American Elephants

North Korea Rattles its Nuclear Sabers Again. Deranged and Provocative. by The Elephant's Child

North Korea has not been getting the attention they want, so they are sending another reminder that they are somewhat deranged. They just finished showing off another nuclear facility, and now they are shooting at a South Korean island, and the South Koreans are shooting back.  It is a shake-down, and they want appeasement money, attention, and influence.  Nothing happens in North Korea that China doesn’t know about, which adds another element to the provocation.

This comes at a moment when criticism of President Obama’s foreign policy is in the news and coming from the left as well as the right.  At the Washington Post, Jackson Diehl notes that Obama’s foreign policy is in crucial respects stuck in the 1980s when he was an undergraduate at Columbia and interested in the nuclear freeze movement.

I certainly don’t want to hold anyone responsible for what they thought when they were in college.  Most of us grow up. but as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama offered a disarmament credo reprinted at Power Line, and available in a YouTube video, and he seems firmly stuck back in his undergraduate ideas.  Richard Epstein suggests that Obama simply does not change his mind.

Ben Smith writes on the view of Obama’s foreign policy from the Middle East at Politico, which  has been a disaster. These two pieces largely concern Obama’s policy with Israel, Iran, Iraq, and the Middle East in general.  Governments around the world keep an eye on America to make judgments about the leadership, and indications of listlessness or misdirection are duly noted.

Obama has seemed consumed with his belief that whatever problems existed in the world were caused by George W. Bush, and that he would change all that by being humble and apologizing for our faulty country.  He seems to not grasp that there are real problems in the world that had nothing to do with Bush, and were not caused by America.  We get blamed for practically everything as an easy convenience, but when push comes to shove, the world depends on a strong America, and they want and need us to be there.  A weak America alarms them.

North Korea is a nasty problem that has been festering for years. They have nuclear weapons, they have long-range missiles, they are believed to have other weapons of mass destruction. They have no respect for human life; and their only source of funds for life support is selling nuclear technology to the other rogue nations of the world.  Kim Jong Il is very ill, he has named as his successor his 28-year-old youngest son who is untested, and unknown.

Victor Davis Hanson wrote this morning on the Korean problem:

But after 22 months of apologizing, bowing, and contextualizing supposed American sins from the trivial (lamenting the Arizona law in a meeting with the Chinese) to the profound (the mythical Cairo speech, unilaterally pressing Israel right out of the starting gate), the Obama administration has sent the message that it may not be so comfortable with America’s past unilateral responsibilities to its allies, and may even sympathize with some of the grievances of our purported enemies. Whether this assessment is fair or not, that’s the message they’ve sent.

Dismissing the idea that past global problems might transcend George W. Bush, this administration operated as if a charismatic world citizen, with reset magic, could win over the globe to a U.N.-sponsored utopia. These false assumptions intrigued the curious abroad — why would Obama seek to advance such absurd notions about global problems having originated with U.S. belligerence circa 2001–2009 and being resolved by U.S. empathy in 2009–2010? Apparently, as we are now learning, North Korea wants to find out the answer.

The world does not wait for nations to be prepared for developments.  Obama needs to stop apologizing and posturing and address the world as it really is.

The End of Corn-Based Ethanol? Good Riddance! by The Elephant's Child

The energy sector has been a busy place in the last two years.  Oil has been at $150, collapsed to $40 after the economic meltdown in 2008, and is now heading back towards $100.  We have had the election of a decidedly anti-fossil-fuel president in Barack Obama.  We have had huge talk of a future constraining carbon, which was supposed to be celebrated in Copenhagen last December, but was frittered away completely.  China will never agree to a carbon cap, and the American public probably will not either.  The Energy Tribune reports:

In the unreasonable environmentalist fervor of the last few years, imbued by alarmism after alarmism, preposterous solutions like wind and solar have been offered, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they cannot substitute for fossil fuels for decades, if ever. It is not just the costs which, the only conceivable source, governments, can no longer afford; thermodynamics is simply prohibitive.

Corn-based ethanol has been an even more spectacularly silly idea. It is of course supported heavily by the agricultural lobby in what my colleague, Robert Bryce, has routinely called the ethanol scam. With a very adverse impact on food prices, this ethanol is both highly inefficient (as it is done today it takes 1.6 gallons of gasoline equivalent to produce one gallon of ethanol) and much ado about nothing. If we use all of the corn grown in the United States to produce motor vehicle ethanol it would amount to about 20 percent of our gasoline demand.

The Celanese Corporation announced on November 10 that it has developed an “innovative process technology — to produce ethanol using basic hydrocarbon feedstocks,” using anything from coal to natural gas to pet coke. This is a most interesting announcement.  It is currently suggested as a means to produce ethanol for industrial use.  It can produce massive quantities of ethanol using an economically advantageous process that could fulfill global needs without resorting to any corn-based ethanol.

Celanese will start its production in China with one and then two complexes capable of producing about 400,000 tons a year from coal, which China has in abundance, and convert it to an environmentally benign fuel.  Celanese will also build an industrial ethanol  production unit in its Clear Lake, Texas, facility with natural gas as a feedstock.

Mr. Economides says the Celanese announcement contains multiple win-wins, it is a real energy solution, and a deployment of the quintessential American strength — technological ingenuity.

A High Energy Conversation With Richard Epstein. by The Elephant's Child

Nick Gillespie of Reason had a conversation with Richard Epstein recently at the New York University Law School.  Richard Epstein is a professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, and a fellow at the Hoover Institution.  He works at the intersection of Law and Economics, and is on my list of people I always listen to carefully when I get the chance.

With Richard Epstein, you have to listen carefully, because he goes at warp speed. A YouTube video is the perfect venue because you can go back and catch what you missed before, and you will miss a lot because he speaks, as Power Line noted, “at the speed of thought.”

(h/t: Power Line)

The EPA is Out-of-Control, and Doing Monumental Damage. by The Elephant's Child

One of the most important jobs for the new Congress in January will be to reign in the rampaging EPA.  The range of the Environmental Protection Agency’s assault on American Business and the power industry in particular is unprecedented.

The Wall Street Journal details the agency’s regulatory onslaught in a column titled “The EPA Permitorium,” a delightful coinage.  Since Barack Obama took office, the agency  has proposed or finalized 29 major regulations and 172 major policy rules.

Cap-and-Trade, a program for enriching favored corporations and agencies through trading  carbon credits, has failed in Congress, and the Chicago Carbon Exchange has shut down.  It’s dead, if anything ever dies in Washington D.C.  The “green” dreams of the Obama Administration must be accomplished by other means.  The Department of Energy and the Interior Department are hard at work, but the EPA is regulating at hyperspeed.

The most controversial of the EPA’s regulations is their “endangerment” finding on carbon.  The assertion that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a “pollutant.” is laughable.  CO2 is one of the building blocks of life.  It is a natural fertilizer that makes the plants of the earth grow. (Remember photosynthesis from your high school biology?)  Without carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, there would be no life. It is what we exhale every time we breathe.  The current concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 385 parts per million.  Many scientists say that 1000 ppm would be ideal for optimum plant growth.  The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been much higher at times in the past.

Administrator Lisa Jackson is stretching legal limits to fulfill the White House’s climatedisruption goals.  They recently tightened the air-quality standards for sulfur dioxide.  The final rule published in June suddenly included a “preamble” that rewrote 40 years of policy.  The preamble threw out sampling and measuring concentration of pollutants,  in favor of computer estimations of what air quality might be.  Worked for the IPCC!  They got the whole world all excited about alarming climate disruption that existed only in their computer modeling programs.

And the computer modeling programs of Michael Mann gave us the famous “hockey stick” graph, and the programs at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia produced faulty data, and I read somewhere that they were based on economic programs favored by Wall Street, but I don’t know if that is true.  What is true is that any program that pretends to estimate the future is garbage.  It is that simple.  We cannot predict the future.

The EPA’s history is not exactly laudable.  William Ruckleshaus, the first administrator, banned the use of DDT based largely on the unscientific writings of Rachel Carson, and millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa and the less-developed world died of malaria because they were not allowed to spray their huts with DDT.

“Extinct” species have been rediscovered; and species have been declared endangered so that some project that environmental activists don’t like cannot be built. California’s great Central Valley’s farm land has been laid to waste through lack of water, creating some of the worst unemployment in the country because of a possibly “endangered” minnow.  Whistle-blowers have faced real repercussions.

An important task for the next Congress will be to reign in the out-of-control agency and strip it of its self-delegated powers.  The damage this agency is doing to business, to job creation and to economic growth in incalculable.  Abolishing the agency would be even better.

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