American Elephants


What We Don’t Know and the Precautionary Principle. by The Elephant's Child


This dandy little diagram came. I believe, from Dr. Roy Spencer, who tries to emphasize what we know about the climate.  The great vast part of the circle of climate knowledge is what we don’t know that we don’t know about climate. (see Donald Rumsfeld)

That small bright blue wedge represents the sum total of our knowledge. It is on this small percentage of knowledge that we and other western industrialized countries have decided to transform our economies. We have just learned that the fabled “greenhouse effect” and the vast dangers of the earth heating up because of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are largely hooey, but billions and billions have been spent to reduce the amount of CO2 escaping into the atmosphere. Why?

It is on that basis that the president has attempted to keep us from using our own natural resources of oil and gas by refusing to issue drilling permits, by putting the coastlines of the eastern United States, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the west coast and the coast of Alaska off limits to drilling for the next seven years.  Those efforts have contributed significantly to the soaring 9.2% unemployment rate. The administration is busily choosing winners and losers, something governments don’t know how to do.

It is on the basis of that small blue wedge that the president is promoting electric cars, which Americans don’t want, and doubling CAFE standards in a move that automakers cannot meet.

Master Resource notes that:

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) is offering guaranteed financing to First Solar Inc. for three solar panel projects in California for $4.5 billion.  Carefully analyzed, these projects do little to fund efficient energy production or create permanent jobs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes that in 2010 only 1% of energy consumption was from solar power. Yet 15 out of the 23 generation LPO projects have been for solar power plants. The cost of these 15 projects has been $16 billion–40 percent of the total cost of all guaranteed projects.

A previous $1.6 billion guarantee for a solar panel project, Bright Source Energy, produced 1,000 temporary construction jobs and 86 permanent jobs. That’s $18.6 million per permanent job.

And in another piece:

The U.S. wind market, which has relied on public funding since its inception in the 1970s, has a long trail of false expectations and broken promises.

The wind industry has promised to meet U.S. electricity needs, claiming that wind power could supply 20% of all needs by 1995.  Today wind energy delivers about 2% of the U.S. electricity market.Promises of reduced costs, improved performance and job creating have proved false.  It seems that wind will perpetually be an “infant industry,” perpetually demanding support, and the public has not done enough to create a market for it.

Billions and billions, all based on a very small amount of knowledge about a very large subject.  Possibly we should consider that we can adapt to such changes as we have seen. And that we simply don’t know enough to be investing so much in what may be absolutely futile.

This is government by Precautionary Principle.  It states that if an action or a policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific proof that the policy or action is harmful, the burden of proof  that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.  This is nonsense, and falls in the same category as proving a negative.

We are leaving Iraq and Afghanistan in 2014, therefore there will be no more wars and we can cut billions from the defense budget, because we simply don’t need all those planes and ships and silly equipment.  Or you can make up your own example of unfortunate administration thinking.


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The pattern is well tried and predictable. First, the lightning rod salesman attempts to convince you to buy a $100 lightning rod to “protect” your house. You ask the logical question ‘how frequently would my house be hit by lightning in this part of the country’ and he storms off telling you how foolish you are to take the risk… but doesn’t answer your question that would quantify that risk.

Meanwhile the lightning rod manufacturer, and the union representing his employees, contributes thousands of dollars to the local legislature, and makes the appropriate threats of cataclysmic job losses, and suddenly lightning rods become part of the mandated building codes for new construction and also a tax-payer subsidized ‘jobs’ program to retrofit all existing homes… for safety. Please note that the actual risk to the homeowners, that they are being protected from, is not part of the equation.

Now, you are informed that your house will be fitted with a $100 lightning rod, but you are not told that the actual cost of that lightning rod will be $1000/installed, which will ultimately be paid by you in the form of higher taxes.

You contact your home insurance company and ask the question, ‘will this save on my homeowner’s policy’, and they say yes! Based on the risk to your home of fire you will get a reduction in your premiums… of 19 cents.

While you are mulling over the obvious problem that a $1000 lightning rod is only delivering you a 19 cent reduction in fire risk to your home you notice that the local paper features an article by an appropriately partisan “economist” who raves about “job creation” and the value to the economy of this very program.

What should concern you are two things. You… pay taxes. So your taxes will have to subsidize the lower income 1/2 of the country whose taxes will not cover their $1000 lightning rod. So yes… you will be paying $2000 in increased taxes for 19 cents in benefits.

Second, now that this pattern of deception has been demonstrated to be so rewarding… to Unions, politicians and manufacturers of products nobody needs… what’s next?

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Comment by DANEgerus

Excellent comment, I love it! Though as far as lightning rods are concerned, I once, long-ago, had lightning strike a tall fir about 100 yards from the house. It peeled a wide strip of bark from top to bottom, and it was loud!!! Gave me great respect for lightning, but we never got a lightning rod. Not that this has anything to do with anything.

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Comment by The Elephant's Child




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