Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Stephen Moore: how environmentalist restrictions are killing energy sector jobs

From the Heritage Foundation.

Excerpt:

[...][I]f you visit the drilling sites in Williston, N.D., you discover an amazing phenomenon: At night, this little energy town of fewer than 30,000 people lights up like Manhattan on New Year’s Eve. All these lights are flares burning off the natural gas that was drilled that day. Why on earth would the drillers do that? Because they want oil, which sells at $100 a barrel, as opposed to natural gas, which is now so abundant that it’s cheap.

But why don’t they sell the natural gas too? Because they don’t have the pipeline capacity to bring it to the markets where it’s needed. So they are burning off an energy source, without capturing the power. What a waste.

The pipelines aren’t getting built, simply because the government isn’t letting them get built. It has been an eye-opening experience to watch liberals block an infrastructure project — the Keystone XL pipeline — that two of three Americans (and even a plurality of Democrats) support. Pew had an amazing poll last month reporting that just about every demographic group in America supports the Keystone pipeline, except for Democrats with Ph.D.s and Democrats who earn more than $100,000.

But this problem goes well beyond the Keystone pipeline. We need to build in America a national network of pipelines from coast to coast, much as Eisenhower built the interstate highway system. Unlike the highways, the private sector will gladly build the pipelines; they just need the permits. And Uncle Sam won’t give them out.

We are talking about a lot of jobs here — and really high-paying, often union, jobs. Welders and pipe fitters and construction workers and truckers earn $70,000 or more — well above the median salary in America.

But the environmentalists hate pipelines because they encourage drilling, and drilling is bad because it kills windmills, er, the planet. The enviros have been running a campaign in Washington to keep the oil and gas in the ground. And if you can’t transport it, why drill it? These activists are the same sort of people who opposed the Great Alaska Pipeline back in the 1970s. Can you imagine how much we’d be in hock to the Saudis these days if we’d listened to their loopy advice back then?

And since they won’t allow pipelines, we use trains and trucks — which is much worse for the environment than building the pipelines. Remember the rail crash several weeks ago with massive explosions? Thank the Sierra Club.

Meanwhile, in Canada, where the Conservative Party is firmly opposed to global warming nonsense, the government has decided to build pipelines from Alberta to the West and East coasts.

Excerpt:

Foreign Minister John Baird said Sunday he’s sure there will be a pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to the Pacific coast.

Without mentioning the Northern Gateway specifically, Baird sounded confident when discussing pipelines on Fox News on Sunday morning.

Asked for his thoughts on recent comments from former U.S. energy secretary Spencer Abraham, who expressed doubt President Barack Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Baird said Canada’s energy resources are vast and that he expects a decision from the president within two months.

“Listen, we want to get this project approved,” he said on the U.S. network. “We want to work with our American friends, our partners in freedom and liberty.

“At the same time there will be pipelines going to the Pacific coast and even reverse pipelines going to the Atlantic so we can diversify our markets.”

I expect that Republicans will be making a big deal of the jobs that could be created if we the government were giving out the appropriate energy production permits and approving the Keystone Pipeline. I think people will be responsive to a message like that when Obamacare kicks in for employer-provided health care and employers start to cut jobs. I know the Democrats are happy right now keeping everyone on unemployment payments, but eventually, that money is going to run out. It might not be tomorrow, but it’s coming one day.

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Wisconsin governor Walker’s reforms hit the left in their wallets

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is mean

First, let’s talk about Stephen Harper. I sometimes blog about conservative Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, who Dennis Prager calls “the leader of the free world”. He has a record of putting into place laws that cut off the ability of the left to get campaign funding without consent from the people supplying the money.

Here’s an article from Canada’s National Post.

Excerpt:

While the political showdown making news this month has pitted Prime Minister Stephen Harper against Senator Mike Duffy, a more important battle is shaping up for the 2015 election. It’s between the Conservative Party and organized labour — as evidenced by the resolutions the party will be debating at its policy convention in Calgary this week.

Proposals include allowing secret ballots during strikes, banning the use of dues for political purposes, requiring increased financial disclosure by unions, and passing right-to-work legislation. The resolutions are moved by electoral district associations in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, and together represent what appears to be the largest block of resolutions on any one theme.

Why the focus on organized labour, and why now? In part, it’s ideological. While small-c conservatives respect freedom of association, they also respect the freedom not to associate. The labour movement’s rules — particularly the RAND formula, which obliges workers in unionized workplaces to join whether they want to or not — restricts workers’ freedom of choice. Unions also spend dues on causes that workers may not support, and demand workers follow their direction on strike action, even if workers may be opposed or not be able to afford the loss in pay.

[...]The Conservatives have pledged to balance the federal budget by the time they go to the polls. One of the elements of their plan is downsizing government, which pits them directly against the Public Service Alliance of Canada. For two years now, PSAC has been fighting against Conservative cuts to the bureaucracy and the party’s policy of reduction by attrition. PSAC’s rallies and campaigns, however, have done nothing to dent the Tories’ resolve (long overdue, considering that they substantially grew the size of the bureaucracy during the early years of their mandate). Curtailing PSAC’s power and voice would help the Tories achieve their downsizing goals for both the short and long term.

Back in 2006, Stephen Harper banned political contributions from corporations and unions. Nasty! And he’s not done yet, according to this article. It’s good to win, and win, and win again. I am tired of conservatives losing, even in other countries.

Governor Scott Walker

Now when I look around at the Republican Party, I rarely see the same will to do effective things that will cripple the left financially. It’s like Republicans don’t want to offend people, especially journalists. They want to be liked at cocktail parties.

But there is one Republican who is fine with being hated by his enemies, and he is getting a lot of attention from conservatives ahead of the 2016 election.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is also mean

Here’s the story from the Associated Press.

Excerpt:

The 2011 state law that all but ended collective bargaining for most public workers has hit Wisconsin’s second largest union particularly hard.

The latest tax documents available show combined income of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) dropped 45 percent in 2012 _ the first full year of the law, according to The Capital Times.

In 2011, the four councils that make up the state organization reported a combined income of $14.9 million. In 2012 that dropped to $8.3 million. Dues revenue dropped 40 percent to $7.1 million.

Walker and supporters of the law said it was a way to help local governments reduce the costs of employee benefits, but the legislation also included measures aimed at financially weakening unions by ending automatic dues deductions.

The union’s Council 40 executive director, Rick Badger, says that while the declines in revenue stemming from the law were expected, he has been encouraged by the number of workers who have continued to pay voluntary dues.

“In fact, what (the law’s) architects might find surprising is our resilience,” he wrote in an email. He said thousands of “front-line workers are remaining engaged in fighting for their rights despite heavy-handed political attempts to silence them.”

While public unions no longer enjoy the official bargaining power that they exercised in recent decades, he said many public workers continue to value their presence as advocates for their rights and welfare.

AFSCME is second only to the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, in members in Wisconsin. It has long been a powerful player in state politics, funneling money directly to campaigns and running independent television ads in support of pro-labor candidates, as well as providing a legion of employees and member volunteers who made sure their union brethren voted on Election Day.

The law has also hit other big unions in the state. For instance, WEAC, the state’s largest teachers union, saw its revenue drop from $26 million in 2011 to $20 million in 2012.

This is definitely someone we conservatives need to look at in 2016. He has had to face the left in a blue-ish state, and he won.

During the Christmas vacation, I read governor Walker’s new book, which was a Christmas present from my friend ECM. If you want to learn more about governor Walker, I recommend picking that up. I actually got the audio version, and it’s read by governor Walker himself.

Related posts

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Obama administration effectively bans construction of future coal plants

CNBC explains. (H/T Bad Blue)

Excerpt:

The proposal would help reshape where Americans get electricity, away from a coal-dependent past into a future fired by cleaner sources of energy. It’s also a key step in President Barack Obama’s global warming plans, because it would help end what he called “the limitless dumping of carbon pollution” from power plants.

Although the proposed rule won’t immediately affect plants already operating, it eventually would force the government to limit emissions from the existing power plant fleet, which accounts for a third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

[...]Despite some tweaks, the rule packs the same punch as one announced last year, which was widely criticized by industry and Republicans as effectively banning any new coal projects in the U.S.

That’s because to meet the standard, new coal-fired power plants would need to install expensive technology to capture carbon dioxide and bury it underground. No coal-fired power plant has done that yet, in large part because of the cost.

[...]“EPA has set a dangerous and far-reaching precedent for the broader economy by failing to base environmental standards on reliable technology,” said Hall Quinn, president and CEO of the National Mining Association. The EPA regulation “effectively bans coal from America’s power portfolio,” he said.

The first effect of this decision will be to put a lot of Americans out of work.

The second effect will be to cause electricity costs to skyrocket, exactly as Obama promised.

Excerpt:

Wind and solar energy are dilute, intermittent, and more costly than traditional hydrocarbon energy sources. After atmospheric absorption and system losses, only a single 100-watt bulb can be powered from a square meter of solar cells, and this only at midday on a cloudless day.  Wind towers must be spaced about 140 meters apart to capture energy from the wind.  As a result, solar requires 75 to 100 times the land and wind requires 150 to 250 times the land of traditional power sources.

Solar systems don’t output energy at night or at low angles of incoming sunlight.  Wind systems provide rated output less than 30% of the time and this output varies chaotically. Traditional gas or coal power plants must be running as an active backup to maintain continuity of electricity supply.  Like a car driving in stop-and-go conditions, installation of a wind farm converts the power system into a stop-and-go electrical system.  In measured real world conditions, combined wind and hydrocarbon systems use more fuel, output more sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and emit more carbon dioxide than hydrocarbon-only electrical systems.

Total cost estimates show that wind and solar systems are significantly more costly than hydrocarbon energy sources.  Since wind requires an active backup hydrocarbon facility, wind can only replace some of the variable cost of a coal or gas plant.  Department of Energy 2011 estimates place the variable cost of coal at 3 cents per kW-hr and gas at 5 cents per kW-hr, compared to 9 cents for on-shore wind and 24 cents for offshore wind.  Solar costs are 20 to 30 cents per kW-hr.

We’re getting what we voted for. We’ve had no significant global warming for 15 years, but that won’t stop the Democrats from saddling private industry with regulatory costs – costs that they will pass on to consumers. I would not be surprised if consumers (who after all mostly voted for Obama) blame the energy companies and never identify the root cause of the rising costs.

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Three labor union leaders write letter to Democrats attacking Obamacare

From the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

The roll out of President Obama’s health care reform package was always going to be tricky, with vehement opposition from his political opponents and pushback from employers large and small. But after announcing last week that penalties for companies failing to comply with the law will be delayed by a year, the Affordable Care Act has a new, high profile set of dissenters: Unions.

The leaders of three major U.S. unions, including the highly influential Teamsters, have sent a scathing open letter to Democratic leaders in Congress, warning that unless changes are made, President Obama’s health care reform plan will “destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

If that’s not bad enough, the Affordable Care Act, if not modified, will “destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans,” the letter says.

Here’s one part from the letter than I think is worth posting:

When you and the President sought our support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you pledged that if we liked the health plans we have now, we could keep them. Sadly, that promise is under threat. Right now, unless you and the Obama Administration enact an equitable fix, the ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.

[..]First, the law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.

Of course, when the unions were busy lobbying for the passage of Obamacare, conservative voices were talking about all of these defects in the law, and more besides. But the unions weren’t listening. Labor unions just don’t understand economics, and that’s why people need to be careful about taking their advice on economic issues.

 

 

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How Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, saved Britain

Here’s an article from the UK Daily Mail with some more details about her.

Margaret Thatcher stood almost alone in driving through the tough policies now credited with saving the economy, secret papers reveal.

The Tory Premier had to take on her predecessor Harold Macmillan, Bank of England governor Gordon Richardson and even her own Chancellor Geoffrey Howe to push through the policies which pulled Britain back from the brink of economic chaos.

Documents released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule show the pressure Mrs Thatcher faced from the Establishment behind the scenes – and the extent to which she was isolated.

In 1980, the year after becoming Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher embarked on a controversial programme to revive the moribund economy through deep public spending cuts and strict control of the money supply, intended to stamp out inflation.

He warned that while her programme of cuts might give a ‘sense of exhilaration’ to her supporters, the country was heading for industrial collapse and ‘dangerous’ levels of unemployment.

Macmillan, then 86, sent the letter following a meeting with the Prime Minister at Chequers in August 1980.

He criticised her for abandoning ‘consensus politics’ to pursue radical reforms and ‘divisive politics’, which he said went against the ‘essence of Tory democracy’.

It was Macmillan who coined the phrase ‘you’ve never had it so good’ in 1957 during the long post-war economic boom.

His brand of consensus politics is now credited with contributing to the economic malaise that brought Britain to its knees in the late 1970s.

Years later, in her memoirs, Mrs Thatcher poured scorn on consensus politics, writing: ‘What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner “I stand for consensus”?.’

[...]In 1981, 365 economists wrote to The Times urging Mrs Thatcher to change course and limit the damage caused by the recession.

But she was unmoved, and her tough stance succeeded in reducing inflation from 27 per cent to four per cent in four years, putting Britain on the road to recovery.

Mrs Thatcher’s economic views were heavily influenced by the right-wing Cabinet minister Sir Keith Joseph, with whom she set up the free market think tank the Centre for Policy Studies in 1974.

Both drew on the work of the influential American economist Milton Friedman whose monetary theories challenged the post-war consensus on economic thinking.

I recommend reading the whole article for some more articles where Lady Thatcher had to stand against everyone and hold onto her convictions in the teeth of the majority.

Here’s an article from Forbes magazine that summarizes her effort to turn Britain around.

Excerpt:

It’s hard to appreciate today how desperate Britain’s condition was before Thatcher took office.  Its economy was a laughing stock, the perennial sick man of Europe.  Strikes were endemic and union bosses effectively governed the country.  Her Conservative Party had long ago made its peace with the welfare state and the ethos of high spending and high taxes. While the previous Tory Prime Minister, Edward Heath, wanted to revive Britain, he hadn’t a clue how to do it. In a make-or-break showdown with the coal miner’s union, Heath called a special election under the banner “Who Governs Britain?”  Heath lost and unions’ dominance in Britain seemed secure.

Great leaders have an astute sense of taking advantage of circumstances. Even though Heath had lost two elections, none of the senior party officials would challenge him.  At the time, Thatcher was not regarded as one of the party’s major figures.  But she was the only Tory who firmly believed in free markets and in Britain’s ability to become again a proud nation based on the principles of liberty. She was a devotee of Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman and of the idea of paring back big government and giving free enterprise room to flourish. Astonishingly she beat Heath in a leadership fight in 1975 and led the Tories to victory in 1979.

Immediately she began slashing income tax rates and reining in galloping spending and fighting inflation.  She also exhibited that critical sense of timing. When she took office, she was faced with a potential strike of nurses whose union was demanding huge pay increases. Thatcher compromised in a way that some thought she didn’t have the backbone to turn Britain around.  Instead she was exhibiting a great politician’s sense of knowing when to pick a fight.  Thatcher eventually pushed through major labor union reforms and made it clear she would not tolerate any union riots or violence.  Shortly after Thatcher won reelection, the coal miners union, which had destroyed Heath, decided to take her on. But unlike Heath Thatcher was fully prepared.  The big showdown ensued and Thatcher beat the coal miner’s union resoundingly. It never recovered from that defeat.

Thatcher knew the deadweight on the economy of excessive taxation. She cut the top income tax rate from 98% to 40%. She cut the corporate income tax rate from 52% to 35%.

One of Thatcher’s greatest innovations was the systematic selling off of the government’s business assets, dubbed privatization.  After World War II Britain nationalized enormous swaths of the economy which actions subsequent Conservative governments left largely untouched.  Thatcher sold government companies off and her example has been followed by countless nations around the world.

In the area of privatizations, she did two remarkable things. She sold off much of Britain’s public housing.  An enormous number of Britons, far more than in the U.S., lived in these government-owned buildings. Thatcher pushed the sale of these apartments to occupants at low prices and on very advantageous terms. The purpose was to begin to shift the mentality of people and their dependence on government. Her other smart move was in the privatization of government-owned companies:  offering a significant number of shares to workers at very low prices.  Union leaders hated privatization but their opposition was undermined as their members realized that they could do very well buying cheap shares in these newly-privatized entities.  Here again she was changing peoples’ thinking:  pro-big government workers now saw themselves as share owners, taking on more of a capitalist mentality.

Before Thatcher, many social observers thought that Britain had an ingrained, unchangeable, anti-commercial culture that would forever stand in the way of the country becoming an economic success. Yet within a decade of her taking office, Britain had the most vibrant, large economy in Europe, one even more dynamic, innovative than that of Germany’s.  London became a magnet for entrepreneurs from France, Sweden and elsewhere.

One unchangeable characteristic of a great leader is courage and that means taking career-breaking risks.  Thatcher demonstrated her mettle in the Falkland Islands crisis.  When the Argentinean military dictatorship seized Britain’s Falkland Islands, most military experts felt the Sceptred Isle simply did not possess the military means to take them back. Defying almost the entire political establishment which was haunted by both Britain’s current weakness and the memory of the Suez Canal debacle in 1956, Thatcher declared that the seizure would not stand and that Britain would go to war to take the Islands back. Thankfully she received critical help from the U.S. thanks to in large part the unrelenting efforts of Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger (who years later became Publisher and Chairman of Forbes). To the surprise of experts, Britain’s military expedition succeeded. The Argentinean military dictatorship fell and democracy was restored in that country.  For Britain the Falklands war was a huge boost to a demoralized nation. To the world it meant that once again tyranny would be resisted.

I recommend reading that whole article. It’s hard not to smile at a woman who clearly loved her country and worked to save it from poverty.

Why good men love Maggie

And now I must offend everyone. See, I have a theory about women. I think that women generally tend to be more beholden to the opinions and fashions of the crowd than men are. It’s not absolute, but it’s maybe two-thirds to one-third, in my experience. I think that it is generally hard for them to hold to their convictions in the face of peer pressure. That’s why so few young, unmarried women are conservative after graduating from college. As soon as they reach college, they are swayed towards liberal views by their need to feel good about themselves and their need to be liked by others. Their views at home were not rooted in real knowledge, they were just fitting in with their families and churches and saying whatever words they were expected to say. And then they go off to college and learn other words to say from another community that uses praise and blame to replace their former convictions with new convictions.

But Maggie Thatcher wasn’t like that. And here’s why:

John Ranelagh writes of Margaret Thatcher’s remark at a Conservative Party  policy meeting in the late 1970′s, “Another colleague had also prepared a paper arguing that the middle way was the pragmatic path for the Conservative party to take .. Before he had finished speaking to his paper, the new Party Leader [Margaret Thatcher] reached into her briefcase and took out a book.  It was Friedrich von Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty.  Interrupting [the speaker], she held the book up for all of us to see.  ‘This’, she said sternly, ‘is what we believe’, and banged Hayek down on the table.”  (John Ranelagh, Thatcher’s People:  An Insider’s Account of the Politics, the Power, and the Personalities.  London:  Harper Collins, 1991.)

Policies like unilateral disarmament, wealth redistribution and redefining marriage sound good to many women – especially in college, and especially when only one side is presented and the other side is demonized. The only way to resist ideas that feel good and ideas that get you peer-approval is to have formed your own views through independent study. Lady Thatcher’s economic policies were formed through a study of real economists like Nobel-prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek and Nobel-prize-winning economist Milton Friedman. The reason why she was able to hold to her principles is because she knew what she was talking about, and her opponents did not. She didn’t care about feeling good. She didn’t care about what other people thought of her. She knew was right, and that was enough to sustain her in trying times. She had the knowledge, and her opponents couldn’t change her core convictions by trying to shame her. It didn’t work.

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