American Elephants


Without Subsidies, The Wind Industry is Over. by The Elephant's Child

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Robert Bryce, now a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, is an expert on energy, all kinds of energy, but he is particularly concerned with wind, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. He wrote in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal:

On June 20, 1782, the Continental Congress, after nearly six years of haggling and numerous design changes, finally approved the Great Seal of the United States. In doing so, it made the bald eagle our national symbol. This year, in the name of clean energy, the Fish and Wildlife Service is considering changing federal rules so that a wind-energy developer can be granted an “incidental-take” permit allowing wind projects to kill bald eagles and golden eagles for up to 30 years.

When the regulations interfere with a favored project of the Obama administration, well, they didn’t really mean it about regulations. It’s all relative, you see. There are no permanent standards. What difference , at this point, does it make? Relativity as a philosophy is convenient, because you can use it anywhere, whenever it’s needed.

On Jan. 15, the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the New Era Wind Farm—a proposed project near Red Wing, Minn.—might kill as many as 14 bald eagles per year. Despite that toll, the agency said the developer of the 48-turbine wind farm could go ahead and apply for an eagle-kill permit. If granted, it could be the first project to get one. At least one other wind-energy concern, Oregon’s West Butte Wind Project, also has applied for an incidental-take permit, and others are sure to follow. …

For years, the wind industry has had de facto permission to violate both the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (which protects 1,000 species) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Federal authorities have never brought a case under either law—despite the Fish and Wildlife Service’s estimate that domestic turbines kill some 440,000 birds per year.

Peter C. Glover, writing at Energy Tribune is concerned with the corruption of wind energy:

“Trust us”, the wind industry intoned, “the enormous public investment is just seed-funding. It will be well worth it as costs fall in the cause of saving Mother Gaia”.

Energy insiders never bought it. The Victorians replaced windmills with steam driven machinery because they weren’t cost efficient enough. But it’s easy to understand why Joe Average and populist politicos bought it. After all, aren’t most of us suckers for fictional romantic notions of wafting windmills able to harness the wind and create ‘free energy’?

That’s not exactly how it worked out in the real world. Sorry to disappoint, Mr. Obama.

First we were jolted back to reality by uncovering a burgeoning raft of hidden costs – costs specifically obfuscated by wind company claims. The cost, for instance, incurred by having to turn off turbines when the wind reaches over 30 mph; by the failure of turbines to operate above 30 percent capacity; the massive additional cost of having to upgrade power grids to cope with wind’s irregular load factor; not to mention the necessity of investing in gas-turbine back-ups to cover when wind turbines fail. The list goes on.

The claims about energy generated from wind has always been overstated, the true cost of wind power has always been under-estimated. We get way less energy from wind farms  and from our investment in it than we had thought. There have also been in-depth studies showing that wind energy’s impact on CO2 emission restrictions has been grossly over-stated.

The US Energy Information Administration has claimed the “levelized cost” of new wind power at 9.2 cents per kWh compared to 6.3 cents for advanced natural gas burning plants, but the true cost is something quite different. Factoring in the investment cost to upgrade infrastructure and transmission doubles the cost of wind power. The cronyism and corruption add even more unidentified costs.

But wind can only operate as an appendage to traditional power generation. The cost of the primary fossil fueled power plants used for backup must be added,  but keeping them available reduces the amount of generation for which the plants are paid.

In Germany, Der Spiegel blames high energy costs for a rise in tree thefts and wood-burning stove purchases. Germans bought 400,000 wood stoves in 2011.  In Greece, hillsides are being denuded of trees and illegal logging is rampant.  Expensive energy hits the poor the hardest.

ADDENDUM: An article in the Wall Street Journal today, points out that the Obama administration is bringing criminal prosecutions against oil and gas companies for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, while failing to prosecute the wind farms that kill an estimated 400,000 birds each year, many of which are endangered. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) is on the case.

In late 2011 DOJ brought cases against seven oil and gas companies operating in North Dakota. Continental Resources was prosecuted for accidentally killing for Mallard ducks. A federal judge threw out that prosecution. It seems clear from prosecution history is the wildlife-protection statute is being selectively enforced to slow  down oil and gas production while wind farms receive a free pass.



Has President Obama Ever Admitted Blame For Anything? by The Elephant's Child

The news on Friday was indeed bad. Unemployment climbed, an ‘unexpected’ event, as economists have assured us that there would be teeny-tiny GDP growth at 1.6%. again, ‘unexpectedly’ it declined by 0.1%.  Such a surprise brings up all the other numbers that the administration would prefer go unmentioned, like the deficit topping $1 trillion last year, and growing by $5 trillion over the past four years. Joblessness has been at least 7.8% practically forever, except when it was higher, and for particular segments of the workforce, like black workers.

The immediate response that it was the fault of recalcitrant Republicans in Congress didn’t go viral, so now they are blaming it on — Superstorm Sandy and “disruptions from deep scheduled spending cuts.” The current chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, said in a post on the White House blog that the bad news came “amid signs that Hurricane Sandy disrupted economic activity and Federal defense spending declined precipitously, likely due to uncertainty stemming from the sequester.”

Huh. Republicans have been trying to explain for four years that uncertainty affects the economy and business. That when the government is threatening business with new taxes, and new regulations, and new costs, they’re not going to enthusiastically start hiring, start expanding, borrowing (even when the Fed is keeping interest rates low.) Businesses have to plan. You can plan for some uncertainty, but you can’t plan when everything is uncertain.

Democrats are appalled that Republicans would suggest that they should cut back on spending. The president has said spending cuts must be paired with tax revenue increases. Republicans say we already did that, now you need to, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged, take a look into “the dark corners that often evade real scrutiny” on a mission to make government programs more efficient and scrap those that don’t work. “We need to root out waste, which will serve as the first real test of Democrats’ seriousness in this debate” he said.  He added: “Why is the federal government funding Chinese studies on pig manure, and research into the smoking habits of Jordanian college students and reality TV shows in India?” Are Democrats prepared to cut this kind of waste?  No, no they’re not.

About that spending “decline” Domestic federal spending was up 1.4% in the fourth quarter. The defense spending declines may have been the result of lower war outlays, as well as anticipation of the automatic spending cuts looming from the upcoming sequester scheduled on March 1.  Oh.

The Fed announced that it will stick with its bond-buying theme to expand its balance sheet by another $1 trillion or so through the end of this year —its fifth in a row of near-zero interest rates and some form of “quantitative easing.” The Keynesian excuse is that we’re still recovering from the financial panic, though the WSJ reminds us that in January 2010, the Fed predicted that growth in 2012 wold be 3.5% -4.5%.  his remains the 2% recovery, the slowest in the modern era.

Has nobody noticed that every time Obama gets any kind of increase in jobs created (he doesn’t subtract the folks who have dropped out of the labor market) he immediately runs out and spends money in a way that discourages growth. He bans a pipeline here, he shuts down coal-fired power plants there, his EPA issues new and costly regulations, and nobody seems to understand why it it a problem.



George Gershwin Plays “Rhapsody In Blue” by The Elephant's Child

The miracle of modern technology has restored to us the real sound of George Gershwin (1898—1937) himself. His singular performance of “Rhapsody in Blue” has been transferred from the original 1920’s piano rolls to a contemporary concert grand piano.  Part 1: played January 1927, Part 2: played May 1925.

His first big national hit was “Swanee” which Al Jolson made famous. Then there was “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Oh, Lady be Good,” “Funny Face,” “Strike Up the Band”, “I Got Rhythm,” “Of Thee I Sing.”

His first major classical work, “Rhapsody in Blue,” was composed in 1924, a most American work. “An American in Paris,” and in 1935, his most ambitious composition, which he called a “folk opera” that crossed all sorts of musical barriers — “Porgy and Bess.” It was a box office failure, which seems bizarre today as we recognize the enormous contribution of George Gershwin to American music.

 



The Do Something Urge v. The Complications of Reality. by The Elephant's Child

In the saga of the prevention of the next mass shooting, there are many stories. One comes from the failed state of California. California authorities are empowered to seize weapons — owned by convicted felons and people with mental illness.  Unfortunately staff shortages and funding cuts have left a backlog of more than 19,700 people to disarm, according to a law enforcement official.

Those 19,700 convicted felons and people with mental illness (assuming that there is real reason to identify them as dangerous) typically acquired the firearms legally, before they were convicted of a felony or diagnosed with mental illness. There are many felonies that do not involve threatening anyone with firearms, nor indicate any difference between those who have no problem pointing guns at innocent people and those who do not. Sounds pretty inexact. Nevertheless, those 19,700 people have roughly 39,000 weapons.

Each year, the state investigates and seizes the guns of about 2.000 people on the Armed Prohibited Persons list, but each year about 3,000 names are added to the list. The bureau does not have the funding to keep up.

Testimony and theater. Anti-gun activists summoned dead children.  Law enforcement officials displayed weapons, retired legislators complained that they were intimidated by gun-rights advocates. Victims of gun crimes somberly recounted their stories. Proposals for a 5¢ tax on every bullet purchased. Legislation drafted to require ammunition buyers to provide a thumbprint and ID for background checks. A suggestion that cities and counties be able to enact their own, tougher gun laws. A proposal that gun owners be licensed and insured like motorists drew some opposition.”There is a big question of whether you can license a constitutional right.” Well, so there is.

In the saga of the prevention of the next mass shooting, there are many stories. Unfortunately the record of past mass shooters is one of unknown people with unrecognized problems borrowing or stealing weapons and carefully planning in secret to commit a dreadful act. There really isn’t anything much that government can do to prevent these dreadful one-off, Black Swan events which have actually been growing less frequent. Britain and Australia engaged in complete gun-banning, confiscation of all firearms, strong laws to prevent violence, and crime has increased drastically, violence increased. home invasions increased. The record is quite clear. But a dreadful event happened and everyone wants to do something.




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