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Archive for the ‘Environmentalism’ Category

Two years ago, I shared a video about the Environmental Protection Agency’s brutal and thuggish tactics against an Idaho family.

Constitution Limits Government PowerThat story had a very happy ending because the Supreme Court struck a blow for property rights and unanimously ruled against the EPA (too bad that similarly sound analysis was absent when the Justices decided the Kelo case).

Now we have a new example of the EPA running amok

Let’s look at a horrifying report about another family in the cross hairs of a rogue bureaucracy.

All Andy Johnson wanted to do was build a stock pond on his sprawling eight-acre Wyoming farm. He and his wife Katie spent hours constructing it, filling it with crystal-clear water, and bringing in brook and brown trout, ducks and geese. It was a place where his horses could drink and graze, and a private playground for his three children.

Sounds like the American dream, but also responsible stewardship since ponds usually have a positive role in limiting erosion.

Unfortunately, the EPA’s pinhead bureaucrats saw an opportunity for pointless and destructive intervention.

But instead of enjoying the fruits of his labor, the Wyoming welder says he was harangued by the federal government, stuck in what he calls a petty power play by the Environmental Protection Agency. He claims the agency is now threatening him with civil and criminal penalties – including the threat of a $75,000-a-day fine. …The government says he violated the Clean Water Act by building a dam on a creek without a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. Further, the EPA claims that material from his pond is being discharged into other waterways. Johnson says he built a stock pond — a man-made pond meant to attract wildlife — which is exempt from Clean Water Act regulations.  The property owner says he followed the state rules for a stock pond when he built it in 2012 and has an April 4-dated letter from the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office to prove it. …But the EPA isn’t backing down and argues they have final say over the issue. They also say Johnson needs to restore the land or face the fines.

As you can imagine, this was not exactly good news for the property owner.

Johnson says he was “bombarded by hopelessness” when he first received the administrative order from the EPA. …The EPA order on Jan. 30 gave Johnson 30 days to hire a consultant and have him or her assess the impact of the supposed unauthorized discharges. The report was also supposed to include a restoration proposal to be approved by the EPA as well as contain a schedule requiring all work be completed within 60 days of the plan’s approval. If Johnson doesn’t comply — and he hasn’t so far — he’s subject to $37,500 per day in civil penalties as well as another $37,500 per day in fines for statutory violations.

But kudos to Mr. Johnson. Unlike so many others, he’s not going to roll over and acquiesce to EPA brutishness.

Johnson plans to fight. “This goes a lot further than a pond,” he said. “It’s about a person’s rights. I have three little kids. I am not going to roll over and let [the government] tell me what I can do on my land. I followed the rules.”  …Johnson says his legal fight with the government agency is a teachable moment for his kids. “This is showing them that they shouldn’t back down,” Johnson said. “If you need to stand up and fight, you do it.”

Needless to say, the EPA is not the only out-of-control bureaucracy in Washington.

Let’s now read about the thuggish actions against blueberry growers by the Department of Labor.

Bureaucrats from that entity decided to launch a legal jihad against some growers and they relied on bad numbers and grotesque strategy.

Another example of big government run amok.

In late July 2012, officials from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division visited Pan-American Berry Growers, B&G Ditchen and E&S Farms for spot inspections. …the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour division district director, Jeff Genkos, accused the growers of minimum-wage violations and declared the blueberries “hot goods” under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. This charge is usually reserved for, say, T-shirts sewn by child laborers. The effect was to stop the fruit from being shipped to customers. He then ordered the growers to pay back wages and penalties and asked them to sign away any right to appeal the deal.

What was most shocking about the DOL’s actions is that they engaged in Mafia-type tactics and “made an offer they couldn’t refuse.”

This put the growers in an impossible spot. Either they could collectively pay $240,435 or let millions of dollars’ worth of berries rot. And they only had a day or two to make a decision. They did what any prudent employer would do: They paid the money, and the hot goods order was lifted.

And you won’t be surprised that the bureaucracy cooked the numbers in the first place.

It turns out that Labor’s bureaucrats had divined that the average worker could only pick around 60 pounds of blueberries an hour, some 30 pounds below what workers usually pick. They then counted the number of workers employed and concluded the growers must have had workers employed off the books. …In January, Oregon magistrate judge Thomas M. Coffin ruled for the growers. “In essence, to avoid the potential loss of millions of dollars worth of berries, defendants had to agree to the DOL’s allegations without an opportunity to present a defense or confront the DOL’s evidence in an administrative or court hearing,” he wrote.

I’m glad at least one court has ruled against the Department of Labor. Let’s hope that the final result is positive when all the appeals have been exhausted.

Both of these stories belong in my collection of “Government Thuggery in Action.”

Previous examples include:

If you peruse those examples without getting angry at big government, you probably need a lengthy bit of soul-searching.

If you’re a normal person, you’ll want this t-shirt (and don’t be a perv, just the t-shirt!).

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I’ve written before that Obama’s Solyndra-style handouts have been a grotesque waste of tax dollars.

I’ve argued that they destroy jobs rather than create jobs.

I’ve gone on TV to explain why government intervention in energy creates a cesspool of cronyism.

I’ve even shared a column from Obama’s hometown newspaper that criticizes the rank corruption in green-energy programs.

And it goes without saying that I’ve disseminated some good cartoons on the issue.

But even though green-energy programs are a disgusting boondoggle, American taxpayers and consumers should be thankful they’re not in Germany.

Our programs may be wasteful and corrupt, but we’re amateurs compared to what’s happening on the other side of the Atlantic.

Here are some passages from a must-read story in Der Spiegel.

The government predicts that the renewable energy surcharge added to every consumer’s electricity bill will increase from 5.3 cents today to between 6.2 and 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour — a 20-percent price hike. German consumers already pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. But because the government is failing to get the costs of its new energy policy under control, rising prices are already on the horizon. Electricity is becoming a luxury good in Germany.

As is so often the case with government intervention, the promises from politicians about low costs were a mirage.

Even well-informed citizens can no longer keep track of all the additional costs being imposed on them. According to government sources, the surcharge to finance the power grids will increase by 0.2 to 0.4 cents per kilowatt hour next year. On top of that, consumers pay a host of taxes, surcharges and fees that would make any consumer’s head spin. Former Environment Minister Jürgen Tritten of the Green Party once claimed that switching Germany to renewable energy wasn’t going to cost citizens more than one scoop of ice cream. Today his successor Altmaier admits consumers are paying enough to “eat everything on the ice cream menu.”

Perhaps the most shocking part of the story is that Germans are being forced to pay $26 billion in subsidies to get less than $4 billion of green energy.

For society as a whole, the costs have reached levels comparable only to the euro-zone bailouts. This year, German consumers will be forced to pay €20 billion ($26 billion) for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just over €3 billion. Even the figure of €20 billion is disputable if you include all the unintended costs and collateral damage associated with the project. …On Thursday, a government-sanctioned commission plans to submit a special report called “Competition in Times of the Energy Transition.” The report is sharply critical, arguing that Germany’s current system actually rewards the most inefficient plants, doesn’t contribute to protecting the climate, jeopardizes the energy supply and puts the poor at a disadvantage.

Here’s what it means for ordinary people.

In the near future, an average three-person household will spend about €90 a month for electricity. That’s about twice as much as in 2000. Two-thirds of the price increase is due to new government fees, surcharges and taxes. …Today, more than 300,000 households a year are seeing their power shut off because of unpaid bills. Caritas and other charity groups call it “energy poverty.”

Not surprisingly, politically well-connected interest groups are the ones reaping the benefits.

…the renewable energy subsidies redistribute money from the poor to the more affluent, like when someone living in small rental apartment subsidizes a homeowner’s roof-mounted solar panels through his electricity bill. The SPD, which sees itself as the party of the working class, long ignored this regressive aspect of the system. The Greens, the party of higher earners, continue to do so. Germany’s renewable energy policy is particularly unfair with respect to the economy. About 2,300 businesses have managed to largely exempt themselves from the green energy surcharge by claiming, often with little justification, that they face tough international competition. Companies with less lobbying power, however, are required to pay the surcharge.

Let’s conclude with an ominous excerpt from the article. Even though prices already are very high, energy will get even more expensive in the future.

If the government sticks to its plans, the price of electricity will literally explode in the coming years. According to a current study for the federal government, electricity will cost up to 40 cents a kilowatt-hour by 2020, a 40-percent increase over today’s prices.

And isn’t it nice to know that Obama is doing everything he can to impose these policies in the United States?

This cartoon from Michael Ramirez is a perfect summary of Obama’s policy.

Ramirez Green Energy Cartoon

You can see why Ramirez won my political cartoonist contest.

P.S. I don’t like being the bearer of bad news, but green-energy subsidies are just one part of the statist/green agenda. The IMF, for instance, has recommended a huge carbon tax (about $5,500 per year for a family of four!) for the United States. A few gullible folks think this might not be a bad idea if the money gets used to lower other taxes, but they’re the same people who get suckered into buying oceanfront property in Kansas.

P.P.S. Germany may be more responsible (less irresponsible) than certain other European nations, but the country’s political elite is hopelessly statist. Even the supposedly pro-liberty political party tilts left and wants bigger government. Yet the Washington Post still thought it was appropriate and accurate to declare that Germany is “fiscally conservative.” Sure, and I’m a socialist.

P.P.P.S. But at least the mess in Europe has generated some amusing videos (here, here, and here), as well as a very funny set of maps.

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National defense is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government, but that doesn’t mean the military should get a blank check to spend unlimited amounts of money.

To make sure taxpayers get the best bang for the buck (no pun intended), there should be a sober assessment of threats to national security and a plan to defend against those threats without adding superfluous expenditures.

That being said, America already accounts for close to 50 percent of world military spending, with another 25 percent of the global total coming from nations that are allied to the United States, so I’m fairly confident that we’re not under-spending on the Pentagon.

That’s one of the reasons I don’t worry that much about the sequester, particularly since military spending actually climbs by about $100 billion over the next 10 years.

But I would like the Defense Department to have some flexibility to reallocate funds so that we spend money on national security rather than boondoggles.

And there are some absurd examples of waste at the Pentagon, including “green” jet fuel that costs 15 times as much as regular fuel. Here are some of the mind-boggling details from the Washington Examiner.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently warned that sequestration would cause “suspension of important activities, curtailed training, and could result in furloughs of civilian personnel” but the spending cuts haven’t killed the green fuels program, as the Pentagon has continued purchasing renewable fuel at $59 per gallon. “In March, Gevo entered into a contract with the Defense Logistics Agency to supply the U.S. Army with 3,650 gallons of renewable jet fuel to be delivered by the second quarter of 2013,” Gevo announced this week in its first quarter financial report. “This initial order may be increased by 12,500 gallons.

This is even worse than the bizarre $600,000 frog statue than the Defense Department selected to adorn a new $700 million office building.

Military Frog SculptureI realize that the $700 million office building should be the bigger issue, but I can’t help but be irked by the thought that taxpayers are being raped and pillaged for the frog.

In any event, the $700 million for the office building is pocket change compared to the amount of money we misallocate to subsidize Western Europe to protect against a Warsaw Pact military alliance that no longer exists!

Yes, it’s true that America’s main fiscal problem is entitlement spending. And, yes, domestic discretionary spending is a bigger problem than the defense budget.

But wasting money in those areas is not a reason to also have waste at the Pentagon.

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Back in 2010, I shared parts of a Dave Barry column that mocked the government for bizarre examples of stupid law enforcement.

Barry was specifically making fun of OSHA bureaucrats for fining a company for the horrible transgression of saving a worker when a trench collapsed. But there are many other examples of law enforcement run amok.

  1. The Food and Drug Administration raiding a dairy for the terrible crime of selling unpasteurized milk to people who prefer unpasteurized milk.
  2. New York City imposing a $30,000 fine on a small shop because it sold a toy gun.
  3. The pinheads at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission going after Hooters for not having any male waiters in hot pants and tight t-shirts.
  4. Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources is legally attacking a family for rescuing a baby deer.

And now we have another Kafkaesque episode.

Here are some of the strange details from a local newspaper.

Anthony Brasfield saw romance when he released a dozen heart-shaped balloons into the sky over Dania Beach with his sweetie. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper saw a felony. Brasfield, 40, and his girlfriend, Shaquina Baxter, were in the parking lot of the Motel 6 on Dania Beach Boulevard when he released the shiny red and silver mylar balloons and watched them float away Sunday morning. …Brasfield was charged with polluting to harm humans, animals, plants, etc. under the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act. …Between 2008 and 2012, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said there were 21 arrests statewide under the rarely used environmental crime statute. The third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Let’s now think about what this means.

We have a guy who almost certainly had no idea he was committing a crime. He presumably isn’t rolling in money since he was staying at a Motel 6. Yet now he faces a harder life because he has a felony arrest on his record.

I’m assuming, by the way, that the government surely won’t send him to prison. I’m also guessing – or at least hoping – that the state won’t even impose a heavy fine. And perhaps the prosecutor’s office will drop or reduce the charges so he won’t have a felony conviction on his record. Though maybe I’m being too generous in those assumptions.

Anyway, my main point is to question why the unfortunate Mr. Brasfield was arrested in the first place. What was the cop thinking, that a felony arrest would help fill his quota?

By the way, I’m not claiming that there shouldn’t be a rule against releasing balloons near a nature preserve. It may be that imposing some sort of sanction is the right way, from a cost-benefit perspective, to preserve and protect the environment.

But Mr. Brasfield wasn’t a big corporation dumping chemicals into the water with full knowledge of lawbreaking and potentially doing millions of dollars of damage. That’s the situation where felony arrests and prosecutions are completely appropriate.

Releasing a few balloons, by contrast, should be treated more like jaywalking or littering. Though I realize that would require common sense from lawmakers, law enforcement, and the justice system. So good luck with that.

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Regular readers may remember last year when I shared some remarkably silly data from the “Happy Planet Index,” which supposedly showed the United States ranked below very poor nations such as Cuba, Albania, and Venezuela.

Red is unhappy

It turns out that nations got lower grades based on their energy consumption. And since energy usage is one of the key indicators of prosperity, that explains why the United States also trailed such global garden spots as Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, Moldova, and Tajikistan.

Well, the authors of the Happy Planet Index are not the only ones who explicitly embrace stagnation and decline as a strategy to deal with so-called climate change. A leftist think tank in DC is now arguing that we should work less, which means we will produce less and consume less energy.

But that means we will earn less, and therefore consume less. In other words, they are openly asserting that we should all endure lower living standards.

Here are some excerpts from U.S. News and World Report.

Working fewer hours might help slow global warming, according to a new study released Monday by the Center for Economic Policy and Research. A worldwide switch to a “more European” work schedule…could prevent as much as half of the expected global temperature rise by 2100, according to the analysis, which used a 2012 study that found shorter work hours could be associated with lower carbon emissions. The Center for Economic Policy and Research is a liberal think tank based in Washington. “…lowering levels of consumption, holding everything else constant, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” writes economist David Rosnick, author of the study.

Gee, maybe we should be like Haiti and Afghanistan, the nations that “won” the top two spots for smallest “ecological footprint” in the Happy Planet Index.

Small carbon footprints!

I suppose this is the point where I should freely acknowledge that I’m not an expert on environmental issues.

But I am a big fan of wilderness and nature and I recognize that – unless we figure out a way to extend property rights to water and air – there is a role for government intervention.

But I’m nonetheless quite skeptical of professional environmentalists. Why? Well, here are a few reasons.

This is what we get from the sane environmentalists. The nutty ones are even more bizarre.

Then there’s the super-nutty category.

So perhaps global warming is a real concern, but I think you can understand why I don’t trust environmentalists to be in charge of the issue. Though Al Gore has lots of followers, so I guess that’s all that matters.

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As a public finance economist, I normally focus on big-picture arguments against excessive government.

If the public sector is too large, for instance, that undermines economic growth by diverting resources from the productive sector of the economy.

The damage is then compounded by a needlessly destructive and punitive tax system.

But I’ve also discovered that it helps to personalize the analysis by pointing out examples of ridiculous and wasteful behavior by government.

From England: The world’s most useless sign

That’s one of the reasons I share horror stories as part of the U.S. vs U.K. government stupidity contest.

Some actions by government, however, belong in a different category. I’m not sure what word I would choose to describe them – perhaps venal, evil, despicable, reprehensible, or disgusting would be good options.

Am I being overly dramatic? Perhaps, but is there any other reaction when the government persecutes a family with possible jail time for rescuing Bambi?

Here are some absurd and disturbing details from the Indianapolis Star.

When Connersville police officer Jeff Counceller first encountered the baby deer, she was curled up in the corner of a front porch.It was clear the fawn was injured. Counceller could see the wounds… If left to its own, the animal would surely die… So the Councellers took in the deer, which they named Dani, cleaned and dressed its wounds and nursed it back to health, all with the intention of turning it out into the wild once it was big enough and strong enough to have a chance on its own. …she was unable to stand, and her maggot-infested wound was ugly. The Councellers contacted DNR at the time but were told to return the deer to the wild and let nature take its course. “It would have been a death sentence,” Jeff said.

So the family did what any decent people would do. They nursed the deer back to health. But decency and government often are in conflict.

Trouble is, what the Councellers did is against the law. Now, more than two years after rescuing the deer, more than six months after conservation officers began an investigation, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources wants them prosecuted. …DNR officials began an investigation that entailed half a dozen visits to their home and numerous calls to local authorities. In July, the agency issued an eight-page report and asked for a special prosecutor from another county to handle the case. Why the charges are being sought now — six months later — isn’t clear.

Bureaucrats wanted to kill this baby deer

Bureaucrats wanted to kill this baby deer

I think the answer is obvious. The bureaucrats from the Department of Natural Resources are sulking because their imperious demands weren’t obeyed.

So they’re lashing out at an innocent family, as indicated by the following excerpts.

…when the DNR came calling, the Councellers say they were almost ready to release Dani back into the woods. They were just waiting for the summer drought to pass and the nearby corn crops to mature enough to offer cover and food for Dani. They say they weren’t aware it was illegal to keep the deer.

That’s when the bureaucratic nightmare began.

When the DNR began its investigation, the Councellers say the conservation officer suggested they obtain a rescue permit. But that was denied. Soon, the DNR said the deer must be euthanized, that it was a safety threat to humans.

Fortunately, an unknown good Samaritan intervened and freed Dani before the government could kill the helpless animal.

But on the day of Dani’s scheduled execution, the deer turned up missing, its enclosure left open. The Councellers say they didn’t arrange the escape or know how the deer was freed but acknowledge that they didn’t probe too deeply to find out.

But no good deed goes unpunished when spiteful bureaucrats are involved.

…there was nothing but silence from the DNR until the Councellers received notice of the charges earlier this month. They plan to fight the case, even though jail is unlikely and the lawyer costs — which could reach $5,000 — are significantly higher than a likely fine. It’s a matter of principle, they say. They don’t want to plead guilty for trying to help an animal and when they had no criminal intent.

Not surprisingly, the rest of the community is on the side of the deer (and the persecuted family). Indeed, there’s even a Facebook page for folks who want to register their displeasure with this example of government thuggery.

“People are outraged at the DNR and that the government has nothing better to do than harass these people,” said John Waudby, an Indianapolis man who created the Facebook page after hearing about the story. “Anybody in their right mind would have done the same thing.”

All things considered, this story from Indiana shouldn’t be part of the government stupidity and incompetence contest. Given the venality of the bureaucrats, it belongs with this list of horrifying examples of government thuggery.

In a just world, a court will immediately dismiss the charges against the Counceller family.

I would urge that the family then be awarded damages, but that’s not the right response. The bureaucrats would merely shrug and let taxpayers pick up the cost.

The only good outcome is to unceremoniously fire every bureaucrat who played a role in this outrageous episode.

Like most bureaucrats, I suspect the pinheads at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources are overpaid. So losing their pampered positions would be genuine punishment and it would send a message to the rest of the paper pushers not to harass innocent and good people.

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Rankings can be very useful tools, assuming the methodology is reasonable and the authors use robust data. I’ve cited many of them.

But I’ve also run into some really strange rankings since starting this blog, some of which are preposterous and others of which are rather subjective.

That last one was good for my ego. My only comment is that I wish that I had real influence.

Speaking of preposterous rankings, I have something new for the list.

There’s a group that puts out something called the “Happy Planet Index,” which supposedly is a “global measure of sustainable well-being.”

But it’s really an anti-energy consumption ranking, modified by life expectancy data along with some subjective polling data about lifestyles. And it leads to some utterly absurd conclusions.

Here’s their map of the world. All you really need to know is that it’s supposedly bad to be a red country.

I’m perfectly willing to agree that people in Afghanistan and Angola are not part of a “happy planet,” but do they really expect people to believe that the United States is in the bottom category?

I’m not being jingoistic. Yes, I am a patriot in the right sense of the word, so I would like the United States to be at the top of most rankings.

But my job is to criticize bad public policy, so my life would be rather dull if the crowd in Washington adopted a much-needed policy of benign neglect for the economy.

My real gripe is that some of the world’s main cesspools get high rankings. The United States is 105th according to the clowns who put together the rankings, while Cuba somehow came in 12th place.

Venezuela also ranks near the top, and other jurisdictions that score at least 50 places above America include Albania, Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, Moldova, and Tajikistan.

It’s not just that those nations all rank about the United States. They also are ahead of Sweden, Canada, Australia, Iceland, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

And I’d rather live in any of those nations than live in any of the ones I listed that got good scores according to the poorly named Happy Planet Index.

Heck, I’d also prefer to live in some of the nations that score even lower than the United States, such as Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, or Luxembourg.

The Luxembourg ranking is particularly absurd. It is down near the bottom, with a ranking of 138 and trailing such garden spots as Burkina Faso and the Congo.

But it also happens to be one of the world’s richest nations according to World Bank data, in part because it is a very good tax haven.

But the nuts who put together the Crazy Planet Index give Luxembourg the second-to-worst ranking for its “ecological footprint,” and I guess you’re supposed to be unhappy if you have enough wealth to use a lot of energy.

Gee, too bad Luxembourg couldn’t be more like the nations that get the highest rankings for their “ecological footprint.” The people of Afghanistan and Haiti must be very, very happy about that high honor.

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I’ve written many times about the dangers of a value-added tax. I obviously think it’s a bad idea as an add-on tax, but I also think it’s dangerous as a replacement tax.

Not because it’s a horrible tax from a theoretical perspective (like the flat tax and national sales tax, it’s a single-rate system with no double taxation of income that is saved and invested), but instead because I don’t trust politicians.

The VAT in Europe, for instance, almost surely played a role in enabling the huge expansion in the burden of government spending – thus helping to set the stage for the current fiscal crisis.

All these arguments also are equally relevant to the debate about imposing a carbon tax.

As with the VAT, there are features of a carbon tax that make it a less-destructive alternative when compared to other forms of taxation. The problem is that politicians wouldn’t permanently lower or eliminate any other tax, and the new revenues would be used to further expand the size and scope of the federal government.

Andy Quinlan of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity discusses the issue in a column for Forbes. Here are some key excerpts.

With the economy sputtering toward what can at best be described as a meager recovery, it seems like an obviously poor time to consider raising taxes on any form of energy. …Yet that is also precisely what an unholy coalition of big spending liberals and misguided conservative economists is proposing – to raise taxes on carbon and send the economy spiraling toward another recession. Last month, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced the “Managed Carbon Price Act of 2012,” a bill that would require greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 80% from 2005 levels over the next 42 years – ultimately leaving the United States with per capita emissions levels lower than that of Haiti today. …At the fifth annual National Clean Energy Summit held in Las Vegas last month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed his hope of enacting a carbon tax by next year. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer went as far as to say that she would like to see it included in a year-end budget deal. …The motives of the left in pushing for a tax are easy to understand, they want more “revenue” to spend. A recent paper from the MIT Global Change Institute estimated one carbon tax proposal would generate $1.5 trillion over ten years, and politicians and the media immediately began to salivate at the idea of using such a tax as an excuse to further expand the burden of government spending. …If the political climate was such that cap-and-trade or other big government carbon regulations were on the horizon, proffering a more economically efficient carbon tax as an alternative might not be a bad strategy from a do-the-wrong-thing-in-the-least-destructive-fashion perspective. But that is not the case. …More generally, the very idea of offering a new tax in exchange for lower rates elsewhere is flawed. Even if leftists agree to lower taxes on income to keep a new carbon tax revenue neutral, there’s nothing to stop them from raising rates in the future. On the other hand, given the love politicians have for taxes, eliminating an entire tax would be much harder. A similar logic can be seen in the experience of Europe, where less economically destructive value-added taxes did not replace income taxes, but instead helped usher in the bloated, unsustainable European welfare states which are today circling the drain.

Wow, Reid, Boxer, and McDermott. That’s like the Three Stooges of Statism.

But this isn’t a laughing matter. Politicians would love to get their greedy hands on $1.5 trillion of new tax revenue. And Quinlan points out in the article that some Republicans are sympathetic to the idea.

Keep in mind, by the way, that $1.5 trillion would be the floor, not the ceiling. As we’re seeing in Japan, politicians can’t resist boosting the rate whenever they want to spend more money.

P.S. Read this if you want to see what happens when politicians get a new source of revenue.

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A couple of weeks ago, before leaving for Europe, I stopped by the High Lonesome Ranch in De Beque, Colorado.

City slicker in the CO mountains

Controlling about 300 square miles, the High Lonesome is a remarkable spread. And if you like wildlife, you’re in Heaven.

It’s sort of akin to a private national park. And it shows how free markets are an excellent steward of natural resources.

The folks at the ranch brag about having the heaviest concentration of elk, deer, bear, and mountain lion in the country. That’s probably not easy to verify, but deer and elk are ubiquitous and I saw two bear on the trip (I also saw a badger on a previous visit).

The mountain lions are largely invisible, though the ranch has a project – as part of its education and conservation work – with some academics to monitor the range, feeding habits, and behavior of these impressive animals.

Another noteworthy feature of the ranch is the way hydrologists are protecting and restoring streams and ponds. They have an incentive to do this because people from around the country come to the High Lonesome for fly fishing.

Obviously not a very bright trout

I very much doubt that all this valuable work would take place if a bunch of bureaucrats were in charge of the property.

Or, if it did take place, it would take three times as long and cost five times as much thanks to the nightmarish incompetency and misaligned incentives of the government procurement process.

Hunting is another source of revenue that enables the ranch to preserve natural resources. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyhow in case some leftists read this) that this means the owners have a big incentive to protect wildlife and ensure a sustainable harvest.

Heck, there are now so many bear that they are almost at the point of being a nuisance animal.

I did a bit of fishing, as you can see from the photo with the remedial trout. Maybe I should try some hunting at some point.

The 2nd Amendment in action

But probably not bird hunting. The ranch is filled with pheasants, quail, chuckers, and other game birds, but I haven’t been overly impressive when I’ve tried the sporting clays. The clay that shoots straight in the air was particularly vexing. Fortunately, I doubt burglars would have that ability, so I’ll still be okay with home defense.

The Chi-coms better avoid Fairfax

While I wasn’t overly proficient with the shotgun, I think I did okay with the rifle. I was a bit high and to the left on the target range, but one of the guides said anything within the bigger orange square is a kill shot.

Then again, part of their job may be to stroke the egos of visitors from the cities and suburbs.

In any event, a bear hunt might be a good idea. I have a fireplace at home, and it might look nice with a bearskin rug in front of it. All I’d be missing, then, is a lovely lass to pose on it.

But I’m digressing. The point of this post is to simply note that this piece of property is something every environmentalist should applaud. And it’s all made possible by the free market and private property rights.

One final point: In the interests of full disclosure, I’m an officer in a company, created by a foreign investor, that owns about 50 percent of property. But that doesn’t influence my views. It’s my pre-existing belief in private property and the environment that made it very easy for me to say yes to the this opportunity.

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I’ve written about the government’s war on light bulbs, its rule against working toilets, and its prohibition of washing machines that actually clean, so I sometimes cover environmental issues.

But I usually limit myself to examples of silly radicalism, such as the crazy claim that climate change causes AIDS, a reprehensible example of EPA thuggery, and a column about pointless recycling mandates.

Notwithstanding these criticisms, environmental protection is a legitimate role of government. Simply stated, we don’t want polluters to violate our property rights.

The challenge, of course, is how to conduct sensible cost-benefit analysis.

Where do we draw the line, for instance, on how much pollution cars should be allowed to emit? Or what are the best rules to ensure landfills don’t pollute groundwater?

These are important issues, but I will admit a bias. I am instinctively skeptical whenever self-proclaimed environmentalists start pontificating.

In part, this is because everyone has an incentive to exaggerate. The business community will always say that a new regulation imposes astronomically high costs, while environmentalists will claim minimal costs and say that thousands of premature deaths will be averted.

Since exaggeration is omnipresent in Washington, that’s not what really bothers me. My main problem with environmentalists is that they want to use so-called green issues to give government more power. And if you oppose them, you’re an evil person.

Consider the example of Professor Kari Norgaard of the University of Oregon. She thinks you’re mentally ill if you don’t agree with her.

Just in case you think I’m being unfair, here are some blurbs from a report in the UK-based Daily Mail.

Prof. Kari Norgaard

An Oregon University professor has controversially compared skepticism of global warming to racism. …The professor, who holds a B.S. in biology and a master’s and PhD in sociology, argued that ‘cultural resistance’ to accepting humans as being responsible for climate change ‘must be recognised and treated’ as an aberrant sociological behaviour. …Norgaard last week attended the annual four-day ‘Planet Under Pressure’ international conference in London, where she presented her controversial paper to delegates on Wednesday.

Professor Norgaard wasn’t the only oddball at the conference. The article also mentions that the attendees included a bunch of control freaks who want to force people to live in densely-populated cities.

The scientists behind the event recently put out a statement calling for humans to be packed into denser cities so that the rest of the planet can be surrendered to mother nature. And fellow attendee Yale University professor Karen Seto told MSNBC: ‘We certainly don’t want them (humans) strolling about the entire countryside. We want them to save land for nature by living closely [together].’

The folks at the Commentator sent a camera to the conference. Here’s a five-minute sample of what they saw.

Remarkable.

But the folks at the conference weren’t even the crazies, or at least the really bizarre environmentalists weren’t part of the video. For instance, I didn’t see the folks who don’t believe in bathing, the ones who sterilize themselves to avoid carbon-producing children, or the ones who produce (or use) hand-cranked environmentally-friendly vibrators.

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In some recent polling data, most Americans expressed a negative view of the federal government, with many of them in another poll saying it poses an “immediate threat to citizens.”

That probably sounds extreme to some people, but this story about IRS abuse should be enough to convince any normal person the the federal government is despicable.

For another example, let’s look at a case involving the thugs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This Reason TV video provides the background.

This is a horrifying video to watch. Anybody with a shred of decency should be outraged.

Fortunately, all nine Supreme Court Justices sided with the property owners. I don’t know if they were outraged, but they made the right legal decision. The Wall Street Journal opined about the outcome.

These are hard times for economic liberty, but the Supreme Court on Wednesday offered a modest reason to hope. In a 9-0 ruling, they concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency can’t terrorize Americans via regulation without allowing them a day in court. …The case landed at the High Court after the Sacketts tried to appeal the wetlands designation. But the EPA refused to grant a review or lookback hearing, because an appeals process isn’t explicitly required by the Clean Water Act. Only after the EPA moved to enforce the compliance order would the Sacketts get their day in court. The EPA almost never needs to enforce, however, because disobeying a compliance order—even one that is later overturned—is legal proof in its mind of “willfulness” or a tacit admission of guilt. The only way to defend yourself is to break the law and therefore invite even higher penalties. The Sacketts claimed this Star Chamber violates their due process rights. …Congress ought to amend the Clean Water Act to make the law’s jurisdiction clearer. Meantime, the ordeal of the Sacketts shows once again how this agency with a $10 billion budget and 17,000 agents has become a regulatory tyranny for millions of law-abiding Americans.

Sadly, the decision still leaves the EPA thugs with too much power for discretionary abuse, as Brian Garst notes.

We’ve still got a long way to go to restore basic property rights in this country, and the Sackett’s still have to fight the EPA on the merits of the case as they seek to disprove the claim that their own property is a “wetland,” much less a “navigable water” of which the Act supposedly deals, despite having no water. But at least now they have their Constitutional due process rights recognized, so that they may challenge EPA’s jack-booted thugs in court without first having to rack up millions in fines waiting for EPA to allow them to do so.

But let’s enjoy at least a partial victory. I’m smiling today at the thought of unhappy bureaucrats at the EPA.

Last but not least, I want to acknowledge that government thuggery is not limited to the federal government in Washington.

Gee, do you detect a pattern?

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I posted the other day about the federal government giving $10 million of our tax dollars to a private company for developing an “affordable” light bulb that costs $50.

Now, thanks to the pen of Alexander Hoffman (creator of this gem), we have an excellent cartoon to commemorate this achievement.

Since we’re on this topic, I want to atone for an admission in my previous post (as noted by Seth, Bill, Dan, and Talon’s Point).

If you believe the calculations cited in the article from the post, it’s possible that this light bulb might save money in the long run. I should have noted that there are two possible interpretations of that data.

a) It’s wrong, which is what you’d expect from the crowd that routinely trumpets misleading data on everything from global warming to job creation.

b) It’s right, in which case there’s no need for a $10 million taxpayer handout since consumers will figure out that the bulbs save money.

Which is why, in the absence of war, I’ll relentlessly publicize this poster showing that more government is not the answer.

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I’ve written about the government’s war on consumer-friendly light bulbs (and also similar attacks on working toilets and washing machines that actually clean), so I’m generally not surprised by bureaucratic nonsense.

But even I’m shocked the federal government gave an affordability award for a light bulb that costs $50. I’m not making this up. Here’s a blurb from ABC News.

The U.S. government has awarded appliance-maker Philips $10 million for devising an “affordable” alternative to today’s standard 60-watt incandescent bulb. That standard bulb sells for around $1. The Philips alternative sells for $50. Of course, the award-winner is no ordinary bulb. It uses only one-sixth the energy of an incandescent. And it lasts 30,000 hours–about 30 times as long. In fact, if you don’t drop it, it may last 10 years or more. But only the U.S. Government (in this case, the Department of Energy) could view a $50 bulb as cheap.

Isn’t that wonderful? My tax dollars were used to reward a company that produced a light bulb I can’t afford.

Lisa Benson has a very good cartoon about this light bulb, as well as the less-than-shocking news that Obamacare will be more costly than originally forecast.

If you like Lisa’s work, there are some other good examples here and here.

Last but not least, I’m up in New York City for an investment funds conference about the Cayman Islands. Not a bad view from my window, though you need to click on the image to get a good idea of what I woke up to.

Too bad the state and the city are high-tax hell holes.

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Actually, I’m not sure this is humorous. Whether we’re looking at ethanol, Solyndra, or other green-energy scams that promote corruption and undermine the economy, this is not a laughing matter.

After all, we’re the taxpayers and consumers who are pushing this turkey up the hill.

I’m adding Lisa Benson to my list of good cartoonists. Her monopoly cartoon at this link (the second of the two cartoons) is also disturbingly accurate.

And if you like humor about energy policy, check out these three cartoons.

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Apologies to Charlton Heston for butchering his line about the Second Amendment, but I’m increasingly disgusted and irate about the looming light-bulb ban.

For more than a century, incandescent light bulbs have brightened our world.

But the 100-watt bulb doesn’t provide enough light to compensate for the dark and malignant impact of politicians. In less than one month, stores no longer will be allowed to sell these bulbs – and will force us to use toxic bulbs instead.

So let’s bid a fond farewell to quality lighting – and part of our liberty – with this new video from Reason TV.

Speaking of videos, here’s a good speech on the issue by Congressman Poe of Texas.

By the way, this idiotic idea is another dismal legacy of the statist Bush presidency.

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I’ve commented on the corruption of the Solyndra scandal, but it’s important to understand this is not just a story of sleaze.

From an economic perspective, the real problem is that green-energy programs cause a misallocation of capital. Simply stated, government intervention diverts resources from more productive uses.

Here are a couple of examples, explained in videos put together by Senator Jim DeMint’s office.

The first video shows how a subsidiary of Coca-Cola used White House favoritism to subsidize its energy costs.

And the second video explains how a Spanish company, thanks to the Obama White House, benefited from industrial policy.

And what’s the economic impact of these forms of crony capitalism? I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation, estimating that there’s about $160,000 of investment for every real job in the private sector.

Click here to listen to the list of green-energy programs that create jobs more efficiently.

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Or maybe this should also be categorized as Obamacare humor.

In any event, you are forewarned that his is a bit risqué, so I’ve turned it into an image and you can click on the thumbnail at your own risk.

If you appreciate jokes that poke fun at bureaucratic insanity, especially when it involves environmental overkill, then here are two really good jokes.

First, what would happen if Noah tried to build an Ark today.

Second, an exchange of “dam” letters between a bureaucrat and a property owner. I suspect this is an urban legend, but it’s funny because it could be true.

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I chat with Neil Cavuto about the “perfect storm” of bad government policy.

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The Pope took a couple of days off to visit the mountains of Wyoming for some sightseeing. He was cruising the wilderness in the popemobile when there was a frantic commotion just at the edge of the woods. A helpless hippie, wearing sandals, shorts, a “Save the Whales” hat, and a “Greenpeace” T-shirt, was screaming while struggling frantically and trying to free himself from the grasp of a 10-foot grizzly.

The Pope then saw a group of loggers come racing up. One quickly fired a .44 magnum into the bear’s chest. The other two reached up and pulled the bleeding, semiconscious environmental from the bear’s grasp. Then using long clubs, the three loggers finished off the bear and two of them threw it onto the bed of their truck while the other tenderly placed the injured activist in the back seat.

As they prepared to leave, the Pope summoned them to come over. “I give you my blessing for your brave actions!” he told them. “I heard there was a bitter hatred between loggers and environmental activists, but now I’ve seen with my own eyes that this is not true.”

As the Pope drove off, one of the loggers asked his buddies, “Who was that guy?”

“It was the Pope,” another replied. “He’s in direct contact with heaven and has access to all wisdom.”

“Well,” the logger said, “he may have access to all wisdom, but he sure doesn’t know anything about bear hunting! By the way, is the bait holding up, or do we need to go back to Massachusetts and get another one?”

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My post earlier today nailed Obama for imposing new regulations that will require us to spend more for new cars while exempting himself from abiding by the same rules.

Sticking with that general theme, there’s a great cartoon from The Corner at NRO.

Switching to the budget fight, I’ve written about the overwrought rhetoric from politicians and their big-government allies, who want us to believe that tiny spending cuts would ravage the federal budget (we should be so lucky). This second cartoon from NRO is a good description of the faux-panic being spread by special interest groups trying to protect their spots at the federal trough.

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I don’t like it when politicians pass laws that undermine the freedom and prosperity of the American people. But I really hate it when politicians pass those laws and exempt themselves.

Years ago, as a lowly Senate staffer, I recall watching a debate about whether politicians were going to increase fuel economy regulations and thus force people into cars that were smaller, less convenient, and less safe. One good Senator, I think perhaps Don Nickles of Oklahoma, offered an amendment that basically would have forced bigwigs on Capitol Hill to live by the same rules by requiring limousines for congressional leaders to meet the same onerous restrictions. Needless to say, the arrogant political class thought this was absurd and to this day they get driven in luxury gas guzzlers (paid for by you and me).

We now have another version of this laws-for-thee-but-not-for-me mentality from the Obama Administration. No, I’m not talking about Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary who is in charge of the Internal Revenue Service but got a free pass after illegally hiding $80,000 of income from the IRS. I’m talking about the President and his personal fleet of limousines.

He wants us to abide by rules that will be expensive and lower the quality of cars, but those rules won’t apply to him. Here’s what the Detroit News reported.

The U.S. Secret Service said today that some federal vehicles for law enforcement and security purposes will be exempt from President Barack Obama’s directive that all federal vehicles purchased starting 2015 be advanced technology models. Secret Service spokesman Robert Novy said the directive wouldn’t apply to vehicles used for some law enforcement or security reasons by various federal agencies. …That would include the GM-built Cadillac presidential limousine and other vehicles in the motorcade. It also expected to include many law enforcement vehicles.

Not surprisingly, this is completely contrary to what the President said he would do, as noted elsewhere in the article. Unless, of course, you think “100 percent” means something other than “100 percent.”

Obama announced the plan this week to “green” the federal fleet. “I’m directing our departments and our agencies to make sure 100 percent of the vehicles they buy are fuel-efficient or clean energy cars and trucks by 2015.Not 50 percent, not 75 percent — 100 percent of our vehicles,” Obama said today at an appearance in Landover, Md., at UPS facility to urge private companies to green their vehicle fleets.

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Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has a withering critique of dumb government policies that have taken away our freedom to buy low-cost and effective washing machines and instead forced us to buy expensive machines that don’t do a good job of cleaning our clothes.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that politicians are undermining our quality of life. These are the same jackasses, after all, that are in the process of requiring us to use crummy light bulbs. And they’ve already coerced us into ridiculous “low-flow” toilets that don’t work very well if you happen to…um…deposit something that reminds you of Washington.

Here’s an excerpt from Sam’s column, but read the whole piece since he also discusses how the Senate wants to make a bad situation even worse, and he also reveals how corrupt big businesses favor these mandates so they can eliminate low-cost options.

…for decades the top-loading laundry machine was the most affordable and dependable. Now it’s ruined—and Americans have politics to thank. …The culprit is the federal government’s obsession with energy efficiency. Efficiency standards for washing machines aren’t as well-known as those for light bulbs, which will effectively prohibit 100-watt incandescent bulbs next year. Nor are they the butt of jokes as low-flow toilets are. But in their quiet destruction of a highly affordable, perfectly satisfactory appliance, washer standards demonstrate the harmfulness of the ever-growing body of efficiency mandates. The federal government first issued energy standards for washers in the early 1990s. When the Department of Energy ratcheted them up a decade later, it was the beginning of the end for top-loaders. …Front-loaders meet federal standards more easily than top-loaders. Because they don’t fully immerse their laundry loads, they use less hot water and therefore less energy. But, as Americans are increasingly learning, front-loaders are expensive, often have mold problems, and don’t let you toss in a wayward sock after they’ve started. When the Department of Energy began raising the standard, it promised that “consumers will have the same range of clothes washers as they have today,” and cleaning ability wouldn’t be changed. That’s not how it turned out. …even though these newer types of washers cost about twice as much as conventional top-loaders, overall they didn’t clean as well as the 1996 models. …We know that politics can be dirty. Who’d have guessed how literal a truth this is?

Hat tip to Advice Goddess.

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This is beautiful. It’s so refreshing to have a handful of Republicans who actually understand that their job is promoting freedom.

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Regular readers of this blog already know (see here, here, and here) that I’m not a big fan of the new “CFL” light bulbs that we will be forced to use in a couple of years.

In a more entertaining fashion, here’s a video from a few years ago, featuring a Republican Congressman railing against the new bulbs.

Repealing the idiotic mandate for these inferior bulbs should be a gimme for the new Republican majority. Somehow, though, I predict they’ll screw up and leave the requirement in place.

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I’ve already commented here and here on the government forcing us to use inferior lightbulbs.

The bad news is becoming worse news. Here’s a story from England that was linked on Instapundit, showing how big business (which conspired with the politicians to get rid of high-quality incandescent bulbs) will now reap a windfall selling the new CFL bulbs at much higher prices. Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Mail.

The price of energy-saving light bulbs will treble as the final supplies of traditional bulbs dry up, industry experts have warned. The Government has ordered energy companies to scrap the subsidies that have kept the price of eco-bulbs artificially low for the last few years. At the same time, manufacturers are increasing wholesale prices to take advantage of the European ban on ‘energy guzzling’ old-style bulbs. Retailers also claim bulbs that currently cost only 33p are expected to sell for more than £1 within three months. Some will cost £3 or more. The move comes as Britain is gearing up to phase out the last incandescent light bulbs in an effort to meet climate change targets. The EU has already banned shops from buying stocks of 100watt bulbs and stopped them stocking up on any type of frosted incandescent bulbs.

The only silver lining to this dark cloud is that (at least I don’t think) CFLs are not subsidized in the United States. So while it is likely that prices will increase once there no longer is competition from incandescent bulbs, hopefully American consumers will not face the same big price hikes as their British cousins.

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In a previous post, I gave Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana a verbal kick in the shins because the rumored-to-be presidential candidate said nice things about a value-added tax.

While the VAT is a despicable idea, I don’t want anybody to think I harbor a special animosity for Governor Daniels. I am very skeptical of all politicians.

So let’s kick someone else in the shins, and we’ll make Newt Gingrich today’s target. I’ve actually known Newt since 1978, when I was a weekend volunteer for his first winning campaign while a student at the University of Georgia. And I think Newt was a superb Minority Leader for the GOP and he deserves considerable credit for dethroning the Democrats in 1994.

But that doesn’t mean he would be a good President, particularly when (to my knowledge) has not recanted this nauseating commercial he made with Nancy Pelosi.

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Here’s a new video from the Taxpayers Alliance in the United Kingdom exposing how left-wing environmental groups get funded by government handouts.

David Cameron supposedly is being tough on spending, but I’ve already revealed that overall spending is climbing at about twice the rate of inflation under his new budget. And I’m not holding my breath that he’ll reduce the taxpayer handouts shown in this video.

But we Americans can’t be smug because the federal budget also is riddled with all sorts of giveaways and subsidies to left-wing groups. Labor unions, AARP, and Planned Parenthood are just a few of the groups that have their snouts in the public trough. And I would be shocked to learn that environmental groups haven’t figured out how to scam taxpayers as well.

Back in the 1990s, GOPers had a campaign to “defund the left.” Whatever progress they made, though, had since been completely erased. As Republicans in the House try to figure out ways to restore fiscal sanity, eliminating handouts for left-wing groups would be a great place to start.

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Last year, I commented on a handful of crazed environmentalists who were sterilizing themselves because children boost carbon emissions. I thought this was a wonderful form of natural selection since it meant at least some statists weren’t passing on their…um…peculiar genes.

We have a related story, which also comes from the United Kingdom. Some nutjobs have launched an anti-bathing campaign because it is bad (so we are told) to use water and emit carbon. Having traveled extensively in Europe, I can say from painful experience that there already are lots of people who are on board with this effort, though I doubt it’s because they are environmentally sensitive.

Since I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, I’m looking at the bright side of this development. I suspect that dirty, smelly, and greasy people are less attractive to the opposite sex. This probably means they are less likely to reproduce, so we should look at this as an indirect form of natural selection. It’s not a sure-fire approach, like the story mentioned above, but one hopes that it will reduce the birth rates of oddball leftists. Here’s a blurb from the The Guardian.

In a bid to reduce his carbon footprint to the absolute minimum, environmentalist Donnachadh McCarthy, 51, limits his showers to about twice a week. “The rest of the time I have a sink wash,” he says. “I believe that I’m as clean as everyone else.” It has helped him to get his water consumption down to around 20 litres a day – well below the 100 to 150 average in the UK. As McCarthy points out, it’s only recently that we have expected people to bathe or shower every day. “When I was a kid,” he says, “the normal thing was to bathe once a week.” Head much further back into history, and we find Elizabeth I bathing once a month, and James I apparently only ever washing his fingers. In 1951, almost two-fifths of UK homes were without a bath, and in 1965, only half of British women wore deodorant. Now we have begun to fetishise extreme cleanliness, to create the kind of culture where, as McCarthy says, it’s not entirely unusual for people staying in hotels to churn through 1,000 litres of water a day – showering in the morning, after a sauna, after the swimming pool, before dinner, before bed. The international market for soaps of all kinds is now $24bn a year. And some dermatologists fear that this intense, regular washing is stripping our skin of germs that could actually be beneficial to us, that help our skin stay healthy, balanced and fresh.

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Jeff Jacoby analyzes the absurd tendency of local governments to coerce residents into costly – and inefficient – recycling programs. As a resident of Fairfascist…oops, I mean Fairfax…County in Virginia, I already am painfully aware of this bureaucratic impulse.
….recyclables will all go into 64-gallon “toters,’’ which will be emptied at curbside on trash day. …Then I start reading the fine print. It turns out that when the town says it is “eliminating sorting,’’ what it means is that glass bottles and jars can be recycled, but not drinking glasses or window glass. It means plastic tubs are OK to toss in the toter, but plastic bags aren’t. It means that while cardboard boxes must be flattened, milk and juice cartons must not be flattened. Reams of office paper are fine, but not the wrappers they came in. Tinfoil should be crushed into balls of 2 inches or larger; tin cans shouldn’t be crushed at all. I don’t think the green police will haul me off in handcuffs if I try to recycle an ice cream carton or a pizza box, but the town has warned that “there will be fines’’ for residents whose “recycling protocols’’ don’t measure up to “basic community standards.’’ …To be fair, things could be worse. Clevelanders will soon have to use recycling carts equipped with radio-frequency ID chips, the Plain Dealer reported last month. These will enable the city to remotely monitor residents’ compliance with recycling regulations. “If a chip shows a recyclable cart hasn’t been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor will sort through the trash for recyclables. Trash carts containing more than 10 percent recyclable material could lead to a $100 fine.’’ In Britain, where a similar system is already in place, fines can reach as high as $1,500. …Does any of this make sense? It certainly isn’t economically rational. Unlike commercial and industrial recycling — a thriving voluntary market that annually salvages tens of millions of tons of metal, paper, glass, and plastic — mandatory household recycling is a money loser. Cost studies show that curbside recycling can cost, on average, 60 percent more per ton than conventional garbage disposal. In 2004, an analysis by New York’s Independent Budget Office concluded, according to the New York Times, that “it cost anywhere from $34 to $48 a ton more to recycle material, than to send it off to landfills or incinerators.’’ “There is not a community curbside recycling program in the United States that covers its cost,’’ says Jay Lehr, science director at the Heartland Institute and author of a handbook on environmental science. They exist primarily to make people “feel warm and fuzzy about what they are doing for the environment.’’ But if recycling household trash makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy, why does it have to be compulsory? Mandatory recycling programs “force people to squander valuable resources in a quixotic quest to save what they would sensibly discard,’’ writes Clemson University economist Daniel K. Benjamin. “On balance, recycling programs lower our wealth.” Now whose idea of exciting is that?

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National Review has a column reviewing a new book, 3 Billion and Counting, that dissects the harsh human cost of banning DDT. There are things that should be banned, of course, but such decisions should be based on sound science and cost-benefit analysis. Sadly, that’s not what happened with the politically-motivated decision to ban this particular pesticide. 
3 Billion and Counting, which premieres this Friday in Manhattan, was produced by Dr. Rutledge Taylor, a California physician who specializes in preventive medicine. His film will both shock and anger you. DDT was first synthesized in 1877, but it was not until 1940 that a Swiss chemist demonstrated that it could kill insects without any harm to humans. It was introduced into widespread use during World War II and became the single most important pesticide in maintaining human health for the next two decades. The scientist who discovered the insecticidal properties of DDT, Dr. Paul Müller, was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on DDT. (In the 1940s and 1950s the chemical was the “secret” ingredient in a popular new cocktail, the Mickey Slim: gin, with a pinch of DDT.) In 1962, Rachel Carson’s lyrical but scientifically flawed book, Silent Spring, argued eloquently, but erroneously, that pesticides, especially DDT, were poisoning both wildlife and the environment – and also endangering human health. …In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), DDT spraying had reduced malaria cases from 2.8 million in 1948 to 17 in 1963. After spraying stopped, malaria cases rose sharply, reaching 2.5 million over the next decade. Scientists have never found an effective substitute for DDT — and so the malaria death rate has kept on soaring.

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