Impudence, Sir, Sheer Impudence

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In his history of England, the great classical liberal Thomas Macaulay continually used the word “impudent” to describe the proceedings of the English kings as they labored to find new ways of invading their subjects’ liberties. The word has ironic truth. We think of someone as “impudent” when he lodges obnoxious objections to the doings of people holding justified authority — but unjustified authority is impudence as well, and it is almost always worse.

This is the year of impudence.

President Obama impudently spends trillions he doesn’t have, and sends the bill to us, and future generations, as if only he and his friends mattered. His friends, in turn, spend virtually all their time telling us things that aren’t true, as if we weren’t smart enough to detect the fraud.

Government labor unions impudently insist that the nation, and the citizens of every state and city, must bankrupt themselves in order to provide luxurious retirements for people who, in many cases, impudently didn’t do a lick of work while they were “employed.”

Now justifiably-former Senator Santorum impudently lectures a nation of other adults about the evils of the “pandemic” of “pornography,” insisting that he knows it is “toxic” for marriages, “relationships,” and, I suppose, the birds and the bees, and promising that he will try to ban it.

Anyone who knows anything about what Santorum’s website calls “relationships” can think of some that may have been saved by the judicious use of “pornography.” (Yes, and some that may have been harmed. Is that the business of the law, or Sexologist in Chief Santorum?) And it would be funny, if it weren’t so cruel, to think about federal agents swooping down on some 90-year-old widower in North Dakota who, like the old bathtub-gin artists, whiled away his hours making his own dirty stories and pictures, and possibly purveying them to some other old degenerate.

But the major effect of Santorum’s remarks — nay, of his very being — is impudence, sheer impudence. Who does this man think he is? What item in the Republicans’ limited-government agenda does he suppose gives him, or any other politician, the right to act as Father Inquisitor to fellow adults?

Of all the year’s disgusting performances, this, to me, is the most disgusting, because it is the most impudent.

So far.




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A Step in the Right Direction

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When there is good news, I will report it. In our mathematically “challenged” country, when people add 2 and 2 and — finally! — get 4, I will celebrate. I’m just that kind of guy.

To the idiocy of recent American energy policy — to the extent we have ever had one — I have devoted considerable attention in these pages. I’ve criticized it under Bush, and even more under Obama, because while Bush’s policy (which was to encourage both fossil fuel and “green energy”) was partly idiotic (the green part), Obama’s (which has been to end fossil fuels and substitute only green energy) has been completely, insanely idiotic.

But the free market, led by entrepreneurs (as opposed to academics, bureaucrats, or other parasites), working primarily on private property (as opposed to public lands, which this administration has locked away), and using private capital (as opposed to taxpayer money), has created a Renaissance of oil and natural gas production.

Even as solar, wind, and biofuel energy has generally proven economically unviable even with massive taxpayer subsidies, the new, unconventional, fossil fuel production — from sources such as shale formations and oil sands deposits, by hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling — has proven very viable, commercially. It has proven viable, please note, despite a firestorm of new regulations created by the Obama administration, which is eager to choke it off.

That's good news. Here's more.

The symbol of our idiotic energy policy is surely the Chevy Volt, produced by a socialized auto company but poorly received by almost all of society. It has been so poorly received that Government Motors has announced that it is suspending production of the “Sparky Lemon.” Even with massive federal and state subsidies, the whole EV concept has been a flop.

But a recent article in the WSJ reports some good news. A number of car makers are producing cars and trucks that can run on compressed natural gas (CNG), that now inexpensive and clean-burning fuel.

Start with Chrysler. It is announcing plans to build a line of bi-fuel (gas and CNG) powered Ram trucks. And GM is announcing that it will build bi-fuel Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Siena pickups in the fourth quarter of this year.

Honda Motor Company (not being government-run!) is nimbler. It has been selling CNG Civics since 1998 at 200 dealerships spread over 36 states. The starting price for these cars is about $26,600.

Ford, which already for several years has been offering CNG conversion kits for some of its cars, has announced that it will start offering some of its pickups with the option.

CNG-powered vehicles make great sense (as I have argued elsewhere). We can get all the natural gas we need from domestic sources, and it is relatively cheap. Indeed, you can buy conversion kits for any car, and gas compressors for your garage. But it makes most sense if the automakers make the cars powered by CNG right on the factory floor. First, that saves money — pure CNG cars don’t need catalytic converters, for example. And there are economies of scale.

Widespread conversion will take years, because people will move to CNG vehicles only when there is a widespread network of gas stations with CNG pumps. Still, it is a welcome development.

If Obama were sincere when he says, “My administration will take every possible action to develop this energy [natural gas],” he would merit some praise, and I would be happy to supply it. The problem is that in this matter (as in many others), he is lying through his teeth. He has bitterly fought fracking, using every tool in his administration — the Department of the Interior, the SEC, the Department of Energy, and even the Department of Agriculture — while locking away as much public land as he could.

Let’s hope a Republican administration (should we be lucky enough to see it replace the current, benighted one) would truly encourage the transition of vehicles to natural gas, and this country to energy independence. Most of the Republican candidates at least get energy, whatever else they don’t get.




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They Shoot Owls, Don’t They?

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Some years ago, I wrote a piece in these pages about the infamous spotted owl. Under the misguided Endangered Species Act of 1990, the spotted owl was declared "endangered" (meaning, of course, "endangered by man"). As a result, the logging industry in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California was severely curtailed to “save” the bird. Tens of thousands of jobs were killed off, rates of alcoholism, divorce, and suicide spiked in the logging communities where formerly productive and proud loggers were reduced to living off the dole. Communities died.

But it turned out that the primary reason the spotted owl was dying was that another owl — the barred owl! — was moving in and taking over the wimpy spotted owl’s niche.

In short, it was natural biological evolution at work. As I noted then, 90% of all species that ever existed on this planet went extinct before hominids ever existed.

You would have expected hearings on this. You would have expected Congress investigate the bureaucrats who made a cold-blooded decision to terminate the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of victims. You would have expected that Congress would then grill the biologists who decided that it was the timber industry and not ordinary evolution that was to blame for the spotted owl’s plight. You would have expected panels of economists to testify about the cost to society of this stupid mistake.

But government almost never investigates its own mistakes and frauds. It prefers to investigate mistakes and frauds by private industry.

Indeed, when government makes a policy mistake, not only doesn’t it investigate itself, it just keeps pushing the policy further. A recent dispatch illustrates this with complete clarity.

The AP reports that even after shutting down much of the logging industry, the spotted owl continues its die-off. Its population in the Continental US has fallen by 40% in 25 years. The more aggressive barred owl just keeps taking over.

So the Obama administration, led by hardcore environmentalist Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar, has taken the next “scientific” step.

It has ordered the shooting of barred owls!

Yes, in the name of wildlife preservation, the Interior Department will start slaughtering wildlife! I mean, Kafka couldn’t have dreamt up this daffiness.

So the hard-ass, kick-ass barred owls are facing execution for daring to win the evolutionary race with the sensitive, limp-taloned spotted owls. No doubt Darwin is spinning in his grave.

Since these damned rodent-munchers are spread over 24 million acres of forest, we are talking about a hell of a lot of shooting.

What is even more absurd is that this administration — which intends to gun down the gangsta owl — is totally anti-gun.

Maybe Obama and Salazar could contact the Mexican drug lords whom Ken Holder's Justice Department helped to arm, and have them do the killings. It might be enough for Salazar to spread the rumor that the barred owls are importing drugs, thus challenging the hoodlums in their own ecological niche.

Just a thought.




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Who are the Real PIGS?

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As Europe continues to flounder, and as people continue to wonder whether (or more likely, when) Greece is going to default on its sovereign debt, various commentators have bandied the epithet “PIGS” (or “PIIGS”, depending on which nations a commentator wants to include).

By this acronym they refer to a group of countries — Portugal, Ireland, (Italy), Greece, and Spain — that have borrowed profligately, unlike such disciplined places as France, Germany, and the United States. What the miserable PIIGS need to do is start getting their snouts out of the troughlearn to manage their economies efficiently, as their betters do.

It’s obvious that the PIIGS need to liberalize their economies and better manage their fiscal houses. But the morally supercilious tone of the commentary annoys me. I don’t think the US or the major European states are in any position to be giving lectures. Their own levels of debt are outrageous, too.

A recent report brings the point home. If you don’t look at sovereign debt by sheer amount, but look instead at per capita debt — that is, take the aggregate national debt and divide it by the number of citizens in a country — you will see that the PIIGS aren’t as piggish as we are.

Spain’s per capita debt is $18,395. Portugal’s is slightly more, at $19,989. But France’s per capita debt exceeds these two by a wide margin. It’s $33,491.

Again, Greece is outrageous at $38,937, Italy at an amazing $40,475, and Ireland — Erin go Bragh!—at a staggering $43,887.

But the US, the paragon of fiscal rectitude, already stands at $44,215 per capita — more porcine than any of the PIIGS. And under Obama’s latest budget plan, that debt will reach $75,000 per capita (in current dollars) within a decade.

Americans can truly join the PIIGS as they squeal “Oink! Oink!”




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The Give Back Game

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This morning when I arrived at my job as the Director of Learning Centers for the college where I teach, the following directive was waiting in my inbox: “Join us for a celebration of service as We Give Back!” My first thought was, “Give what back? Did we borrow something?” I certainly don’t remember taking anything that doesn’t belong to me. Well, I did take a pencil home once. I suppose I could give that back. But I don’t see any reason to celebrate its return with a bunch of hoopla and publicity.

The point is, I’m tired about all this “let’s give back” rhetoric. If my college is really concerned about “giving,” how about “Let’s Give Teachers Enough!” Most of the teachers I know work second jobs and take on extra courses in order to supplement their meager incomes. We do all the teaching, and we get paid half what the administrators earn. If that. No wonder they feel guilty.

Moreover, we have our own service projects, thank you very much. I happily do things for my church, my family, and my friends. I consider teaching itself to be a community service project of sorts. But I don’t keep score. I’m not “giving back.” I do it because I want to. I don’t need to get involved in some do-good project at the school where I work, just so they can publicize it and make themselves look good. If they think they’ve taken too much from someone, they can give it back themselves.

Come to think of it, I use my own pens, pencils, and paper supplies at school so often that I don’t really need to feel guilty about taking that pilfered pencil home. In fact, I think I used it to grade papers. On my own unpaid time. Now who’s going to give that back?




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More Solyndra Stink

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The stench of corruption that characterizes the Solyndra scandal — the affair of the so-called green energy company, run by a billionaire Obama crony, that cost taxpayers a fortune — permeates the whole green energy scene.

But a recent article — amazingly, in the Washington Post, hitherto a bastion of Obama Regime support — turns over yet another rock, exposing yet more maggots crawling around the putrid Department of Energy (DOE).

What is humorous about this piece is that it focuses on “venture capitalists” who were in on the, shall we say, less idealistic side of the green industry.(Obama, by the bye, raised more than twice as much campaign money from the venture capital industry as did his rival McCain.) The listed include many worthy luminaries.

  • Sanjay Wagle was a major fundraiser for Obama in 2008, leading a group of greenies called “Clean Tech for Obama.” He then left his company, Vantage Point Venture Partners, to join the DOE team in charge of doling out $80 billion in green energy subsidies. Is it any coincidence, comrades, that companies in which Vantage Point had invested raked in $2.4 billion from the DOE slush fund?
  • David Danielson left General Catalyst to join Obama’s DOE. Subsequently, the DOE handed out $105 million to three companies backed by General Catalyst. The DOE denies any connection here — pure coincidence.
  • David Sandalow is a longtime Democrat player (he was part of the Clinton Administration as well as a fellow at the Brookings Institute, a liberal thinktank). He was paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars by venture capital company Good Energies (don’t you just love these names?) the same year he left it to join the DOE (2008). Again, according to the DOE, it is pure coincidence that SolarReserve, one of the companies invested in by Good Energies, scarfed up $737 million in DOE loans.
  • Steven Spinner (a marvelously Dickensian moniker) raised over a half-million bucks for Obama. He was then made a loan advisor to the Green Regime’s DOE, which awarded venture capitalist firm Wilson Sonsini’s client firms $2.75 billion in various forms of financing. By another astonishing coincidence, Spinner’s wife just happened to be working for — Wilson Sonsini!
  • John Roos was a major “bundler” for Obama’s 2008 race. He was also CEO of Wilson Sonsini when its clients received all that DOE pelf.
  • Steve Westly was another big donor-bundler for the Obama campaign. He is the founder of venture capitalist firm Westly Group. He also served on the DOE advisory board, the same DOE that forked over $600 million to companies invested in by the Westly Group.
  • David Prend is head of the venture capital firm Rockport Capital. Prend has long been affiliated with the DOE, going back to the most recent Bush administration, and continued his role under Obama. Companies supported by his firm (including the infamous Solyndra) received $668 million in money from the DOE.

Some years back, I reviewed a great book by Arthur Brooks, Who Really Cares?, which showed conclusively that progressive liberals are actually far less charitable on average than people who don’t support redistributionist governmental policies. That is, progressive liberals generally were shown to be liberal only with other people’s money.

What is emerging now is a corollary to that thesis. It is now obvious that venture capital firms run by progressive liberals venture only other people’s capital.




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Safety Nets and Slippery Slopes

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There’s been a theme hammered in dull thuds recently by the establishment media: anyone who opposes expansion of the welfare state is a hypocrite because everyone is on the dole. The New York Times has run several such stories; lesser outlets have followed suit.

Before you gag on this rancid bit of partisan meat, let me say that I think this is a hopeful sign. The hacks are framing the argument in this way because they expect criticism of the welfare state to pick up through the course of this election cycle. As it should. They hope to inoculate the administration against such criticism; in the process, though, they’ll draw attention to related issues that don’t help their cause. These related issues include:

  • the sloppy logic and language of welfare advocacy,
  • the growing role of moral hazard in public policy,
  • the effect of high marginal tax rates on productivity, and
  • the slippery slope of unintended consequence.

Let me sketch out quickly how these all connect with one another.

The recent charges of hypocrisy are merely the latest example of the establishment media’s obtuseness and doublespeak on the topic of welfare. In the statist catechism, the terms “safety net” and “earned entitlement” are supposed to refer to sharply distinct sorts of programs — the former involves straightforward income redistribution, the latter involves a group of programs into which beneficiaries have paid. But the two are often confused. The headline of one Times article reads “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It.” The article proceeds to focus on the effects of growing middle-class dependence on Social Security and Medicare, which are supposed to be “earned entitlements” and not part of the “safety net.”

The jargon is all so imprecise and indirect that the headline-writing mediocrities at the Times might be forgiven for getting confused.

Of course, there might be a more devious impulse at work — intentionally confusing programs into which people have paid with those into which they have not might be an attempt to blur important distinctions. To make “middle-class” recipients of earned entitlements the moral equivalents of the “poor” recipients of safety-net money. And if everyone’s the same, statist catechism goes, no one can criticize.

The “moral” in this equivalence gets to my next point. The sloppy logic and fuzzy language — intentional or not — may create only an ersatz version of moral equivalence but it encourages very real moral hazard.

Moral hazard has been an interest of mine for a number of years. It takes various forms in various circumstances, but the common conclusion is simple: If people are insulated from the effects of bad outcomes, they produce more bad outcomes.

In matters of public policy, the most evident example of moral hazard is a high marginal tax rate. And this is more closely related to welfare policy than it might seem on first glance.

On the low end of the income spectrum, a high marginal tax rate creates a permanent underclass; on the high end of the income spectrum, it encourages productive people to go Galt. More important, the moral hazard of taxing people stupidly creates a slippery slope; when a person drops down the socio-economic ladder, it becomes harder for him to climb back up.

If a person’s annual income falls from $40,000 to $20,000 because of a lost job or a business reversal — but that person picks up $15,000 in benefits as a result — he’s being insulated from the effects of his lower income. The benefits, which he’ll lose if his income recovers, become part of the effective marginal tax rate that discourages the climb back to $30,000 or $40,000. He’s more likely to accept his reduced circumstances and welfare benefits. Said another way: the same mechanism that acts like a safety net to someone sliding down the slope can act like a barrier to someone scrambling back up.

The problem with managing marginal tax rates is that tax systems are crude tools. The U.S. income tax tables create a roughly-hewn “stair-step” system of increasing rates. And the government benefits made available to low-income earners exaggerate the steps. At some points, a slight increase of income results in a much larger effective tax rate. In these cases, the slope isn’t just slippery — it’s negative. One solution to a negative slope would be modify the tax table to include thousands of tiny steps rather than a few rough ones; another would be to reject the step system entirely and move to a nonlinear formula for calculating the income tax rate each earner pays.

If the establishment media is right and everyone is on the dole, we need to criticize the welfare state more. Not less.

In the 1970s, Milton Friedman suggested a third option that he called the “negative income tax” (based on earlier proposals by Henry Hazlitt and Juliet Rhys-Williams). This negative tax would replace all other benefits; instead of numerous programs subsidizing food, shelter, child care, health care, etc., there would just be one lump-sum payment which would be phased out gradually as a person’s income increased. His idea was mauled and transformed into what we know today as the Earned Income Tax Credit; but the current incarnation is a far cry from what Friedman had in mind. His goal was to minimize bureaucracy and control fraud in the welfare apparatus. Our system today, an income redistribution scheme that pretends to be an “earned entitlement” program, maximizes all of that.

We’ve always known that income redistribution strips all parties — sponsors and beneficiaries — of their humanity and, especially the beneficiaries, of their dignity. Forty years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan predicted that the U.S. welfare state would damage beneficiaries, precisely as it has. If the establishment media is right and everyone is on the dole, we need to criticize the welfare state more. Not less. And we need to get rid of any administration that enables it, even if the alternatives aren’t inspiring.

This sharp truth will cut through hacky charges of hypocrisy from outfits like The New York Times.




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The Green Jihad's Human Toll

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In a few prior pieces, I explored in some detail the Obama Regime’s green energy jihad. Essentially, its goal is to “solve” the “crisis” of global warming by forcing Americans (but not the Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, or anyone else) to switch from plentiful, relatively inexpensive domestic fossil fuels to so-called green energy sources (solar, wind, and biofuels — but not nuclear), fuels that are orders of magnitude more expensive.

This jihad has two fronts. First, the Regime is shelling out massive amounts of taxpayer money to solar, wind, and biofuel companies — usually those that have greased the palms of the corrupt Regime, and often those that have failed despite the insane subsidies lavished on them. Second, the Regime puts every possible regulatory hurdle in front of domestic fossil fuel production, doing its uttermost to stifle the renaissance in American fossil fuel energy production created by recent technological advances.

Two recent stories illustrate the toll in human suffering that this green jihad is inflicting on the American people. The first story notes that the US House of Representatives is — finally! — expanding its probe into the green energy programs spawned by this administration. For example, it is looking at the $500 million in taxpayer cash spent on a “job training” program for “green” industries.

This costly Department of Labor program (part of the “stimulus” bill that stimulated only graft) started with the grand promise of training about 125,000 people and putting at least 80,000 of them into jobs. Well, after a year and a half, the program has trained only about 53,000 people, and placed a ludicrous 8,000 in actual jobs. Yes, that’s about $62,500 per job. One wonders, besides, why those people couldn’t have been trained directly by the companies hiring them.

This criticism has raised howls of outrage from the green brigades. Perhaps the most asinine came from Assistant Secretary of Labor Jane Oates, who defended the program on the ground that is wasn’t intended to provide immediate jobs. So I guess she’s admitting that when Obama said the stimulus projects were “shovel-ready,” he was shoveling lies. Oates proclaimed piteously, “It’s like coming to me three days after I join Weight Watchers and yelling at me because I didn’t lose 62 pounds yet.”

No, sweetheart, it isn’t anything like that. A proper analogy would be this: you force me to pay a half-billion bucks to send you to Weight Watchers (a program you could have paid for yourself), under the theory that you will lose 62 pounds, and a freaking year and a half later you have lost only 6 pounds. Get it?

The second story is about the cost of the Regime’s May 2010 moratorium on all offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, because of BP’s deepwater spill. After fighting with the courts for six months, yes, the Regime lifted the moratorium. But ever since, it has stalled the issuance of the requisite permits. (This stall is called the “permitorium.”) Since the lifting of the moratorium, the number of deepwater permits granted has been 71% lower than the average before the spill. Shallow water permits have dropped 84% from their historic average.

The predictable result has been the destruction of a horrendous number of medium and small businesses, with a concomitant loss of jobs. The Greater New Orleans economic development agency has reported the results of a survey showing that 53% of businesses responding have not hired any workers since the moratorium, and 49% have had to lay off workers. Of the 47% that did hire workers, most were just replacing departing employees or hiring in small numbers, and most of them have reduced hours or wages.

That is because the companies are hurting. 82% of the owners reported losing personal savings as a result of the moratorium-permitorium, with 13% completely emptying their savings accounts. 76% of the companies lost cash reserves. 27% lost more than half of them. Only 59% are now profitable.

Few green jobs created, many fossil-fuel jobs lost — all to satisfy the environmentalist extremists who feed donations to the Green Regime.




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Insurance — Against What?

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The brouhaha over whether Catholic institutions should be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception highlights everything that is wrong with medical insurance today. And Obama’s “compromise” of requiring insurance companies to provide contraception for free, thereby sidestepping the argument that Catholic institutions shouldn’t have to pay for it, is even worse.

No one should use insurance to pay for contraception. It is a regular, pre-planned expense of daily living. There is nothing to “insure.” There is no guesswork in whether a person will need it or not. It is the best example of the current problems with medical "insurance."

The purpose of insurance is to protect against unexpected catastrophic expenses — the kind of costs you wouldn’t be able to cover on your own. It is a way of hedging your bets against disaster. People pool their money, and whoever has a disaster gets to take money out of the pot. If too many disasters occur, the pool runs dry. The only remedy is to increase the amount each person pays into the pool, and decrease (through healthier, safer living) the number of disasters that individuals can’t pay for themselves.

Some people may never “get their money’s worth” out of their insurance premiums, because they remain healthy and accident-free. And that’s a good thing.

Insurance is the lottery you don’t want to win.

We have to stop thinking about insurance as some kind of unlimited prepaid plan in which everyone scrambles to “get their money’s worth.” For an insurance program to work, there need to be more healthy people than unhealthy people. Insurance premiums always have to outweigh medical payments. But when we start covering every little doctor’s appointment and medical expense, there isn’t enough money left for the true disasters without vastly increasing the premiums.

Contraception is a perfect example. There is nothing catastrophic or unexpected about its cost. If a person is having sex and doesn’t want to make a baby, the cost of contraception is as regular and predictable as clockwork. There is no unexpected event to insure against (unless the contraception doesn’t work — but that’s a different medical event). There is no reason to insure against the possibility that you will have sex.




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Arctic Warming

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The Arctic region is beginning to get hot — but not for anything having to do with “global warming.” No, international tensions are increasing, because of the increasing international demand for fossil fuels.

As Alan Dowd of the Fraser Institute notes in a recent piece, the Arctic is attracting rapidly growing geostrategic attention.

The place is amazingly rich in fossil fuels. The US Geological Survey puts total Arctic oil reserves at 90 billion barrels of oil, or about 13% of estimated undiscovered reserves worldwide, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, or about 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas.

Those are just the conventionally available fuels. God alone knows how much unconventional fossil fuel energy (shale oil and gas, methane hydrates, and so on) lies beneath that frigid sea.

These resources are becoming more and more commercially attractive, for several reasons. First, the Green Regime in Washington has worked to strangle our own domestic production, hoping to shift America to dependence on so-called green energy (wind, solar, and biofuels). Second, Middle East production is increasingly expensive. Finally, as formerly poor countries such as India and China become ever more industrialized, their consumption of fossil fuels is growing. The Energy Information Agency projects a 20% increased in world oil usage over the next 18 years.

This is leading inexorably to friction among nations that have claims in the Arctic: the United States, Canada, Russia, and Norway (together, to a lesser extent, with Sweden and Finland). And it is no surprise the form that this increasing tension is taking: Russia, under the Putin Regime, is pushing to control the lion’s share of the region’s energy wealth.

Russia’s intentions are easy to read from its actions. A 2007 Russian expedition planted the Russian flag on the North Pole. Its leader boasted, “The Arctic is ours!” A year later, a Russian general said that his country was planning to train troops to engage in combat in the region, noting cheekily that “wars these days are won and lost before they are launched.” A year after that, Russia announced that it was opening a string of bases along its northern tier. And last year, it announced plans to deploy 10,000 troops in the region to “defend its Arctic claims.”

And there has been a dramatic increase in Russian bomber interceptions by Canadian and American fighters (up from eight between 1999 and 2006 to 45 between 2007 and 2010). All this is evidence that Putin wasn’t joking when he recently said, “Russia intends without a doubt to expand its presence in the Arctic. We are open to dialogue, but naturally, the defense of our geopolitical interests will be hard and consistent.”

In reaction, both the Bush and the Obama administrations have reaffirmed our national security interests in the region. The US keeps 20,000 troops in Alaska and is conducting “Northern Edge” exercises meant to train our forces in defending the Arctic and keeping the waterways open.

Canada is also concerned. It is constructing new military bases in its Northern Territories and is training troops. The Canadian military has conducted joint exercises with the American and Danish military. A few years ago, Norway conducted Arctic maneuvers with 12 other nations, as did Sweden on its own a year later. Now Finland, Norway, and Sweden together are developing a “Nordic security partnership.” And Denmark is beefing up its military forces in Greenland (its legal territory). The pacifist nations appear to be uniting over this matter.

Such happy high jinks! Notice that these countries aren’t fighting over solar panels, wind turbines, or switchgrass farms. No, they’re fighting over fossil fuels. But, then, people don’t argue over what has no value.




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