It’s the worst form of energy policy, except for all those others that have been tried May 26, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 35 • By IRWIN STELZER
Having lived through and survived Richard Nixon’s promise of energy independence, Jimmy Carter’s effort to substitute a hair shirt and a woolly sweater for a thermostat set at comfortable levels, George W. Bush’s insistence that Americans surrender their incandescent light bulbs, other presidents’ support for subsidies for ethanol and nuclear power, and the current administration’s plan to substitute subsidized wind and sun for fossil fuels, I thought I had seen it all—every technique imaginable for interfering with free markets and consumer choice. I was wrong.
Now we have the Third National Climate Assessment, making the case for further intervention by our government, and every other government for that matter, in the energy markets. The assessment comes in at a thumping 829 pages, succinctly summarized in a 137-page “Highlights” section, and concludes that the globe is warming—and freezing; we are experiencing more severe droughts—and floods; our forests, many of them “within urban areas,” are being destroyed; our winter storms are more severe; “Native Peoples’ access to traditional foods and adequate water” is threatened. If you experience weather of any sort, an experience hard to avoid, it is sure to change. You are experiencing climate change. It’s happening “right now,” not in some far-off future, says the president.
There’s no mention of slaying of the first born, lest the authors be accused of plagiarizing from the Passover Haggadah’s nasty plagues (bugs, hail, locusts, et al.) visited by God on the Egyptians who mistreated the Israelites. But that’s all that’s left out of the parade of horribles.
Supporters of both the 300 experts and 60-member federal advisory committee that produced the assessment like to claim that the science is “settled,” which commentator Charles Krauthammer has pointed out science never can be (witness Copernicus, Galileo, and Einstein, among other unsettlers of “settled” issues). Anyone who questions the models and conclusions of what the president calls “the 97 percent of scientists” (I think he meant to say “97 percent of reporters”) is a “denier,” a disgusting echo of the term usually reserved for the anti-Semites who deny the Holocaust. Although the assessment refers to evidence that “tells an unambiguous story” of climate disaster and disrupted lives, it concedes, “There has been no universal trend in the overall extent of drought in the continental U.S. since 1900 . . . [and] trends in severe storms, including the intensity and frequency of tornadoes, hail, and damaging thunderstorm winds, are uncertain and are being studied intensely,” a conclusion essential lest the continued flow of grant money to the assessors and advisers dry up along with large sections of the country.
Fortunately, there is little prospect that the call to arms will be heard: Polls show that climate change is low on Americans’ list of worries. But that does not mean the assessment will prove harmless, for it lays the basis for a more complete takeover of energy industries by a president who knows how to deploy the regulatory process to impose his vision on the country, to “transform” it, as he promised even before winning his first presidential election.
The president is fortunate in his opposition, which specializes in doing just that—opposing—but only that. Republicans and many of their conservative allies quite rightly question the science underlying the claims of the president but offer no alternatives to his call for more and more regulations on the production and consumption of energy. One is available, and should not be hastily rejected: a carbon tax.
Conservatives can maintain their skepticism about global climate change, but that does not mean that a bit of prudential action might not be appropriate should it turn out that carbon emissions are indeed having a negative effect on climate. A carbon tax would allow for rebating a portion of the regressive payroll taxes that are job-killers, while further reducing our still-heavy dependence on oil imported from countries that don’t like us, and providing a market-based substitute for costly subsidies and regulations that are piece-by-piece turning the energy sector over to government control. They say that in politics you can’t beat something with nothing, which is what Republicans and conservatives have been doing when it comes to energy policy.
The system Obamacare destroys.Jul 16, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 41 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
President Obama has one thing right: Obamacare will end the process by which insured patients, or those capable of paying from their own pockets (e.g., the rich Saudi princes who inhabit the best suites in our hospitals), subsidize patients who show up in the emergency room, are treated, and then cannot pay their bills. That raises the cost charged to insured and self-paying patients as hospitals recoup their bad debts from caring for the poor.
from the capitalists.Jan 18, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 17 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
We have met the enemy and he is us. So Pogo might have described the situation that the business community has created for itself. There is no question that the Obama administration, and even more the Democratic leadership in Congress, harbor something between skepticism and hostility towards free markets.
The European Union wants to have a bigger economy than America and their welfare state, too.11:00 PM, Jan 26, 2004 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
THIS IS THE SEASON of high-level international meetings and, therefore, the season of many discontents. Europe's concerns about the fall of the dollar and America's fiscal profligacy were aired at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, as were America's concerns about the inability of Europe's governments to stimulate domestic demand. The Europeans are watching their export industries suffer as the euro soars, and the value of the dollars their companies' U.S. subsidiaries earn drop like a stone, as the Euro appreciates to some 50 percent above its previous low.
Employment is a campaign issue, but what do the surveys really tell us about the jobs market?11:00 PM, Jan 21, 2004 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW why ordinary folks find it difficult to understand what economists are saying about the American economy, consider the question of jobs. We know a few things. We know that jobs are such an emotive political issue that one candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination promises that if elected his three top priorities will be, "jobs, jobs, jobs."
Deficits, pricey oil, and a weak dollar--will the Fed keep interest rates low?11:00 PM, Jan 12, 2004 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
THE DOLLAR IS DOWN. Oil is up. America is running huge trade and budget deficits. The Japanese are intervening massively in the currency markets to prevent the yen from rising, and the Chinese show no signs of abandoning the renminbi's peg to the dollar. So the euro is bearing the brunt of the dollar's decline, making euroland goods less competitive and snuffing out any signs of a European recovery.
Economic models come up with two very different futures.11:00 PM, Jan 5, 2004 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
AS ECONOMIC FORECASTERS cranked up their models at the end of last year, many pored over the printouts and decided that Robert Browning had it right when he wrote, "Never glad confident morning again." The economy seemed in such bad shape that the Democrats looked forward to teaching another Bush that "it's the economy, stupid." The unemployment rate was 6 percent and rising; the president's tax cuts threatened fiscal meltdown; the trade deficit was heading for a succession of records; the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board was warning of "corrosive deflation"; and the president had just
OPEC has kept the price of oil above $28 for some time; there are a host of reasons it won't be coming down anytime soon.11:00 PM, Dec 15, 2003 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
THE PRICE OF OIL has jumped about 7 percent in the past two weeks. Under ordinary circumstances, and for most commodities, volatility comes as no surprise and is of little consequence. But oil is different. For one thing, its price is affected by a powerful cartel, OPEC, that tries to lock in price increases. For another, it is so crucial to the functioning of industrial economies that past price jumps have thrown America and, in some cases, the world, into protracted periods of sub-par growth.
Why the dollar continues to do well in currency markets and where it's headed next.11:00 PM, Dec 8, 2003 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
WE WERE TAUGHT in graduate economics classes that if a country runs large and persistent trade deficits, the value of its currency will decline relative to the value of the currencies of its trading partners. Oh yes, other things being equal, of course. Then we entered the real world and found that other things are never equal.
Americans are overweight and the extra pounds are going to cost Big Business.11:00 PM, Dec 1, 2003 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
BY NOW, we will have consumed the leftovers from our Thanksgiving feasts, which saw us dispose of 45 million turkeys, perhaps 200 million sweet potatoes, and at least 50 million pies of various sorts. Add in stuffing made from white bread, cranberry sauce loaded with sugar, and carrots roasted in brown sugar and butter, and you have a dieter's nightmare--one estimate puts the carb content of a typical Thanksgiving meal at what Atkins would call "a whopping" 200 grams.
While the economy revs up, the administration turns to protectionism and over-budget spending.11:00 PM, Nov 24, 2003 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
ONLY ONE THING can stall the U.S. economic recovery that is now underway: a major policy error by America's politicians. And, unfortunately, they have two such blunders in mind, namely protectionism and fiscal profligacy.
The economy itself continues to grow, although not at the breakneck 7.2 percent pace that has been reported for the third quarter (that figure will be revised upward this week to something like 8 percent). The housing market is a principal driver. In October housing starts rose 2.9 percent from the previous month's level.
From the December 1, 2003 issue: A grotesquely irresponsible energy bill nears completion.Dec 1, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 12 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
IF PORK WERE A FUEL that could produce electricity and power SUVs, America would now be independent of imported oil. Unfortunately, the pork contained in the first new energy bill in over a decade has more to do with a desire to please Iowa corn farmers and assorted auto and energy companies than with the urgent need to reduce our reliance on oil from the world's most unstable region.
Retailers are expecting a big Christmas season. Will they be zooming into the black?11:00 PM, Nov 17, 2003 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
IF YOU THOUGHT the report that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 7.2 percent was good news, wait until you see the revised estimate. I am told that the final figure will be at least 7.8 percent, and might well reach 8.0 percent.
So much for the look in the rear view mirror. The more important question is whether the road ahead will provide a smooth ride to a sustained period of economic growth or prove as bumpy as the one over which we have recently traveled.
The economy seems to be right where the president wants it for 2004.11:00 PM, Nov 10, 2003 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
HERE IN WASHINGTON, the November 2004 election is not a year away--it's now. So the Bush team is trying to figure out how fast the economy has to grow to create political capital at a rate that outpaces the mounting death toll in Iraq.