has never elicited such emotional reactions. Those ideas had to be interpreted and simplified by propagandists. Eventually, the vision emerged with its dramatic impact and its ability to inspire visceral fear. It is this vision which has motivated a youthful passion which thirsts for a cause to believe in.
In that sense, climate change advocacy demonstrates many of the same characteristics as religion. It is an unquestioning belief in an unseen event; it inspires an ethic requiring sacrifice to achieve; and it thrives on communal events. Thus, it meets the traditional characteristics of religion: creed, code, and cult.
This phenomenon also raises the question, “Why are these folks (young and old) so open to a new religion?” Why are they not dedicated to the traditional religions of their elders? Or, more concretely, why has the Western world witnessed such a precipitous decline of traditional religious practice in recent generations?
The answer to these questions lies in the disconnect between the common life experience of our modern culture and the world view of traditional religions. As one way of approaching this topic, we might look at the differences in the epistemology (the way of understanding) between what religion teaches us compared to that of our everyday life.
Traditionally, religion proclaims that another invisible world exists in addition to this visible world. The invisible world is better than this world. This vision has brought comfort and peace to many millions of people through the ages. It has served as a reason for us to behave in certain ways which are conducive to the common good and it has given us hope to reach heaven and eternal peace when we die.
Common life experience in the 21st century exhibits a quite different vision. First of all, we live in a world of constant discovery. While many aspects of this world are invisible, such as thoughts and emotions and happiness, it is also true that our science is based on the presumption that all reality is ultimately physical, even if it is too small to be seen (atoms), too large to be understood (the universe), or discoverable only through its effect on things that can be measured (neutrons). As a culture, we have come to believe that all reality is knowable, even if we don’t yet know it. We keep learning new things all the time, only to discover more things we don’t know. Nevertheless, the thrill of learning is one of our cultural goals.
It is the task of the theologians to conceptualize and explain the spiritual dimensions of our human experience and the connections between our life experience and our traditional beliefs. It appears that today’s theologians are asleep at the switch. Our culture cries out for an ethic which takes the world we live in much more seriously than does traditional religion. To achieve that ethic, a new vision must be developed – one which understands the beauty of the universe, the world we live in, the body we have been given, and the ways in which this visible world must be treated in order for us to achieve happiness and satisfaction in our interactions with this world, our community and ourselves.
In such a vision, we see technology as an extension of our body – machines to take us farther and faster than our legs could carry us, to make our minds more agile, our imaginations more original, our views more expansive. We see our love extended to other races and places beyond our natural limits, our talents challenged by new plateaus, and our world enriched by the newness of our life on earth. This is a vision which will allow us to seek the transcendent meaning of life as the sum of all the good and evil we can see with our sharpened insights and to find our personal path to virtue, happiness and holiness.
As our lives are enriched by the colors and textures of this world which God has provided for us, we are also confronted with new responsibilities and obligations. which have been ignored in the past, to maintain that world. Some examples: while the absolute need for cheap and plentiful energy is granted, how do we justify digging coal at the risk of black lung disease for the miners? How do we justify burying nuclear waste which will take 3000 years to dissipate? How do we preserve our planet’s suitability for human life? How do we balance the harm of nuclear weapons against the cost in human life? What do we owe to trees and wildlife? And, what are the ethical norms by which we are to measure such answers?
Religion, like life itself, must evolve to meet the very real spiritual needs of real people. If organized religions fail in this fundamental obligation, people will substitute whatever they can find in order to satisfy the primal need we all share for spiritual nourishment – even if it is as flimsy as climate change.
An ambiguous, unverifiable crisis that only the state has the means or authority to combat is a blank check to power.
I am not a scientist. I have no scientific background beyond what I’ve picked up from reading things written by and about actual scientists. So I am, therefore, in no position to critique any scientific theory as a theory.
That said, I am a skeptic when it comes to climate change. To be clear, I don’t doubt that the climate changes — obviously it does. I don’t doubt that human activity has an effect on this change. What that effect is, and to what extent it influences the entire system, I don’t know. As a scientific concept, I have no opinion on climate change.
But it isn’t just a scientific concept. It is a political issue, and that is what I am skeptical of.
You see, I can’t judge from what I don’t know (e.g., climate science), but I can judge from what I do know. I know something of history, something of philosophy, and something of human nature. I can observe what people are doing at the moment and listen to what they actually say.
Doing so, I note that the vast majority of people, including the cause’s most vehement advocates, are no more qualified to judge it scientifically than I am. Does anyone really believe that any of those people marching in Washington have the knowledge and ability to interpret data from a global climate survey? Have they sunk the necessary hours of study and objective research into this subject to be able to say what they say with any certainty, assuming they could ever be certain?
Of course they haven’t. They are going entirely off of what certain experts have told them — namely, a specific selection of experts who have come to their attention because the media has elevated them and political groups have championed and funded them. These climate change apologists are in no position to critically examine these expert claims.
Now, if there is, for instance, a genuine international crisis (e.g., Venezuela), then people have resources to verify it. They can read testimonies and see photos and video of the event, and in the last resort, they can go there to see for themselves. If it is a question of domestic policy, people can consider their own experience and knowledge to judge which approach to, say, taxation seems to be the best.
People cannot do this with climate change. The signs of the crisis come down to weather and to intensely complex reams of data that require specialized knowledge to interpret. The latter is out of reach for almost everyone. The former could be used to justify just about any theory since it is a proverb for unpredictability and changeableness.
If you tell people the earth is getting warmer, they will remember all those hot summer days and snowless winters they experienced and say that warming is very likely. If you tell them it is getting cooler, they will remember the mild summer days and bitter winter nights and say cooling is also very likely.
The fact is, the average voter has no way to adequately judge the question of climate change. Yet he is assured that it is an existential crisis that must be dealt with immediately and by any means necessary. Politicians and media activists are thus urging him to favor certain actions to combat a crisis that he has no way to verify. Worse, this message tends to be directed toward impressionable young people — that is, those with the highest emotions and the least ability to examine these claims.
That is an extremely dangerous state of affairs for a representative government.
This ties in with the fact that climate change activists and experts do not act like they are talking about science. As I say, I am no expert, but I do know enough of the subject to know that in science you have to take everything into account, especially anything that seems to tell against your theory. Science is never exactly “settled” because new instruments or new techniques could always present new observations that don’t fit with the common view. This is what happened with the heliocentric theory, Newtonian physics, genetics, and with every other major scientific breakthrough.
So when I see scientists and media personalities talking about “climate change denial,” as if it were a mental illness, accusing those who are skeptical of their theories of being in the pay of oil companies or otherwise arguing in bad faith (overlooking their own government grants and celebrity status in the process, I might add), and inflatingthe numbers of those who agree with them, it looks highly suspicious. This is not how responsible scientists or politicians behave.
Then there is the proposed solution. There never seems to be a technical solution — for instance, if the Earth’s atmosphere is being flooded with carbon dioxide, perhaps we could find a way to release quantities of a gas that might dilute the greenhouse effect. Much less is there a question of whether a warmer climate might have a net-positive effect, or at least be a manageable problem. No, it’s all certain doom within our lifetime unless we adopt tighter state control. More recently, climate change advocates have been openly calling for socialism as the panacea to the Earth’s ills.
In other words, the proposed solution to what we are told is an existential crisis is, conveniently, to give more power to the very same people who are informing us that this crisis exists.
Finally, since the average voter cannot verify that the crisis exists, he also could never say when the crisis was over. The same people who tell you it exists, who assure you that everyone who denies it is simply ignorant or evil, are also the only ones who could tell you when or if the crisis were ever solved and what must be done to solve it. An ambiguous, unverifiable crisis that only the state has the means or authority to combat is a blank check to power.
So, simply put, I am a climate change skeptic because the people advocating it do not act as if it were a verified scientific conclusion. They act as if it were a political expedient at best and a pseudo religion at worst. They tarnish and dismiss anyone who opposes them, fill impressionable young people with images of immanent doom caused by their political and social enemies, and use this cause to justify grabbing more and more power.
While I may not be able to say what the climate is doing, I can say what climate activists are doing, and from that, I can judge that they should be kept as far away from positions of power as humanly possible. We haven’t seen what happens when the ice caps melt, but we have seen what happens when demagogues claiming to protect against an endless and ambiguous crisis get into positions of power, and it never ends well.
We're seeing sexualized dances, hallucinogens, worshiping nature, confessing sins in pagan animism, worshiping purified teen saints, all to promote a supposedly greater cause.
Lynn Townsend White Jr., an American historian from Princeton, wrote an influential essay in 1967, at the height of the cultural revolution in Western campuses, arguing that Christianity and Judeo-Christian values are responsible for ecological disaster and climate change. The essay, naturally, was adapted by generations after, ironically almost like a document of faith.
The central argument went like this. White argued, “The victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history of our culture. … By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects.”
, and fear — didn’t just go away but manifested in various other pre-civilized tribal ways. For example, a liberal seminary encouraged its students to skip classes to pray and confess sins in front of potted plants. In Switzerland, 250 people in full funereal garb mourned the apparent approaching death of a glacier.
That is why members of “Extinction Rebellion” do what they do. Extinction Rebellion is an apocalyptic cult that wants to radically end every thing around you, from your private cars to the burgers you eat and the plastic chairs in your yard. It is a cult that was formed after its founder took psychedelic drugs and prayed for “social change.” Members have blocked D.C. and London intersections, “twerking” the way people in a pre-civilized era would perform a fertility dance to pray to Gaia.
And then there’s Saint Greta, our perpetual teen of sorrow. I have been comparing her worship to Joan of Arc ever since she was invited to the British Parliament, the birthplace of modern democracy. She was surrounded by buffoons nodding their heads like they were listening to gospel truth.
Lads, I hesitate to take credit for my predictions…I am magnanimous and noble like that…but this entire Joan of Arc thingy…you guys read it here, first.
“Climate Apocalypticism” is simply a paganist religion, with its own saints, sinners, and providential end.
I wrote about her long before the new woke-capital fanatics adopted her as a pawn. In a recent speech to the U.N., while clearly having an emotional meltdown, she told assorted leaders, voice trembling, that they have failed the children and history wouldn’t be kind. The “gatekeepers” immediately hailed her as a brave savior as well as a vulnerable, autistic teen who shouldn’t be bullied.
So, there you have it. Sexualized dances, psychedelic hallucinogens, worshiping nature, confessing sins in pagan animism, worshiping purified teen saints, and throwing them up on an altar, bereft of their childhood, to promote a greater cause. Add to that witches hexing Brett Kavanaugh, and having an Ouija board to invoke the spirit of Karl Marx, and everything old is new again.
The reality is, of course, completely different. Much less than destroying the planet, climate change isn’t even a settled science. Conservatives don’t disagree that climate is changing. That is a straw man. Conservatives, however, are opposed to hysteria, have skepticism about the rate of the climate change, and would like to see an actual cost-benefit analysis of the radical changes being demanded.
More important than that, conservatives understand that climate change is cynically used by a certain section of people to justify their political goals of steering the West away from its way of life, a way they perceive to be evil and harmful, hetero-patriarchal, and capitalist. How? Appealing to the faith-based part of human brains, the need for subservience, and propping up children as human shields.
Consider a new letter by more than 500 scientists, which the mainstream media completely ignored. It urges the United Nations to have an open debate between scientists from both sides of the argument and states there’s “no climate emergency.” The report goes on to say, among other things:
The world has warmed at less than half the originally-predicted rate; Climate policy relies on inadequate models; More CO2 is beneficial for nature, greening the Earth; There is no statistical evidence that global warming is intensifying hurricanes, floods, droughts and suchlike natural disasters, or making them more frequent; There is no climate emergency. Therefore, there is no cause for panic and alarm. We strongly oppose the harmful and unrealistic net-zero CO2 policy proposed for 2050.
In short, everything you’re being told is wrong or flawed, and you’re a chump who is being taken for a ride.
For all the Marxists’ faults, the old left at least wanted to conquer nature instead of turning subservient to it. Of course, that went to its own extremes, but one can imagine Joseph Stalin putting all twerking climate fanatics as mentally ill people in a forced labor camp to build railroads in Siberia. The current Chinese government, likewise, gives two hoots about climate change, and for all the bravery of Green Peace and St. Greta, there’s nothing they can do about China burning more coal than the rest of humanity combined.
The modern left is a combination of two of the worst impulses in human history. First are the ultra-privileged bourgeoisie, which, having lost their old Judeo-Christian faith, are instinctively attracted to pre-civilized rituals, from overt sexuality to fewer familial ties. Consider Late Roman public orgies, and you get an idea. At the same time, human minds feel a gaping void that still needs to be filled by an alternate faith. It is in that intersection where this occultist, apocalyptic climate paganism comes from. It gives some privileged people a noble purpose.
As French philosopher Pascal Bruckner wrote in his book “The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings,” the current movement has all the trappings of a religion: saints, sinners, a providential end, apocalyptic fear, punishment, and penance. It appears Emperor Constantine’s children clearly failed to civilize their future generations. The pagan barbarians from the north are back circling outside the citadel.
Solar panels and wind turbines are making electricity significantly more expensive, a major new study by a team of economists from the University of Chicago finds.
Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) “significantly increase average retail electricity prices, with prices increasing by 11% (1.3 cents per kWh) seven years after the policy’s passage into law and 17% (2 cents per kWh) twelve years afterward,” the economists write.
The study, which has yet to go through peer-review, was done by Michael Greenstone, Richard McDowell, and Ishan Nath. It compared states with and without an RPS. It did so using what the economists say is “the most comprehensive state-level dataset ever compiled” which covered 1990 to 2015.
The cost to consumers has been staggeringly high: “All in all, seven years after passage, consumers in the 29 states had paid $125.2 billion more for electricity than they would have in the absence of the policy,” they write.
Solar and wind require that natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, batteries or some other form of reliable power be ready at a moment’s notice to start churning out electricity when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining, I noted.
And unreliability requires solar- and/or wind-heavy places like Germany, California, and Denmark to pay neighboring nations or states to take their solar and wind energy when they are producing too much of it.
My reporting was criticized — sort of — by those who claimed I hadn’t separated correlation from causation, but the new study by a top-notch team of economists, including an advisor to Barack Obama, proves I was right.
Previous studies were misleading, the economists note, because they didn’t “incorporate three key costs,” which are the unreliability of renewables, the large amounts of land they require, and the displacement of cheaper “baseload” energy sources like nuclear plants.
The higher cost of electricity reflects “the costs that renewables impose on the generation system,” the economists note, “including those associated with their intermittency, higher transmission costs, and any stranded asset costs assigned to ratepayers.”
But are renewables cost-effective climate policy? They are not. The economists write that “the cost per metric ton of CO2 abated exceeds $130 in all specifications and ranges up to $460, making it at least several times larger than conventional estimates of the social cost of carbon.”
The economists note that the Obama Administration’s core estimate of the social cost of carbon was $50 per ton in 2019 dollars, while the price of carbon is just $5 in the US northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and $15 in California’s cap-and-trade system.
Donald Trump is many things. But one thing he is not is a defender of the 2009-2016 status quo and accepted progressive convention. Since 2017, everything has been in flux. Lots of past conventional assumptions of the Obama-Clinton-Romney-Bush generation were as unquestioned as they were suspect. No longer.
Everyone knew the Iran deal was a way for the mullahs to buy time and hoard their oil profits, to purchase or steal nuclear technology, to feign moderation, and to trade some hostages for millions in terrorist-seeding cash, and then in a few years spring an announcement that it had the bomb.
No one wished to say that. Trump did. He canceled the flawed deal without a second thought.
Iran is furious, but in a far weaker—and eroding—strategic position with no serious means of escaping devastating sanctions, general impoverishment, and social unrest. So a desperate Tehran knows that it must make some show of defiance. Yet it accepts that if it were to launch a missile at a U.S. ship, hijack an American boat, or shoot down an American plane, the ensuing tit-for-tat retaliation might target the point of Iranian origin (the port that launched the ship, the airbase from which the plane took off, the silo from which the missile was launched) rather than the mere point of contact—and signal a serial stand-off 10-1 disproportionate response to every Iranian attack without ever causing a Persian Gulf war.
Everyone realized the Paris Climate Accord was a way for elites to virtue signal their green bona fides while making no adjustments in their global managerial lifestyles—at best. At worst, it was a shake-down both to transfer assets from the industrialized West to the “developing world” and to dull Western competitiveness with ascending rivals like India and China. Not now. Trump withdrew from the agreement, met or exceeded the carbon emissions reductions of the deal anyway, and has never looked back at the flawed convention. The remaining signatories have little response to the U.S. departure, and none at all to de facto American compliance to their own targeted goals.
Rich NATO allies either could not or would not pay their promised defense commitments to the alliance. To embarrass them into doing so was seen as heretical. No more.
Trump jawboned and ranted about the asymmetries. And more nations are increasing rather than decreasing their defense budgets. The private consensus is that the NATO allies knew all along that they were exactly what Barack Obama once called “free riders” and justified that subsidization by ankle-biting the foreign policies of the United States—as if an uncouth America was lucky to underwrite such principled members. Again, no more fantasies.
China was fated to rule the world. Period. Whining about its systematic commercial cheating was supposedly merely delaying the inevitable or would have bad repercussions later on. Progressives knew the Communists put tens of thousands of people in camps, rounded up Muslims, and destroyed civil liberties, and yet in “woke” fashion tip-toed around criticizing the Other. Trump then destroyed the mirage of China as a Westernizing aspirant to the family of nations. In a protracted tariff struggle, there are lots of countries in Asia that could produce cheap goods as readily as China, but far fewer countries like the United States that have money to be siphoned off in mercantilist trade deals, or the technology to steal, or the preferred homes and universities in which to invest.
The Palestinians were canonized as permanent refugees. The U.S. embassy could never safely move to the Israeli capital in Jerusalem. The Golan Heights were Syrian. Only a two-state solution requiring Israel to give back all the strategic border land it inherited when its defeated enemies sought to destroy it in five prior losing wars would bring peace. Not now.
The Palestinians for the last 50 years were always about as much refugees as the East Prussian Germans or the Egyptian Jews and Greeks that were cleansed from their ancestral homelands in the Middle East in the same period of turbulence as the birth of Israel. “Occupied” land more likely conjures up Tibet and Cyprus not the West Bank, and persecuted Muslims are not found in Israel, but in China.
An aging population, the veritable end to U.S. manufacturing and heavy industry, and an opioid epidemic meant that America needed to get used to stagnant 1 percent growth, a declining standard of living, a permanent large pool of the unemployed, an annual increasing labor non-participation rate, and a lasting rust belt of deplorables, irredeemables, clingers and “crazies” who needed to be analyzed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. At best, a middle-aged deplorable was supposed to learn to code or relocate to the Texas fracking fields. Perhaps not now.
In the last 30 months, the question of the Rust Belt has been reframed to why, with a great workforce, cheap energy, good administrative talent, and a business-friendly administration, cannot the United States make more of what it needs? Why, if trade deficits are irrelevant, do Germany, China, Japan, and Mexico find them so unpleasant? If unfettered trade is so essential, why do so many of our enemies and friends insist that we almost alone trade “fairly,” while they trade freely and unfairly? Why do not Germany and China argue that their vast global account surpluses are largely irrelevant?
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) assured us that the world would be suffocating under greenhouse gases within 12 years. Doom-and-gloom prophecies of “peak” oil warned us that our oil reserves would dry up by the early 21st century. Former Vice President Al Gore warned us that our port cities would soon be underwater. Economists claimed Saudi Arabia or Russia would one day control the world by opening and closing their oil spigots. Not now.
Three million more barrels of American oil are being produced per day just since Trump took office. New pipelines will ensure that the United States is not just the world’s greatest producer of natural gas but perhaps its largest exporter as well.
Trump blew up those prognostications and replaced them with an optimistic agenda that the working- and middle classes deserve affordable energy, that the United States could produce fossil fuels more cleanly, wisely, and efficiently than the Middle East, and that ensuring increased energy could revive places in the United States that were supposedly fossilized and irrelevant. Normal is utilizing to the fullest extent a resource that can discourage military adventurism in the Middle East, provide jobs to the unemployed, and reduce the cost of living for the middle class; abnormal is listening to the progressive elite for whom spiking gasoline and power bills were a very minor nuisance.
Open borders were our unspoken future. The best of the Chamber of Commerce Republicans felt that millions of illegal aliens might eventually break faith with the progressive party of entitlements; the worst of the open borders lot argued that cheap labor was more important than sovereignty and certainly more in their interests than any worry over the poor working classes of their own country. And so Republicans for the last 40 years joined progressives in ensuring that illegal immigration was mostly not measured, meritocratic, diverse, or lawful, but instead a means to serve a number of political agendas.
Most Americans demurred, but kept silent given the barrage of “racist,” “xenophobe,” and “nativist” cries that met any measured objection. Not so much now. Few any longer claim that the southern border is not being overrun, much less that allowing a non-diverse million illegal aliens in six months to flood into the United States without audit is proof that “diversity is our strength.”
The Republican Party’s prior role was to slow down the inevitable trajectory to European socialism, the end of American exceptionalism, and homogenized globalized culture. Losing nobly in national elections was one way of keeping one’s dignity, weepy wounded-fawn style, while the progressive historical arc kept bending to our collective future. Rolling one’s eyes on Sunday talk shows as a progressive outlined the next unhinged agenda was proof of tough resistance.
Like it or not, now lines are drawn. Trump so unhinged the Left that it finally tore off its occasional veneer of moderation, and showed us what progressives had in store for America.
On one side in 2020 is socialism, “Medicare for All,” wealth taxes, top income tax rates of 70 or 80 or 90 percent, a desire for a Supreme Court of full of “wise Latinas” like Sonia Sotomayor, insidious curtailment of the First and Second Amendments, open borders, blanket amnesties, reparations, judges as progressive legislators, permissible infanticide, abolition of student debt, elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau and the Electoral College, voting rights for 16-year-olds and felons, and free college tuition.
On the other side is free-market capitalism but within a framework of fair rather than unfettered international trade, a smaller administrative state, less taxation and regulation, constitutionalist judges, more gas and oil, record low unemployment, 3-4 percent economic growth, and pressure on colleges to honor the Bill of Rights.
The New, New Normal
The choices are at least starker now. The strategy is not, as in 2008 and 2012, to offer a moderate slow-down of progressivism, but rather a complete repudiation of it.
One way is to see this as a collision between Trump, the proverbial bull, and the administrative state as a targeted precious china shop—with all the inevitable nihilistic mix-up of horns, hooves, and flying porcelain shards. But quite another is to conclude that what we recently used to think was abjectly abnormal twenty years ago had become not just “normal,” but so orthodoxly normal that even suggesting it was not was judged to be heretical and deserving of censure and worse.
The current normal correctives were denounced as abnormal—as if living in a sovereign state with secure borders, assuming that the law was enforced equally among all Americans, demanding that citizenship was something more than mere residence, and remembering that successful Americans, not their government, built their own businesses and lives is now somehow aberrant or perverse.
Trump’s political problem, then, may be that the accelerating aberration of 2009-2016 was of such magnitude that normalcy is now seen as sacrilege.
Weaponizing the IRS, unleashing the FBI to spy on political enemies and to plot the removal of an elected president, politicizing the CIA to help to warp U.S. politics, allying the Justice Department with the Democratic National Committee, and reducing FISA courts to rubber stamps for pursuing administration enemies became the new normal. Calling all that a near coup was abnormal.
Let us hope that most Americans still prefer the abnormal remedy to the normal pathology.
His ‘Clean Energy Revolution’ echoes Obama-Biden’s eco-failures.
Former vice president Joe Biden’s Clean Energy Revolution exploded on the launch pad Tuesday. Large, now-attributed passages of his manifesto against so-called global warming initially were lifted from other publications. Biden’s plagiarism recalled his flat-out theft of a speech by far-left British parliamentarian Neil Kinnock in 1987.
But Biden’s plan is far worse than just partially stolen. It confirms that the “centrist” Biden is just another big-government leftist, hooked on high taxes and reckless spending.
Biden’s Revolution is a $1.7 trillion tax hike. It enshrines his pitch to voters in South Carolina and elsewhere: “First thing I’d do is repeal those Trump tax cuts.” Biden pledges to rescind the tax relief that has resuscitated U.S. industry, revived 3.2 percent GDP growth, and reduced unemployment to 3.6 percent and historical or near-record lows for blacks, Hispanics, and women.
After siphoning $1.7 trillion from America’s productive sector, Biden would follow the liberal playbook: Assign Washington-based experts to redistribute this bounty more wisely and justly than the bedraggled American people ever could.
Biden, no surprise, recommends a Santa’s sleigh of “allocated tax credits and subsidies” for “sustainable” initiatives. The eco-crats will succeed next time. After all, Washington always learns from its mistakes. And mistakes multiplied as the Obama-Biden administration poured taxpayer cash into countless eco-brainstorms:
• $570 million dripped into solar-power company Solyndra. Then it went bankrupt. Obama-Biden financed 18 green companies that also died and were buried in the Heritage Foundation’s Green Energy Graveyard.
• $3 billion flowed into Cash for Clunkers. Americans traded their old automobiles for $4,500 each in federal outlays. This was supposed to create jobs in Detroit, as drivers bought new, fuel-efficient U.S. vehicles. While 38.5 percent of this program’s car purchases were domestic, J.D. Power estimated, 61.5 percent were foreign. Cash for Clunkers primarily enriched Japanese and Korean autoworkers.
• $34.7 billion cascaded from Obama-Biden’s Department of Energy into clean-tech companies. They created “nearly 60,000” jobs. Cost per post: $578,333.
Biden also offers what statists truly crave: control. They never are happier than when they can boss Americans around, from dawn to dusk.
“I fought along with President Obama,” Biden said in a video that accompanied his proposal, “for a Clean Power Plan that limited carbon emissions from both existing and new power plants.”
CPP’s reels of red tape were designed to hamstring existing energy suppliers, at injurious economic cost. Using data from Obama-Biden’s Energy Information Agency, I calculated that — between 2015 and 2040 — CPP would have:
• Slashed real GDP by $993 billion, or an annual average of $39.7 billion.
• Sliced real disposable income by $382 billion, or $15.3 billion yearly.
• Chopped manufacturing shipments by $1.13 trillion, or $45.4 billion per annum.
• Whacked 1.7 million manufacturing jobs, or 68,000 pink slips yearly.
And for what benefit?
EPA assumed no Chinese, Indian, or other cheating and forecast that Obama-Biden’s scheme would have shaved expected global warming by 0.02 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. That’s like cranking a thermostat from 72 degrees way, way down to 71.98 degrees.
As Americans for Tax Reform reports, Biden also wants an “end-to-end high-speed rail system that will connect the coasts.” Ideally, a Japanese-style U.S. bullet train would zoom at 200 mph. Thus, today’s 2,450-mile, 4.5-hour, nonstop jet ride from Los Angeles to New York would last at least 12.25 hours on Bidentrak. (A 24.5-hour round trip would devour more than one entire transit day.) Why would anyone travel nearly three times more slowly by rail than air — assuming neither stops nor glitches?
Beyond staying in Delaware, Joe Biden’s Earth-friendliest move would be to recycle his Revolution and, instead, promote natural-gas production. Carbophobes should cheer this news: Thanks largely to gas fracking, U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions keep falling — down 13.4 percent from 2005 to 2016 and, BP estimates, another 0.82 percent in 2017, under President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, CO2 output rose 1.8 percent in 2017 across the climate-obsessed European Union. Natural gas cuts CO2 by 42 to 53 percent versus other fossil fuels, generates jobs, and has made America the world’s largest energy producer.1
Michael Malarkey contributed research to this opinion piece.
By Peter Roff • MY Journal Courier
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations that could dramatically ramp up the use of ethanol, a corn-based bio-fuel that can be blended into gasoline. That news was music to the ears of Iowa corn farmers.
But the rest of the country isn’t so pleased. A recent poll finds that more than 80 percent of voters are concerned the new policy will raise prices at the pump. And more than two-thirds think the ethanol expansion will harm their engines.
Americans are right to be alarmed. Ethanol is an expensive, environmentally hazardous fuel. The EPA’s new policy is a flagrant attempt by the Trump administration to buy the support of farmers — at huge expense to American consumers.
The EPA’s plan would lift restrictions on gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, a blend known as E15. At the moment, the sale of E15 is banned during the summer because the fuel generates more ozone than is permitted by the Clean Air Act.
But recently, President Trump instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to begin the process of legalizing year-round E15 sales.
The president found an E15 ally in Iowa senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
In many cases, E15 is dangerous. Roughly three-quarters of the cars on the road today weren’t built to use E15, and could be seriously damaged if forced to run on the fuel.
E15 might even harm engines that have just rolled off the line. Many prominent automotive brands — including BMW, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Volvo — have model-year 2018 cars that aren’t equipped to handle the fuel. Some automakers have warned drivers that filling up with E15 could be grounds for voiding their vehicles’ warranties.
The fuel is also useless for motorcycles and boats, as well as lawnmowers and other outdoor equipment.
Pushing more E15 into the market will inevitably lead to costly engine damage for Americans who mistakenly assume that this government-mandated fuel is actually safe to use.
This isn’t the only way in which E15 is a bad deal for consumers. Since ethanol contains only a third of the energy of gasoline, motorists who fill up with E15 can expect to get far fewer miles to the gallon — forcing them to fill up more often.
Ethanol was developed to be a clean-burning alternative to other fossil fuels. But ironically, it actually poses a grave threat to the environment. Over a 30-year period, the net emissions from ethanol are 28 percent higher than emissions from gasoline, according to the Clean Air Task Force. One Princeton University researcher warns ethanol’s true emissions are even higher. He estimates bio-fuels emit twice as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as gasoline over three decades.
Ethanol proponents often argue the bio-fuel is necessary for America’s energy independence. But today, Americans already have an abundant supply of domestic, clean, low-cost fuel. Thanks to improved drilling techniques such as fracking, the country is producing historic levels of both oil and natural gas. Natural gas in particular burns far cleaner than coal, propane or gasoline. Major automakers are already designing vehicles to run on the fuel.
The president seems intent on forcing consumers to buy a costly, inefficient, environmentally damaging fuel unsuitable for most vehicles. It’s no wonder that the policy has raised a red flag with so many voters. Their concerns are more than justified. Americans deserve an energy policy that serves the country’s needs — and not the narrow interests of corn-growers.
Peter Roff is a senior fellow at Frontiers of Freedom. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
By George Landrith • Houston Chronicle
The Trump administration is working to slow down the implementation of a major international environmental regulation that’s set to take effect in 2020. The administration hopes that the effort will ease the compliance burden on businesses by phasing in the rules gradually, rather than all at once.
Counterintuitively, phasing in the regulation could raise costs on American consumers, rather than reduce costs as the administration intends. It’s smarter to let the rules go into effect as scheduled.
The regulation was issued years ago by the International Maritime Organization, which regulates global shipping. The rules will require ships to use fuel containing no more than 0.5 percent sulfur — a compound which causes acid rain and exacerbates people’s breathing problems. That’s a steep drop from the current global limit of 3.5 percent sulfur. Continue reading
By Jim Geraghty • National Review
Take some time to peruse the “Green New Deal” in writing.
The deal includes a plan to “cut military spending by at least half” and withdraw U.S. troops from overseas.
The United States military currently has 1.3 million active-duty troops, with another 865,000 in reserve, and 680,000 civilian employees. Green New Deal advocates haven’t laid out exactly how many fewer personnel the U.S. military would have if spending was cut in half, but a military that was half the size of the current one would leave about 1.4 million personnel out of work. And remember, advocates of the Green New Deal pledged to cut military spending in “at least half.”
When there are no U.S. forces stationed in Europe, South Korea, Japan, or the Middle East, how much safer do you think those places get? Do you think conflict is more likely or less likely once all U.S. military personnel leave? Do you think China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia become more aggressive or less aggressive? Continue reading
By Robert Bryce • National Review
The energetic chatter of the moment is dominated by talk about the Green New Deal — a collection of proposals that would require running the entire American economy on renewable electricity within a decade or so.
The Green New Deal has been endorsed by scads of liberal politicians including New York governor Andrew Cuomo, former California state senator Kevin de León, media darling and newly sworn-in Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and anti-hydrocarbon activist Josh Fox. The goals of the Green New Deal are nothing short of radical. As the website for the left-wing think tank Data for Progress explains, the Green New Deal aims to “transform the economy and the environment in ways that achieve sustainability, equity, justice, freedom, and happiness.” Achieving happiness has never been easy. Even harder will be the Green New Deal’s aim of completely eliminating the use of coal, oil, and natural gas by 2050. Continue reading
by Peter Roff • Washington Examiner
Only in Washington would a congressional committee recommend a one-year extension of the tax credit for electric vehicles (in this case motorcycles) the day after General Motors announces it’s pulling the plug on the all-electric Chevy Volt.
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the outgoing chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, generally opposes these kinds of special provisions. They’re bad policy because they distort activities in the marketplace. Nonetheless, it’s right there in the bill he has proposed.
What’s even stranger is that Congress signed off on phasing out this credit in its entirety in the 2018 tax bill. It’s an expensive write-off that mostly benefits the uber-wealthy, who buy electric cars as status symbols and tokens of environmental consciousness. Continue reading
By Stephen Moore • Investor’s Business Daily
This has been a colder-than-usual winter in the Midwest and Northeast, so many Americans are facing high home heating and electric bills. In some areas, these bills can reach $1,000 a month.
Liberals, of course, charge that Donald Trump is the culprit. An AP story last week screamed: “Trump Once Again Wants to Cut Energy Assistance to the Poor.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders charged that if Trump has his way and eliminates the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, people might “freeze to death.”
But wait. Donald Trump is pro-American energy development. He isn’t the one who is making energy bills more expensive in the Northeast and the mountain states. It’s the liberal green groups and politicians such as Bernie Sanders, who accede to their anti-fossil fuel demands.
In my book Fueling Freedom, my co-author Kathleen Hartnett White and I discovered that the shale gas revolution lowered the price of natural gas by about Continue reading
by Julie Kelly • National Review
A new study by Environmental Progress (EP) warns that toxic waste from used solar panels now poses a global environmental threat. The Berkeley-based group found that solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than nuclear power plants. Discarded solar panels, which contain dangerous elements such as lead, chromium, and cadmium, are piling up around the world, and there’s been little done to mitigate their potential danger to the environment.
“We talk a lot about the dangers of nuclear waste, but that waste is carefully monitored, regulated, and disposed of,” says Michael Shellenberger, founder of Environmental Progress, a nonprofit that advocates for the use of nuclear energy. “But we had no idea there would be so many panels — an enormous amount — that could cause this much ecological damage.”
Solar panels are considered a form of toxic, hazardous electronic or “e-waste,” and according to EP researchers Jemin Desai and Mark Nelson, scavengers in developing countries like India and China often “burn the e-waste in order to salvage the valuable copper wires for resale. Since this process requires burning off plastic, the resulting smoke contains toxic fumes that are carcinogenic and teratogenic (birth defect-causing) when inhaled.” Continue reading