American Elephants

Hypocrisy in the Bureaucracy, and In the Courts As Well. by The Elephant's Child
September 8, 2009, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Energy, Environment, Law | Tags: , ,

The Wall Street Journal  has a story by Robert Bryce, that just knocked me out.  It is a splendid example of the utter dysfunction of today’s world.

On Aug. 13, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees.

ExxonMobil is hardly alone in running afoul of this law. Over the past two decades, federal officials have brought hundreds of similar cases against energy companies. In July, for example, the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines.

Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.

A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.

Altamont’s turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon’s tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.

“Somebody,” Mr. Bryce said Mr. Fry told him, “has given the wind industry a get-out-of-jail-free- card.  If there was even one prosecution the wind industry would be forced to take the issue seriously.”

The world’s environmentalists, and their bureaucratic enablers who expect to profit vastly from taxing carbon dioxide and raising the cost of energy on everyone ; are in love with the idea of “clean, renewable energy” from “free sources” like the wind and the sun.

But neither the wind nor the sun are free when it comes to generating electricity. In spite of the promises and posturing and platitudes, there is little evidence that either wind or solar can ever make a significant contribution to our energy needs.

The wind blows at the right speed only intermittently. When the wind does not blow, there must be backup from a regular power plant.  The effective locations for wind farms are usually far from urban centers.  Although the wind is free, making electricity from the wind and connecting it to a grid are very, very expensive.  The U.S. government subsidizes wind power at $23.34 per MWh. This compares with 25¢ per MWh for natural gas or 44¢ for coal.

Most people need more electricity at night when it gets dark.  The sun sinks beneath the horizon at night.  Solar panels require vast acreage to produce power in any significant quantity.  We are not able at the present time to store electricity in any sizeable amount.  Solar panel manufacturers are going out of business everywhere except here where they are being subsidized enthusiastically by our government.

Once Again, With Bells On. The Same Old Snake Oil. by The Elephant's Child
September 8, 2009, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Economy, Health Care, Progressivism, Taxes | Tags: , ,

President Obama has said modestly that “I have a gift” in reference to his speaking ability.  The Wall Street Journal says:

President Obama has decided that another oration will rejuvenate his health-care agenda—despite having given 27 speeches entirely on health care, and another 92 in which it figured prominently. We’ll see how tomorrow night’s Congressional appeal works out, but the important maneuvers are taking place in the cloak rooms, as the White House tries to staple together a majority.  (emphasis added)

So far, whatever Obama’s “gift” is, it hasn’t involved being honest about anything in the health care bills before Congress.  Abortion is not covered, he has insisted, but it is covered in the House bill.  There is no insurance for non-citizens, he has declared firmly, but non-citizens are not only not excluded—  it is forbidden to inquire about someone’s citizenship.

Preventive care will result in vast savings, he claimed, but studies and the Congressional Budget Office point out that Preventive care will add significantly to costs.  Electronic Medical Records will also save money and make health care more efficient he says, but studies show that any savings would be years away, doctors resist the problems involved, and the problem of privacy of medical records and identity theft are serious.  The claim that 46.6 million Americans are uninsured has been thoroughly debunked: the real number is closer to 9—12 million.

There are many, many options that are known to reduce costs. The Democrats refuse to consider any of them. Tort-reform is a big one, for the law as it stands rewards trial lawyers and results in millions of dollars in unnecessary tests and defensive medicine. But trial lawyers are second only to labor unions in financial support for Democrats.

“What’s your solution,” Obama says, “They don’t have one.” Well, yes they do.  Proven to work.

Competition guarantees lower costs, and encourages innovation.  Public options result in poorer quality care, fewer of the best and brightest entering medicine, less innovation, fewer new drugs, fewer new treatments, slower poorer service.

Democrats look at the socialized systems in other countries and want to copy what they have done.  The Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Clinical Effectiveness Research which was authorized and funded by the Stimulus bill is similar to NICE, the euphemistically named National Institute for Clinical Excellence which determines what treatments will be allowed in Britain’s NHS.

Last year, NICE released it’s Social Value Judgments outlining its guiding principles for allocating NHS resources.  In other words they decide if you can have that hip replacement or if you are too old, or if your retarded child can have expensive treatment. So, no, the “death panels” are not in the House or Senate bills, they have already been passed and funded.

Democrats are consistently uninterested in consequences.  They look at the Canadian health care system and see only that it covers everyone, and the fact that Canada’s top doctors are saying it is unsustainable doesn’t sink in.  They look at Britain’s National Health Service and see only the nice organization.  The Congressional Budget Office tells them that the House bill would cost $1.2 trillion over the first ten years, and another trillion in the following decade, and the only way they can find to pay for it is to raise taxes (Obama is not opposed to a soda tax) and to cut payments to cancer doctors and heart specialists  for their Medicare patients.

If we could just have a lot less snake oil, and some real honesty in dealing with the American people, it would be really helpful.  But then Holman Jenkins Jr. has a leaked first-draft of an honest speech.

There is no crisis.  We have the best health care system in the world, and no one goes without care. The problems, which do need reform, are the result of government policies.  None of the bills would take effect for 4 more years.  So what’s the rush?

%d bloggers like this: