What Happened to California?

What Happened to California?

Here’s Todd Royal of Law & Liberty on the forest fires in California:

What we are witnessing is a “man-made power outage problem” caused by Democratic Party-aligned environmentalists, activist judges, and the California Air Resources Board. Obama-era environmental regulations rewrote decades-old solutions to forest management by eliminating controlled fires to clear away dead foliage, and allowed plaintiffs attorneys and judges free reign to impose crushing judicial and regulatory costs for basic land management. If these regulations continue unabated then PG&E’s grid will continuously be shut off when hot winds affect their customer base.

Trump Has Backed Off Freezing 2020 Fuel Efficiency Standards

Trump Has Backed Off Freezing 2020 Fuel Efficiency Standards

Replacing the Obama administration/California standards for vehicle CO2 emissions with the Trump administration’s Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule would have insignificant impacts on climate change. This is Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

As explained in my congressional testimony this week, according to the Obama administration’s own climate modeling, replacing the current CO2 standards with the SAFE rule would add only 0.003°C to global average temperatures 81 years from now—an undetectably small and climatically inconsequential change.

However . . .

The Right Way Forward on the Antiquities Act

The Right Way Forward on the Antiquities Act


As I previously discussed here, the Antiquities Act is probably unconstitutional, and by modifying the size of two monuments, Grand Staircase/Escalante and Bears Ears, President Trump has reined in its worst excesses. But the law remains. While no president has ever undone a national monument designation entirely, as John Yoo and Todd Gaziano explain in a study published by the American Enterprise Institute, previous presidents have downsized national monuments on 18 occasions and modified the management of a number of other monuments. No presidential action to downsize or change the management of a monument has ever been successfully challenged in the courts, however, so it is likely Trump’s actions are legal and will withstand judicial scrutiny. Trump has yet to act on Zinke’s other recommended monument changes and it is unclear if he will.

Although I think Trump’s actions are justified and, indeed, that he should reverse and rescind more monument designations, in truth no president’s actions alone can fix the problems inherent to the dictatorial, entirely undemocratic, and arguably unconstitutional Antiquities Act. As Trump and other presidents before him have shown, what one president establishes as a monument, later presidents can modify.

Indeed, Trump himself yielded to the siren song luring Presidents to declare national monuments. Less than a year after he dramatically reduced the size of two national monuments, he designated 525 acres in Kentucky, once the site of a civil war camp and depot, the Camp Nelson National Monument.

Violence in Chile: A Warning about Energy Prices

Violence in Chile: A Warning about Energy Prices

Riots in Chile have led to violence, 18 reported deaths, and a state of emergency. What caused the riots? John Authers writes in the Washington Post that there are a number of reasons. Second in importance after income inequality is energy price hikes. The immediate cause was a 4 percent rise in transit fares, which rose partly because of a switch to more-expensive renewable energy.

The catalyst was a proposal to raise public transport fares and energy bills. There is ample evidence from across the world that these will incite rebellion like nothing else — a point that those who hope to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions via a carbon tax should bear in mind.

The violent protests of the Gilets Jaunes in France were over higher gasoline taxes, which were seen as penalizing car-dependent people in the provinces while favoring metropolitan elites. Mexico in 2017 saw riots and protests against what was known as the “gasolinazo,” a 20% rise in fuel prices that was a part of the government’s partial privatization of Pemex, the monopoly state oil company.

Last year, Brazil was rocked by protests and a strike by truck drivers in response to fuel shortages and a sharp increase in the price of diesel.

Authers, who writes for BloombergOpinion, listed the other reasons as the lack of a populist leader who could control populism and slumping prices of copper, a major Chilean export.

Turbulence Ahead for Wind Energy

Turbulence Ahead for Wind Energy

Ken Artz of the Heartland Institute reports that U. S. wind energy faces hard times:

  • The federal tax credit for wind energy ends Dec. 31, 2019.
  • Countries are dumping wind turbines on the U. S., hurting U.S. producers.
  • The Internatiinal Trade Commission is considering tariffs on turbines and parts.

Writes Artz:

The wind industry is entirely dependent on government favoritism, says Rob Bradley Jr., Ph.D., CEO of the Institute for Energy Research.

“Cronies live and die by the government sword,” Bradley said. “Each and every wind project depends on large tax subsidies as well as preferential federal regulations to be built.

“It is ironic—and rare—the wind industry finds itself on the losing end of government policy, but tariffs on imported parts are just that,” Bradley said.

“How about eliminating all the subsidies, along with the tariffs, and let the market, not government, decide what electrical generation is best?” Bradley said.

Trump’s Monumental Course Reversal

Trump’s Monumental Course Reversal

As part of his program to remove the government’s boot-heel off the neck of state governments and American workers and businesses, candidate Donald Trump promised to review and, where appropriate, reverse where he felt it was justified, national monuments declared not just by Obama but going back two decades. As I discussed here, using the Antiquities Act has been a favorite technique of many presidents to satisfy pressures from environmentally powerful constituents.

Within months of taking office, Trump issued an executive order directing then-Interior Department secretary Ryan Zinke to review all presidential monument designations or expansions of more than 100,000 acres since January 1, 1996, to ensure they were limited strictly to the smallest area necessary to care for the objects or features to be protected. At the time, Trump called the size and number of national monuments created by Obama “an egregious abuse of power.

Going back to January 1, 1996, was not coincidental. At that time President Bill Clinton created the 1,880,461-acre Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, in Utah, also against the state’s entire congressional delegation’s wishes. The Grand Staircase declaration was as controversial in its time as the 2016 Bears Ears designation by Obama.

By September 2017, Zinke recommended the president shrink the size and/or modify the management of at least 10 national monuments. In particular, Zinke recommended reducing the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah, Nevada’s Gold Butte, and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou. He also recommended shrinking two marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean and amending the proclamations for 10 monuments to allow for various commercial activities previously allowed in these areas but now restricted.

On December 5, 2017, Trump reduced the size of the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument by approximately 800,000 acres, to just over 1 million acres, and shrunk the Bears Ears National Monument from 1.35 million acres to 201,876 acres.

Stop Pretending to Cut Carbon Emissions. Engineer a Solution.

Stop Pretending to Cut Carbon Emissions. Engineer a Solution.

From James Conca at Forbes:

Since we are failing to curb global carbon emissions at all, we are left with using our huge brains, which got us into this problem in the first place, to try to wangle our way out of it.

Whether that’s solar engineering [sending back a small fraction of sunlight] or cloud seeding to reduce incident solar radiation, or reforestation, or carbon capture and sequestration from burning fossil fuels, or ocean iron fertilization or putting huge mirrors in space, humans think we can engineer our way around any issue. The best most direct strategy, that has the least bad side-effects, is to remove carbon directly from the atmosphere and make something useful out of it – like fuel – that would further lessen the burden on the environment.

One company is already doing that.

Based in Canada, Carbon Engineering’s Direct Air Capture system directly removes CO2 from the atmosphere, purifies it, and produces a pipeline-ready compressed CO2 liquid using only energy and water. This CO2 can be combined with non-fossil fuel-generated hydrogen, to produce ultra-low carbon intensity hydrocarbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and Jet Fuel-A.

“California’s Dark Ages”

“California’s Dark Ages”

From the Wall Street Journal editorial page:

Californians are learning to live like the Amish after investor-owned utility PG&E this week shut off power to two million or so residents to prevent wildfires amid heavy, dry winds.

For years the utility skimped on safety upgrades and repairs while pumping billions into green energy and electric-car subsidies to please its overlords in Sacramento.

Suddenly, Californians are learning to love fossil fuels. Stores have experienced runs on oil lamps—yes, those still exist—and emergency generators fueled by gasoline, propane or diesel.

Most batteries that store solar power can’t keep homes charged for more than a day during a blackout, and most electric-car owners won’t have enough juice to escape the power outage. Still, liberals in Sacramento want to abolish fossil fuels.

What ‘Environmental Studies’ Means These Days

What ‘Environmental Studies’ Means These Days

From a Bates College (Maine) ad for an assistant professor in environmental studies:

We seek a scholar or scholar/practitioner in cultural studies, literature, or performing/studio arts who is attentive to hierarchies of power and privilege and can offer cross-cultural and/or transnational perspectives on environmental traditions.

Fields and research approaches are open, but could include: critical race theory, ecocriticism and nature writing, ecofeminism/feminist environmentalism, energy humanities, indigenous and post-colonial/decolonial/decolonizing environmentalisms, posthumanism and animal studies, and queer ecologies. Applicants with a demonstrated record of working successfully with a diversity of students, including underrepresented and marginalized populations, are encouraged to apply.

We specifically seek applications from individuals with the ability to contribute to the continuing commitment of both the Environmental Studies Program and Bates to equity and inclusion, social and cultural diversity, and the transformative power of our differences.

HT-Campus Reform

Monumental Abuse of the Antiquities Act, Part I

Monumental Abuse of the Antiquities Act, Part I

The 1906 Antiquities Act was one of the most ill-considered laws ever written, giving presidents dictatorial power to declare large swaths of the public’s land off limits to a variety of uses normally allowed on federal lands. Under President Barack Obama, this power turned into a monument acquisition spree.

The Antiquities Act grants the president discretionary power “to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest … to be national monuments.” Congress originally passed the law as an emergency measure to prevent the looting of antiquities on Indian lands. It was intended, as the debate surrounding it shows, only to be used when public lands or artifacts faced immediate threats of destruction and the normal pace of congressional action might take too long to prevent harm.

Are You Willing to Bet Money on  Your Environmental Views?

Are You Willing to Bet Money on Your Environmental Views?

Andrew McAfee is offering to take a number of bets centered around predictions and implications from his new book More From Less

  • In 2029, the US will consume less total energy than it did in 2019.
  • In 2029, the US will produce less total CO2 emissions than it did in 2019, even after taking offshoring into account.
  • Over the five years leading up to 2029, the US will use less paper in total than it did over the five years leading up to 2019.

HT to Alex Tabarrok.

A Moratorium on Fossil-Fuel Leasing Would Be Disastrous

A Moratorium on Fossil-Fuel Leasing Would Be Disastrous

Shawn Regan of PERC on presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s plan to issue a moratorium on fossil-fuel leasing. Writing in the National Review:

Such a policy would mean no new drilling on the 97 million federal offshore acres and 113 million onshore acres that are currently available for leasing. It would also mean no new drilling on areas that are under existing leases, which have ten-year terms and require permits for each well drilled. It could also apply to export facilities and pipelines, such as those transporting new exports of liquefied natural gas, that cross federal streams and rivers deemed “waters of the United States.”

A moratorium would effectively end drilling on public lands and waters, which in 2018 produced more than 2 million barrels of oil per day and 4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, generating nearly $9 billion in federal revenue. It would also handcuff America’s private energy sector by limiting its ability to deliver its products to market. “No country in the world has ever abandoned a natural resource of this proven value,” says energy-law professor James Coleman of Southern Methodist University.

It would be a shift from the Obama administration’s program:

Warren’s pledge illustrates just how far Democrats have diverged from the energy and climate policies of the Obama administration. President Barack Obama presided over, and often championed, a rapid increase in U.S. oil and gas production, driven primarily by the rise of fracking, which has enabled the United States to become the largest oil and gas producer in the world. This has led to cleaner air and lower carbon emissions, cheaper energy, less dependence on foreign imports, a manufacturing renaissance, and massive economic benefits to American consumers. By one estimate from the Brookings Institution, fracking has improved the economic well-being of U.S. consumers by roughly $75 billion per year.

Steven Hayward on Greenland

Steven Hayward on Greenland

Steven Hayward on Greenland:

Citing the Economist, Hayward notes that yes, Greenland is losing more than 200 cubic kilometers of ice (0.007% of its total volume) a year, three times past estimates.

Wait—hold on a minute: Greenland is losing only 0.007 percent of its ice per year right now? That’s what we’re supposed to be panicking about? At this rate, it will take 7,000 years for Greenland to lose half of its ice mass. Even if the rate more than doubles, it will still take around 3,000 years. Trump better lower his bid for Greenland.

H-T Myron Ebell

Authors of Shocking Climate Change Story Retract It

Authors of Shocking Climate Change Story Retract It

Authors of an article in Nature, a premier scientific publication, have been required to retract an article published in October 2018 arguing that the ocean was absorbing sixty percent more heat than previously thought. That finding suggested that global warming is much more severe than predicted by prominent scientists.

The article was widely publicized by such media as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, and others.

“Startling new research finds large buildup of heat in the oceans, suggesting a faster rate of global warming,” was the Post’s headline. “The findings mean the world might have less time to curb carbon emissions.”

Within days, however, the Post and the Times modified their stories; the Times even changed the headline to a more tepid “Scientists Find a New Way to Take the Oceans’ Temperature.” The Post published a new story that explained why.

About this blog

This blog is about appreciating the environment and protecting it using the tools of economics. Your blog manager is Jane Shaw Stroup, a former senior fellow of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC).

We are grateful to the Goodman Institute for providing this opportunity.

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Are Global Skeptics Dying Off?

Are Global Skeptics Dying Off?

Richard Lindzen, emeritus professor of meteorology at MIT, suggested at a recent meeting that prominent scholars  who were skeptical about global warming are being replaced by a generation of students of climate science—which, he says, is often not science at all.

For the past 30 years, ever since global warming became a public issue, Lindzen has questioned the apocalyptic view of climate change. As the topic rose to public attention in the late 1980s, Lindzen was so prominent that his views could not be ignored. Richard Kerr wrote in Science magazine in 1989 that “no other U.S. skeptic has such scientific stature.”

But over time, Lindzen became a target of hostility from advocates of global warming extremism. More disturbing perhaps were sometimes subtle attacks by his colleagues, including editors of peer-reviewed journals. For example, as he recounted in 2008, the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published a paper, written with colleagues, that found a strong cooling effect from clouds. But the Bulletin then published a paper disputing this cooling effect without giving Lindzen and his coauthors the opportunity to respond in the same issue (the normal practice). And American Scientist, the journal of the scientific honor society Sigma Xi, refused to publish an article by Lindzen unless he found as a coauthor someone who differed with him on global warming!

Joseph Bast on Climate Hysteria

Joseph Bast on Climate Hysteria

By Joseph Bast

Reading Dick Lindzen’s comments (summarized above) just makes me feel even more tired and cynical than usual . . . which is saying quite a bit.

Dr. Lindzen is a brilliant and courageous scientist. Like so many others he laments that global warming skeptics aren’t better organized or, if practicing scientists, didn’t rally against the invasion of their respective scientific disciplines by environmental activists and socialists. He knows why they didn’t—the other side was unified in seeking an end (ending reliance on fossil fuels) to which climate science was just a means. Skeptics agree on a question of means—that science ought not be weaponized in a political debate, that “climate science” isn’t really science at all—but disagree on the end (libertarians think it’s about preserving energy freedom).

Experience demonstrates that agreement on ends is a stronger organizing tool than agreement on means.

Their side tapped hundreds of millions of dollars in grants from liberal foundations and raised from “crisis of the month” direct mail campaigns, plus the nation’s universities, already captured by the left, for an almost bottomless pool of free manpower, venues, and more funding. Our side could barely afford to hire any staff or even pay for travel expenses to bring our wide-flung alliance together a few times to share ideas.

Is It Too Late to Stop Global Warming?

Is It Too Late to Stop Global Warming?

This is Dick McKenzie, writing in Regulation magazine:

The gremlin in climate scientists’ gloomy narrative is the prospect of a “tipping point”: an abrupt worsening in environmental change, looming in the next dozen years or (at most) the next few decades—if the tipping point has not already been reached. Once climate change has “tipped,” global warming (and an array of other changes in the global climate) will be self-perpetuating, self-accelerating, and irreversible, no matter how drastic the adopted future emissions-abatement policies are….


Beyond the tipping point, many scientists say, there is one inevitable outcome: environmental Armageddon, at which point the climate will become so degraded that all of life will be hellish, if species can survive that long. Effectively, Earth will gradually become a second Venus, which at one time, long ago, was likely as habitable as Earth, but is not today because of its (natural, not man-made) greenhouse-gas self-perpetuating cycles. Venus’s surface temperature is now close to 900 degrees.

Regulation is published by the Cato Institute.

No. That’s not a misprint. It’s the same think tank that has been telling us for years that climate change is no cause for alarm.​

What Went Wrong with the Obama-Era “Waters” Rule?

What Went Wrong with the Obama-Era “Waters” Rule?

In his new PERC policy paper, R. David Simpson reports on his experience reviewing the cost-benefit analysis of an Obama-era regulation defining “WOTUS.” (In Washington lingo, that is “waters of the United States.”) Simpson, an economist formerly with the Environmental Protection Agency, expresses regret that he did not press harder to improve the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis of the rule, issued in 2015. The rule was designed to extend the federal government’s jurisdiction over U.S. waters under the Clean Water Act, bringing relatively isolated streams and wetlands under government regulation.

Is There an Extinction Crisis?

Is There an Extinction Crisis?

Does the world face the extinction of 1 million species due to human activity? A UN Report says so.

An intergovernmental group sponsored by the United Nations announced that the world is facing the extinction of 1 million species, all because of human activity. “Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history — and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating,” said its news release.

Is the Media Lying about Climate Change?

Is the Media Lying about Climate Change?

“The media, for whatever reason, has chosen a role for itself as a cheerleader for climate boondoggles. And the more specialized the media . . . the more completely it will devote itself to misleading the public about the true nature of the climate challenge in our democracy.” Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal.


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