EVs: Not So Green After All

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The Australian has reported the results of a fascinating British study. It turns out that electric cars (EVs), those holy icons of the Green religion, may actually produce more atmosphere-destroying emissions over their lifetimes than regular, gasoline fueled cars — when you do the commonsense thing and factor in the energy it takes to produce the necessary batteries.

To be precise, the study (which was funded by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, a group that is, in turn, supported by both the British government and the British car industry) showed that the average EV would have to be driven over 80,000 miles for it to produce a net savings in carbon dioxide over the standard internal combustion engine. Considering that EVs have limited ranges (they average about 90 miles per charge), it is not clear that many EVs will last that long.

This study was the first to look at the whole lifecycle emissions of EVs, including their manufacturing, driving, and — please note — the tricky matter of disposal of their used batteries. These batteries are the culprits. They contain metals that are expensive to produce, and they have to be replaced every few years.

The study found that a mid-size EV produces about 23.1 tons of carbon dioxide during its lifetime, scarcely less than the 24 tons produced by a regular, gasoline powered car. This is in part because the emissions from manufacturing EVs are about 50% higher than those from manufacturing regular cars.

What the British Department for Transport will make of the report it called for is anyone’s guess. The Department is currently lavishing $7,700 grants on people who buy the damn things.




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Education and Underemployment

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It took a German to speak truth to power.

Eric Spiegel, CEO for German engineering giant Siemens’ US operations, was talking with reporters while waiting for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to visit a Siemens facility in Ohio late last month. Spiegel caused considerable consternation when he bluntly asserted that Siemens and other high-level manufacturers were having trouble finding adequately skilled workers, despite America’s high unemployment rate.

As Spiegel put it, “There’s a mismatch between the jobs that are available . . . and the people who are out there. There is a shortage [of workers with the right skills].”

Spiegel went on to say that the hidden problem of finding qualified employees among the hordes of the unskilled and unemployed exposes the weaknesses in the American system of education and job training. He noted that Siemens has had to turn to over 30 “headhunters” (professional job recruiters) to find qualified American workers, and is also trying to hire workers from abroad.

Now, with an unemployment rate that just went back up to 9.2%, and an anemic recovery that created only a laughable 18,000 jobs last month (with a pathetic 500,000 net new new jobs in the past two years of “recovery”), it may seem strange to say that there is a shortage of trained people.

But a recent survey by the major employment agency Manpower shows that over half of all the top American firms are having trouble finding key staff. It’s a dramatic increase from as recently as 2010, when only 14% reported recruiting difficulties.

Ironically, the need for skilled workers is greatest in an area of the American economy that has long been considered defunct: manufacturing. The number of manufacturing jobs available for the high-skilled has risen from 98,000 in early 2009 to 230,000 today.

The Obama regime has of course responded — by proposing to expand the “Skills for America’s Future Program.” That is, throw more money at the problem.

So far, this government program has miserably failed to provide correctly skilled workers in the requisite numbers. The idea of dramatically increasing school choice, so that schools could spring up that would work with various industries to give them what they need, and what is profitable for the students, seems like a better place to start. But that’s not likely to happen.  To speak an absurd understatement, this regime shows little stomach for free markets in education — or anything else.




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Age of Gold, Age of Paper

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It lasted for more than a thousand years. Its Great Palace was the seat of imperial and religious government for as long. It claimed to encompass the Roman Empire, and often did. It was the largest and greatest court in Christendom. In its Chrysotriklinos, its Golden Hall, hydraulic engines powered fountains, large organs, golden birds that sang in jewel-drenched trees, and golden lions that roared. Ambassadors bowed to its emperor as his throne magically rose to the ceiling. Gold mosaics dazzled visitors to its court and cathedral.

It was Byzantium.

I’m reading Judith Herrin’s history of that empire. She is a good historian but perhaps not much interested in economics. In her book, Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire, an essential fact of Byzantine economy gets a fleeting mention as a caption to an illustration: “Byzantium preserved a gold coinage of reliable fineness over 700 years.”

Many empires have been laid low by the degradation of their currency. I think ours is next. No historian will ever say that the US dollar preserved reliable fineness for even a tenth of 700 years.




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Voting With Their Feet

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Two recent stories illustrate anew the advantages of our federal system, which allows states wide variance in governance, and also allows individual Americans who feel that they cannot pursue the happiness they seek in one state to move freely to any state they choose. The beauty of this is that it helps put real limits on just how badly a given state can treat its citizens.

The reports are about two of the highest tax, lousiest business-climate states, New York and California.

Let’s start with New York. As a recent report notes, over the past decade and a half, the Empire State has led the nation in outmigration, with two people leaving for every person who moves in. But a new Marist poll indicates that the worst may just be starting.

The poll revealed that 36% of young New Yorkers — those under 30, to be exact — plan to leave the state within five years. Thirty-six percent! The primary reasons cited (by 62% of those planning to leave) are economic. Thirty percent cite the high cost of living, 19% the high taxes, and 10% the lack of decent job opportunities.

Regarding this lack of opportunity, well, suffice it to say that a recent survey done by Chief Executive Magazine shows that only California has a worse business climate than New York. And regarding the cost of living, a recent study by the Center for an Urban Future says that someone would have to earn more than $123,000 yearly to live as well in New York City as someone lives in Houston on an income of $50,000.

The second story is a posting about the aforementioned California. It reports an accelerating exodus of businesses from that dysfunctional state. It notes that California is rated by the Tax Foundation as no. 49 for business tax climate and no. 48, by the Mercatus Center, for economic freedom among the states. Not surprisingly, while in 2009 California averaged one “disinvestment event” per week (typically, a business relocating an existing facility to, or opening a new facility in, another state), by last year the average had jumped to 3.9 per week. This year, it has jumped again, to an astounding 5.4 per week.

California is already hemorrhaging people — specifically, middle-class working people. It is rapidly becoming a socioeconomically bifurcated state like Mexico, where you have the desperately poor and the ultra-rich, with little in between. The rapid movement of business investment to other states will only accelerate the Californian middle-class diaspora.

This is how federalism punishes statism: the socialist state loses its jobs and its middle-class citizens.

And that is only morally just. All forms of socialism — including the soft neosocialism of which modern liberals are so fond — are based on the twin vices of envy and sloth, both of which have been characterized, very accurately, as cardinal sins.




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Das Rinderpest Getilgt Wurde!

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Whenever people disappoint me (such as when they vote for liberal Democrats) and I think that humanity is just useless, I like to reflect upon the progress of science. It is therapy that builds eudemonia. In this regard, a recent report from medical science is worth noting.

For only the second time in history, mankind has apparently wiped out a major disease. Smallpox was finally eliminated only fairly recently, and now a long-standing pandemic disease — rinderpest — has been eradicated. Rinderpest is a disease not of humans but of animals — specifically, cloven-hoofed animals. It means “cattle plague” in German, and has been around for at least a millennium, killing off animals — cattle, water buffaloes, Himalayan yaks, pigs, and other fauna—that are important to human survival. Given the historically crucial dependence of people on these beasts, the disease has been a plague on us as well.

The rinderpest virus is closely related to the measles virus, and would periodically break out in epidemics (such as the one that the Mongols brought with them to Eurasia in the 1200s). The modern campaign to rid the world of it began at the end of World War II, with the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization. It took about $5 billion in total worldwide expenditures — a mere pittance, really, considering that the recent Royal Wedding in Britain cost about $8 billion.

The key to wiping out the pest was threefold. First, a vaccine had to be developed that didn’t need constant refrigeration. Second (and related to that), the limited number of medical personnel (big-game veterinarians) devoted to the eradication campaign had to learn to employ locals and to focus their efforts on an area of Central Africa (the lowland areas of the Rift Valley) where the disease was persistently endemic. Finally, a quick diagnostic test for the disease had to be developed.

All this has now taken place, and it is cause for quiet satisfaction. We can, it appears, occasionally do something right.




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Imagine That!

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You have to be of relatively advanced age to appreciate the grotesque irony that has just been reported. It turns out — oh, my God (that’s OMG for those who live their lives through email) — that hippie-peacenik icon John Lennon was a closet Republican!

And not just some RINO-type, country-club, apologetic, liberal-media-ass-kissing, non-threatening Republican, but a Reagan supporter!

Yes, pick yourself up off the floor. This amazing fact is revealed by Lennon musical sidekick Fred Seaman. Seaman makes his startling disclosure in the upcoming documentary Beatles Stories, in an interview with the flick’s director Seth Swirsky. Seaman revealed that in his more mature life (that is, by the late 1970s), Lennon felt embarrassed by his younger radicalism, and relished debating leftists, including Seaman’s uncle, an "old-time communist."

Lennon said of Reagan, whom he had met at a sporting event, that he would have voted for the politician had he been a US citizen.

All of this inspires me to update Lennon’s signature song, “Imagine”:

Imagine there’s no commies.

It’s easy if you try.

No damn liberals

To tax us on the sly.

Imagine all the money

In our hands to stay!

 

Imagine all the countries —

It isn’t hard to do —

Living in total freedom

And of religion too.

Imagine all the people

Trading goods in peace.

 

You may say I’m a right-winger

But I’m not the only one.

I hope the leftists grow up

So the world can be as one.




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Green vs. Green

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For many years, Mad magazine ran a cartoon send-up of Cold War espionage called “Spy vs. Spy.” A recent report made me chuckle to think that with energy policy, we now have (as the article puts it) Green vs. Green.

On one side of the fence, you have those environmentalists who just love solar power. This includes of course the Obama regime, whose Energy Secretary Steven Chu has pushed solar with a vengeance. Recently, with a grand flourish, Chu announced a $2.1 billion federal loan guarantee to a company intending to open a 1,000 megawatt solar farm in the California desert. Earlier this year the regime granted $1.37 billion in federal loan guarantees for another solar farm in the California desert. Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) now crows that “California is the national leader in clean energy, and our great state is poised to become the world leader in renewable energy generation.” Of course, California is also the national leader in budget deficits, and is poised to become insolvent in the next economic downturn. It is (next to Greece, perhaps) the world leader in fiscal mismanagement.

These California projects are just two out of 11 large solar farms approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and local agencies in California and Nevada. Almost all are being built on land managed by the BLM. These solar farms are projected to produce roughly 4,200 megawatts of power — which sounds like a lot, but is only equivalent to the energy generated by two medium-large nuclear power plants. Naturally, the nukes produce power all the time, not just when it is a cloudless day, and they require but an infinitesimal fraction of the land (precious, protected, government-managed land)that the solar plants will.

And more than a dozen other large-scale solar farms are awaiting approval, all in the Mojave Desert.

The massive tracts of land taken up by the ugly solar farms are a source of anger to another group of environmentalists. For example, Janine Blaeloch, executive director of the Western Lands Project, commented dolorously that “these [solar] plants will introduce a huge amount of damage to our public land and habitat.” The concerned energy analyst Christine Hersey put it in this way: “The irony is, in the name of saving the planet, we’re casting aside 30 or 40 years of environmental law. It’s really a type of frenzy.”

Yes, Christine, it is. It’s the frenzy of an administration that has shut down as much domestic drilling as it could, and is desperate for other sources of power.

One of the concerns harbored by the last-mentioned enviros is the plight of desert animal and plant life, such as the desert turtle, that live in the Mojave. Another concern is the prospect that the massive solar installations will threaten thousands of Native American sites said to be regarded as sacred. Indeed, the non-profit group La Cuna de Aztlan Sacred Sites Protection Circle is suing federal agencies and four of the solar farm companies on this basis.

With Big Solar, it’s Green vs. Green. But why did anyone suppose that environmentalism wouldn’t have as many schisms as any other religion?




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Luck of the Green

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The American Tradition Institute, a D.C. thinktank that monitors and critiques the environmentalist movement, has an interesting Freedom of Information Act lawsuit going on right now. The institute is suing — NASA.

Now, we taxpayers normally think of NASA as some kind of, well, space agency. But NASA is one of the big funding agencies for research on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). And one of the luminaries of the AGW world is the scientist James Hansen — you remember, the one who ran around claiming that the Evil Bush tried to silence him. This poor little victim of truth will go down in history as a modern-day Galileo, standing up to wicked anti-science authority.

But it turns out that this paragon of virtue has been pocketing tall dollars off his disinterested research, over and above the tidy $180K he earns as director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies. (By the bye, it is not called the Goddard Institute for Man-Caused Global Warming.)

NASA refuses to release the information on what exactly Hansen has been paid by outside groups, which is why the American Tradition Institute is suing. But it would appear that the New Galileo is receiving megabucks from environmentalist sects, which use his work to further their political agenda.

For example, the enviro group called the Dan David Foundation gave a prize to a group including Hansen, and his share was about $333,000 to $500,000. He also won the “Sophie Prize” of $100,000 for work on a “sustainable future” — meaning a future bereft of jobs for actual people, I suspect. He copped a $550,000 “Blue Planet” prize from the Asahi Glass Foundation. He scarfed up nearly 50 grand in speaking fees. He got a free pass to the conference by the Bill Clinton Foundation that other participants had to pay a cool 15-grand fee for attending. And he snagged a way cool $720K in legal services provided by the George Soros Open (read: Closed) Society Institute.

If you are a federal employee receiving certain types of side income, you need to file certain disclosure forms (Forms 17-60 and SF278). The FOIA lawsuit is intended to get NASA to release those forms for its boy Galileo. The ball is now in NASA’s court.

The recent book Merchants of Doubt (by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway) argues that the scientists who dispute global warming are paid by the Koch Brothers and other Big Oil companies to spreaddoubt about AGW. But when AGW researchers receive lavish funding from Soros groups and others, why, that’s just peachy with some environmentalists. Rather hypocritical, no?

We can certainly say this: it really can be easy being Green. Hell, being Green can result in rolling in the green!




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Hockey Riot, or Prison Riot?

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June 15, downtown Vancouver. This was not a hockey riot. And the lessons that are being learned from it are exactly the wrong ones.

I live in Vancouver, and I watched the last game of the Stanley Cup playoffs — and the postgame bonfire — from the corner of Georgia and Hamilton Streets. That intersection was the center of both the cheering and the chaos. But I’ve been in real riots: Prague when the Iron Curtain fell, an ethnic riot in southern Egypt in my teens, Kathmandu when the king was killed, East Jerusalem during the first intifada. What happened in Vancouver was different. It was a soft, gentle riot. The police were kinder and gentler than any I’ve ever seen at a riot. The rioters — using the term loosely to encompass all Vancouverites, since the rioters reflect poorly on the whole city — quickly mobilized thousands of volunteers to clean up the downtown core, many taking a day off work to do so. I went back the next afternoon, and by 2 p.m. it was nearly impossible to tell that a riot had occurred.

This was a riot in a fundamentally “nice” city, often too nice. People don’t even jaywalk here. After Game 5 I saw police get angry at someone for jaywalking. If you spend your life being told what to do, if taking a bike on the West Vancouver Seawall during the week when it’s nearly empty gets a dozen good Samaritans telling you “it’s against the rules,” and if you combine that with the high energy and low brain function of a Surrey suburban teenager — I have no idea whether the “anarchists” were from Surrey (a blue-collar suburb of Vancouver), but it’s standard practice during riots to blame foreign subversive elements and I just can’t imagine soft-and-gentle Vancouverites rioting, whereas the Ford F-150 culture in Surrey I can — then no wonder people riot when, once every 17 years, they’re suddenly unshackled.

But that will not be the lesson here. The result of this riot will be more rules and constraints on freedom — even though the energy at the corner of Georgia and Hamilton didn’t really come from hockey; it came from people living in a virtual prison of rules and regulations. When people habituated to living under rules and computerized consequences, which follow them their entire lives — people who have never had to learn self-control, internal restraint — suddenly find themselves without external restraints, they go crazy.

Yes, I’m sure that some people were there for precisely that reason, for the opportunity of temporary madness. The media had been going on for weeks about the 1994 riots, the last time Vancouver lost the Stanley Cup in Game 7. So what did they expect? You remind people relentlessly, get them thinking “riots,” and then those few people who think that riots may be fun gather from the whole city to attend. The 2011 riot was a near-perfect replica of its 1994 inspiration, though whereas the older event had a trigger — a man falling from a lamp standard into the crowd below — this year’s version didn’t need one. Or, rather, revived memory of the 1994 riots was itself the trigger, with crowds chanting “Let’s go riot!” by the end of the first period.

But the photo of the kiss in the middle of the riot shows better than any number of words that this was not about hockey. Nor even about destruction. It was about damning the consequences, about a momentary break in our mechanized, almost mineralized society. The power of that photo in telling a different narrative from that of either “hockey fans” or “destructive anarchists” is evident in the energy the mainstream media has devoted to deflating the photo, repeating remarks from the kissing boy’s mother that he was just helping the girl get up — though he’s clearly both kissing and groping her — and that he probably didn’t even know there was a riot going on. I’ve been in tear gas. It’s hard not to notice.

This wasn’t about hockey. It was an outlet. Hockey just happens to be a cultural trump card here in Canada, an excuse to let go, like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Carnival in Rio. You cure this sort of insanity with fewer rules, more bacchanal outlets — just as prison wardens have slowly learned that you can decrease riots by allowing prisoners to rearrange their own furniture, and forest rangers know that frequent controlled fires prevent major conflagrations. But the lesson learned by the powers that be is the opposite. That’s the truly sad consequence of all this stupidity.

Both the mainstream and the social media are full of outrage right now, from moral to economic. Morally, sure, it’s hard to justify smashing things. But the references to economic harm are a bit too simple. All those cars and shops are insured, and most of the insurance companies are owned by people outside Vancouver, with the costs spread out across either the shareholders or the pool of the insured, depending on your view of how elastic the insurance markets are. Either way, the result will be a net transfer of wealth in Vancouverites' favor. They won't end up being damaged.

But the real beneficiaries will be police budgets and politicians seeking reelection by promising to clamp down on “crime” with new laws, which only the law-abiding will obey, thus decreasing the freedom of the productive members of society without influencing the actions of the law-breakers in any way.

Laws are always a one-way ratchet. That’s why the ability to riot is important. But it’s like pulling out a gun. Stupid to do so without a clearly achievable agenda — whether it’s the elimination of a tax or a law or all the way to some sort of revolution. Still, there is something appealing about all this. In America, the people are scared of the government. In Europe, the governments are scared of the people, precisely because the people haven’t forgotten how to riot. This is why workers have healthcare, a minimum five weeks of paid vacation, and generally far more power vis-à-vis their employers than workers have in the United States. (I’m not debating the economic consequences of that worker power, just the fact that it exists.) I always assumed that Canada was more like the US, but maybe we still have a little life left. The problem is that the act of taking the pulse in this way will itself weaken it.

And sure enough, exactly one week after the riots, British Columbia’s privacy commissioner approved the Vancouver Police Department’s use of an administrative driver’s license database together with facial-recognition software to identify and catch rioters. Big Brother never hesitates to use these sorts of things to get a foot in the door. And what’s perhaps even more frightening, the police have admitted to being overwhelmed with the amount of evidence provided by all the Little Brothers looking on, photographing, filming.

So, yes, I’m upset at the stupidity of the rioters. But not for all the proper moral reasons. Nor for the economic ones. Rather, for the improper, immoral ones. The right ones. What happened on June 15 in downtown Vancouver should upset all self-respecting anarchists and libertarians far more than it upsets the law-and-order types. The latter are strengthened by it. The former are weakened.




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We See Through You, Mr. President

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Reverend Obama, when he was running for the office he now decorates, preached the need for transparency and honesty in government. In particular, he derided “the cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests" who held sway in the District of Columbia. He promised to stop the practice of rewarding donors with political favors.

Well, scratch another promise. As iWatch News has reported, about 200 of Obama’s biggest contributors (each raising anywhere from 50 to 500 grand) have gotten top jobs in his holy administration, big contracts for their businesses, or various other payoffs.

Interestingly, iWatch News is a news outfit supported by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization whose avowed goal is to produce nonpartisan investigative journalism that will help achieve transparency in government.

And here’s the stinger. The Center for Public Integrity is funded by a number of primarily left-liberal donors, most notoriously one George Soros, the leftist billionaire and Obama booster.

That’s worth a chuckle, no?




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