Ain’t that America?

4 Jun

E&E News’ Climatewire (subscription) asks the question this morning, “Will the Midwest turn its back on addressing climate change?”  Using Michigan as a jumping-off point (at 14 percent unemployment, you’d be jumping off too…), the article suggests that gubernatorial changes could result in backsliding on climate initiatives like regional greenhouse gas accords, renewable investments, etc:

The Great Lakes region is facing a potential 180-degree turn on energy and climate, with the governor’s races in Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois ranked as tossups or “lean Republican” by analysts such as the Cook Political Report. Iowa, which abuts both Michigan and Illinois, also is in a too-close-to-call contest.

Couldn’t this phenomenon be better explained by the extremely tight budgets and skyrocketing unemployment in the Midwest, rather than party dynamics?  Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois are all well above the national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent.  On top of that, you have had many Republican and moderate Democrats also supportive of state climate initiatives, including Governor Schwarzenegger and former Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. of Utah, suggesting that the driving force is less partisan politics and more constituency demands. 

Furthermore, these heartland states, as hubs of manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries, have the most to lose under any regulatory program (whether regional, national, or international) restricting emissions. The Heritage foundation’s August 2009 analysis of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill found that:

Because the distribution of energy-intensive jobs across the country is unequal, some states and congressional districts will be hit particularly hard. Notable among the most adversely affected states throughout the duration of the bill are: Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Idaho, and Alabama. Some states, such as Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, and Nebraska are most adversely affected when the policy first takes effect, while other states, such as Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, are among the hardest-hit states by 2035.

There seems to be a fair amount of overlap between the most-affected states and the states potentially backsliding on climate change- all it took was a recession to convince them.  More state-by-state evidence is available from the National Association of Manufacturers/American Council for Capital Formation’s 2009 study of cap-and-trade impact, which found the following potential reductions in economic growth by 2030 for the aforementioned states under Waxman-Markey-style carbon constraints:

  • Iowa: Up to $4.9 billion
  • Illinois: Up to $24.1 billion
  • Michigan: Up to $16.5 billion
  • Minnesota: Up to $10.1 billion
  • Ohio: Up to $18.9 billion
  • Wisconsin: Up to $9.3 billion



The Perfect is the Enemy of the… State

3 Jun

Glenn Thrush at Politico reports on efforts by Michigan politicians to intervene on behalf of Armando Galarraga and perfection.  My favorite part:

[Michigan Governor Jennifer] Granholm issued a proclamation:

“Whereas, pitching a perfect game is considered one of the crowning achievements of sport, attained only 20 times in the history of Major League Baseball; and,

“Whereas, a perfect game is defined as when a pitcher or pitchers retire each batter during the course of a game lasting at least nine innings; and,

“Whereas, Armando Galarraga retired all 27 players in order, a feat no Tigers pitcher has ever accomplished; and,

“Whereas, an umpire’s missed call resulted in Armando Galarraga being charged a hit that clearly should have been an out; and,

“Whereas, the umpire graciously admitted his mistake after the game ended; and,

“Whereas, video replays unmistakably show Galarraga to have retired all batters;

“Now, Therefore, be it Resolved that I, Jennifer M. Granholm, governor of the state of Michigan, do hereby declare Armando Galarraga to have pitched a perfect game, and I join Tigers fans all across the globe in saluting his unassailable accomplishment — the first perfect game in Tigers history.”

Doesn’t Governor Granholm have more important matters to attend to?  What’s that?  No?  Definitely not? Fair enough.  Perfect.


3 Jun

The AP implies some sort of ideological impurity in conservatives/tea party activists* asking for federal assistance in dealing with the Gulf oil spill.  I know this sort of copy-and-paste journalism is easier than actually trying to understand either conservative political philsophy (as opposed to, say, anarchy) or thinking about the vapidity of the academics you are quoting, but come on.  Sigh:

Take Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican elected in 2007 when Democrat Kathleen Blanco opted not to seek re-election after she was widely panned for a bumbling response to Hurricane Katrina two years earlier.

Since April 20, when a gulf rig exploded and blew out an underwater oil well about 50 miles south of Louisiana, Jindal has been a ubiquitous presence in the fishing communities and barrier islands along his state’s fragile coastline. He’s been out on boats and up in Blackhawk helicopters, doors open, to survey the spreading, rust-colored swath of crude.

Jindal, a possible 2012 presidential candidate, has demanded a stronger response from the Obama administration, accusing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of dragging its feet in approving Louisiana’s plans for protective berms — a plan that took three weeks to approve.

“This oil threatens not only our coast and our wetlands, this oil fundamentally threatens our way of life in southeastern Louisiana,” Jindal said last week.

Jindal is a fiscal conservative who made headlines last year by rejecting some federal stimulus money, then distributing other stimulus funds by handing out oversized cardboard checks to local officials.

Louisiana State University political science professor Kirby Goidel said Jindal’s call for larger federal involvement in the oil spill management contradicts the governor’s usual persona.

“He’s governor largely because of Katrina,” Goidel said. “He knows that it’s important to get out on top of it and be clear if the federal government is not doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s important for people to know that.”

Goidel said he’s not surprised small-government conservatives would seek help from Washington in a disaster that threatens the Gulf’s water quality and everything that depends on it, from the shrimping industry to tourism.

“I think it’s a pretty predictable response: ‘We’ve got a problem that’s beyond our control. Get the federal government in here to take control,'” Goidel said.

Oi.  I’m not going to post a play-by-play of the federal failures that precipitated (caused?) the spill, as the facts on MMS mismanagement are not totally in and others have already done a better job than I am capable.  However, I will point out three things that bug the hell out of me about this piece:

1. You can’t seriously think that asking for federal assistance in cleaning up the spill violates some conservative ethic, can you?  Over the years, Republicans have talked about abolishing a number of federal programs, but I am almost certain that federal emergency assistance in response to crises emanating from federal lands wasn’t a high-priority target.  Add to this the fact that the number one complaint from Jindal was foot-dragging by the federal government to approve his coastal protection proposal for several weeks, and this theme seems even sillier.
2. In spite of his well-documented lack of State of the Union-responding abilities, I am a big fan of Governor Jindal.  He is not, though, a fire-breathing conservative nor a libertarian.  He is a pragmatic problem-solver with excellent managerial skills and mediocre public relations abilities.  The claim that “[h]e’s governor largely because of Katrina” is highly misleading.  His primary campaign was so convincing that he did not even need the nearly-automatic Louisiana runoff election, despite following a natural disaster of an emergency response that was, in large part, blamed on the incumbent Republican President (Did I mention that this was in 2007, in between national drubbings of by-the-book Republicans in ’06 and ’08?).
3. I understand the “gotcha” appeals of these “conservatives violate their small government principles!” stories every time a Republican Governor accepts federal money or a limited government conservative requests an earmark, but they are really uncompelling.  Any person, regardless of how ideologically committed, must make certain compromises and sacrifices in order to work within the system that exists at the time.  This conundrum is even more marked in the context of public officials that, in spite of their campaign themes, represent diverse constituencies.  I am no more troubled by Ron Paul’s earmarks or Governor Schwarzenegger accepting stimulus money than I am about Al Gore’s greenhouse gas emissions.
*Can we just call you all conservatives or libertarians yet?  I understand the desire to not be pinned down by partisan affiliation, but it would really reduce unnecessary verbiage, painful cable news specials by Chris Matthews on the “Rise of the New Right,” and confusing endorsements by random institutions claiming to speak for the movement. 

Opiates & Masses

3 Jun

I am hoping to have a review up shortly of the recent book  The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion Versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America by Robert H. Nelson of the University of Maryland and CEI.  Short version: While I am a bit tired of the “environmentalism = religion” meme, Nelson takes a much more scholarly, comparative, and nuanced approach than the less-reliable rants at or the annual anti-Earth Day barrage of op-eds from the Ayn Rand Institute (which, ironically, sometimes appear to be recycled…).  While Nelson’s economics vs. environmentalism framing reduces the need for this semantic discussion, I am still a bit troubled by the literal use of religion to describe what I would generally refer to as a worldview, doctrine, framework, or ideology.  In light of this post promising to publish a review soon, here is Professor Nelson talking about some related issues to whet your appetite:

Babies & Oily Bathwater

1 Jun

No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, the BP oil spill is obviously a game-changing event for both the 2010 elections and near-term energy policy.  In spite of that, my thinking thus far has been that in the longer-term, the Macondo spill would probably not have a significant effect on our energy mix for a couple of reasons.  First, given the absence of widespread electrification or competitive transportation alternatives, the only alternatives to offshore domestic oil exploration are importing additional oil (with subsequent tanker spill concerns that have been mentioned on every cable TV news show) or expanding exploration of unconventional oil sources on the continent.  Second, considering the widespread and irrational support for ‘energy independence’ (which always seems to coincidentially reach a fever pitch in November of every even-numbered year….), I figured the domestic leasing process would return to business-as-usual in a few months.  In other words, I thought the Administration’s actions to postpone leases would provide short-term political cover until a clearly identifiable culprit could be blamed (most likely a specific technological issue with the blowout preventer or a specific bureacratic failure of a recently-departed MMS employee). 

I am now, though, seriously rethinking my nonchalance about the Administration’s short-term decisions in light of this excellent explanation at ENERGY OUTLOOK:

[T]he President’s decision will compound the economic damage to a Gulf Coast already reeling from the impact of the spill.

We should take some consolation that the President didn’t shut down the 591 deepwater wells that are already producing oil and gas in the Gulf. The mere fact that this was reported suggests it had probably been under serious consideration. As I’ve noted on numerous occasions in the last several weeks, the oil and gas we produce from the Outer Continental Shelf is a crucial source of domestic energy and vital to our energy security. However, that importance also extends to our offshore drilling capacity, which was put at risk by this decision.

After an event like this spill, no one should expect things to continue exactly as they were. However, the New York Times is right to call the President’s response “partly a political exercise aimed at showing that his administration is on top of the unfolding disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.” Instead of singling out the companies that were directly involved in the Deepwater Horizon accident for this time-out to prevent further spills, he has chosen to punish the entire industry and all its stakeholders in the region, including the most safety-conscious and diligent operators with unblemished records. Halting all of BP’s projects, or even all projects involving Transocean, could have been defended as a sensible precaution. Freezing everything looks like the act of an administration that is so out of its depth in this situation that its fundamental instinct is to eliminate any possibility of another problem from this source on its watch. Unfortunately, American energy consumers will be paying for years for this extreme level of risk aversion.

On the Highway to the Endangered Zone

1 Jun

Over at MasterResource, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Marlo Lewis offers a definitive takedown of the various objections to S.J.Res.26, Senator Murkowski’s disapproval resolution to rein in EPA Clean Air Act authority over greenhouse gas emissions.  Focusing on the arguments offered by former EPA Administrator Russell Train in a letter to Senate leadership, Lewis gets it right in terms of both the constitutional issues with EPA’s Clean Air Act expansion as well as the practical incongruence of such an approach.  It is definitely worth the read.

While Lewis is more concerned about the establishment of  national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for greenhouse gases, I am perhaps more troubled by the less-obviously problematic enforcement of an array of technology-forcing standards on individual products/industries, including medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, aircraft, ocean-going vessels, and nonroad vehicles.  NAAQS for greenhouse gas emissions would obviously affect a larger swath of business in a shorter timeframe, but the thought of a combination of a tailored ambient standard with a series of individual product technology-forcing standards by EPA bureaucrats keeps me awake at night.  While the recent experience of joint EPA/NHTSA rulemaking  on light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas emissions & fuel economy may have calmed some people’s fears about EPA’s potential interventions, I am certainly not one of them.  EPA’s light-duty vehicle rule involvement was made much easier by the existing blue print (backed by decades worth of NHTSA experience) for CAFE implementation and the general similarities of all vehicles within the class.  Given that Clean Air Act authority offers the ability to develop standards related to fuel efficiency, fuel content, vehicle technology, and use, there could easily be complete overhaul of much more sensitive industries within the fields of transportation, trade, and recreation.

While Obama will inevitably veto any resolution, there are also some very interesting election year politics and mass communicatin’ that may be seen in the June 10 vote.  If I was a betting man, I’d guess that the Murkowski resolution would be narrowly defeated.  However, I imagine there will be enough Democratic support to pass a compromise version of something similar to Senator Rockefeller’s resolution that would disapprove of  EPA regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary industrial sources (and will likely be amended to include language in support of EPA’s tailoring rule).  This approach appears mealy-mouthed enough of a conclusion to satisfy electioneering politicians, while avoiding the overhyped concerns expressed by Administrator Jackson about the effect of Murkowski’s resolution on the light-duty vehicle rule.  However, the intensity of grassroots opposition to anything resembling cap-and-tax (perhaps thrid only to health care objections and concerns and taxes generally) combined with the experience of the Senate  voting overwhelmingly  at the beginning of the session to prohibit the use of reconciliation for a climate change bill makes me think that we could see something unexpected on the Murkowski resolution.


29 May

Probably not a good sign to begin a blog with a digression, but World Cup fever has taken hold and I can’t resist Pinkerton-era Weezer nostaglia: