American Elephants

The Price of Gas, The ESA, and a Lack of Adult Government. by The Elephant's Child

This little three-inch long lizard, called the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, has the potential to shut down oil and gas operations in portions of Southeast New Mexico and West Texas, including the states’ two oil and gas-producing counties.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has considered the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, since 2001.  It is a rare species found only in 655 square miles in the Mescalero Sands in New Mexico, where it is listed as endangered by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and in at least five counties in adjacent parts of Texas. How many square miles that involves, I don’t know.

There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in terms—how can a 3″ species be “rare” or “endangered” in 655 square miles in one state, and five counties in another state.  That has to be a lot of territory for a lizard. even for hundreds of thousands of lizards. How would you possibly count the number of lizards occupying just one square mile, or even one square quarter-of-a-mile?

They don’t seem to be basing this on lizards, but on sand dune complexes where shinnery oak grows. That is habitat where Dunes Sagebrush Lizards would be expected to be found.  They don’t know whether there are lizards there in either small or large numbers, nor how much territory is needed for a family of lizards.

Species are listed by a petition process, which means that anyone can send a letter to the federal government asking that a species, either plant or animal, be put on the ESA list. The federal government must respond in 90 days. If the federal government fails to respond the petitioner can file litigation against the federal government and get its attorney’s fees paid. Between 2000 and 2009, in just 12 states and the District of Columbia, 14 environmental groups filed 180 federal court complaints to get species listed under the ESA and were paid $11,743,287 in costs and attorney’s fees.

The problem here is that the land includes a big chunk of the Permian Basin, important oil and gas country. The President is demanding that the two largest oil-producing countries increase their oil production to lower gas prices here.  At the same time, he is demanding that the 3rd largest oil producing country (us) cut back on drilling everywhere.

“We are very concerned about the Fish and Wildlife Service listing,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, noting the service also has proposed listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken next year. “The wolf at the door is the lizard; we’re concerned listing it would shut down drilling activity for a minimum of two years and as many as five years while the service determines what habitat is needed for the lizard. That means no drilling, no seismic surveys, no roads built, no electric lines.”

At the moment, 1,374 U.S. species are listed as endangered, with 251 classified as potentially “warranted.” The Obama administration just announced that it will clear a decades-long backlog by agreeing to decide within six years whether or not to include any of the 251. And of course in six years, six times that many may well have petitioned.

As of last year, only 47 species have been removed from the list, and of that number, only 21 because they had “recovered”.  Nine species went extinct, (maybe) and the others should never have been on the list in the first place. Some species have been “saved” by making it illegal to shoot them.  Some extinct species have been found not to be extinct after all.

The American taxpayer is paying for Big Environment to petition for species to be listed as “endangered,”  if the government does not respond within 90 days, and with an apparent six-year backlog, the government doesn’t seem prepared for quick response.  This is simply not responsible law, but perhaps typical of Big Government, and good for the funding of Big Environment.

Most organizations are happy to agree to actions to preserve species, but the government moves with a very heavy hand. BrightSource Energy had to spend $20 million to relocate 20 tortoises and to create a permanent tortoise trust fund so that it could build a solar power plant.  That’s over $1 million per tortoise, and certifiably insane.

You have perhaps noticed that endangered species seem to pop up just when there coincidentally happens to be something going on that Big Environment wants to stop. Surely there can’t be a connection.

NEWSFLASH: Obama Doesn’t Understand the Laws of Supply and Demand. by The Elephant's Child
April 28, 2011, 7:41 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Energy, Junk Science | Tags: , , ,

If President Barack Obama were to schedule a major speech tomorrow, and tell the assorted networks  that America was returning to oil production— he was lifting the federal bans on drilling—the price of oil would start dropping the next day.

  • In 2008, Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) refused to vote for any new offshore drilling.  In a conversation with minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Salazar objected to allowing any drilling on America’s outer continental shelf—even if gas prices reached $10 a gallon.  Obama named him Secretary of the Interior.
  • In 2008, Steven Chu, head of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories at U. of California Berkeley, told the Wall Street Journal that “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” he also said “We have lots of fossil fuel; that’s really both good and bad news.  We won’t run out of energy, but there’s enough carbon in the ground to really cook us.” Obama named him Secretary of Energy.
  • During the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama said “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” And “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can.  It’s just that it will bankrupt them.” He was elected president.

I don’t know if Obama ever took a class in economics, but he seems to be totally unfamiliar with the basic laws of supply and demand.  When supply is restricted, the cost goes up. When the cost of gasoline goes up, so does the cost of everything else.

Goods are transported by truck, and when delivery costs more, the price of your groceries cost more. When the government is busily printing money, the value of the dollar goes down. Oddly enough, the price of gas and the cost of food are not included in the government’s statistics on inflation. You have to keep track of that yourself.

President Obama speaks enthusiastically about his clean, green economy of tomorrow; but he doesn’t seem to understand that windmills and solar arrays produce only small amounts of electricity, which has little to do with transportation, and does not replace gasoline.  Our transportation sector is powered by petroleum, and will continue to be powered by petroleum far into the foreseeable future.  There is no alternative.

Why do I say that an Obama speech turning the energy sector free would start to bring down oil prices right away?  Ronald Reagan did it, and George W. Bush did it.  There is evidence. And the evidence that Obama’s clean, green government subsidized energy will prove to be an effective alternative — ever?  Nonexistent.

Crackpot Economics, Crackpot Environmentalism and Congress. by The Elephant's Child
August 16, 2009, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Economy, Energy, Environment | Tags: , ,


If you want a serious reason to oppose ObamaCare, take a look at the “Cash for Clunkers” program.  Officially it is known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) and it even has its own cute little logo with an automobile symbol in place of the ‘A’.  It was initially part of the Waxman-Markey climate bill that was spun off as separate legislation.  It was initially intended to encourage drivers to trade in older less fuel-efficient  cars for new cars with better fuel economy,  bringing car buyers into empty showrooms and lowering the fuel consumption of the American automotive fleet.

What it does establish is that Americans are not stupid.  When they are offered $4500 of someone else’s money — which on some models can be 1/4 of the price —  to buy a car, they take it.  The $1 billion of taxpayer money appropriated by Congress was exhausted within a week.  So Congress has appropriated another $2 billion.

One of the immediate problems is that the cars that are turned in are required to be crushed immediately.  Most would be perfectly good used cars for those who cannot afford a new car.  But removing them from use will starve the used-car market of inventory, thus driving up the price of used cars and probably bankrupting some small used car dealers. And then there is the parts question, for there is a big market for used car parts.  It is not known if there is a market at present for the scrap metal from the crushed cars.

It is also not known if there is any environmental benefit to the program.  The amount of carbon dioxide that is foregone by replacing cars with higher fuel consumption may well be insignificant compared to the energy required to crush and process the clunkers.  And if the newer vehicles are driven more and farther than the old ones — is there any net reduction in CO2?  And even if there is, the affect of  lowered CO2 may be insignificant in the atmosphere, since most of the CO2 in the atmosphere arises from the oceans, not our tailpipes.

CO2 is not a pollutant, contrary to a misguided ruling by the Supreme Court.  It is a colorless, odorless gas that is natural plant food, and essential to life.  The optimum amount of  CO2 in the atmosphere is about 1000 ppm, the current amount is around 400 ppm.  CO2 is only a trace gas in the atmosphere.

If all that was not enough, it seems that  Dealers are not being repaid for the $4500 they have advanced to car buyers.   Congress has supposedly appropriated the money,  but auto dealers haven seen any money, and it’s hurting.

Were the people who are rushing out to buy new cars with the benefit of $4500 of taxpayer dollars going to buy new cars anyway?  This is crackpot economics.  And it’s catching.  New Jersey and Vermont are now offering subsidies for those who turn in their old refrigerators and freezers.

Meanwhile, senators are considering a permanent clunkers program.  After all, it’s only money and  it is so very popular.  But then Paul always enjoys the gift of  Peter’s money.

ADDENDUM: Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa) has said that the government has only reimbursed 2 percent of dealers , and that 4 our of 5 applications have been rejected for “minor oversight.” The government has only 225  people processing the claims at the Department of Transportation.  They need 1,000 said Sestak.  Gosh, they cannot handle the original billion dollars worth of claims with two more billion to go.  And they are ever so sure they can handle the health insurance claims for 220 million people?  Where is the evidence of any kind of success at that, ever?

American Innovation Once Again Rides to the Rescue! by The Elephant's Child

All is not, after all, lost!  Government mandates spur innovation. “Incandescent Bulbs Return to the Cutting Edge” says the headline in the New York Times. When Congress passed a (silly) law setting tough efficiency standards that no traditional incandescent bulb could meet, it looked like our standard light bulbs were doomed.

It seemed that our light bulbs were to be imported from China, as another two American industries were destroyed — the incandescent bulb industry and their suppliers, and the lighting fixture industry and their suppliers.

Researchers across the country have been racing to breathe new life into Thomas Edison’s light bulb, a pursuit that accelerated with the new legislation. Amid that footrace, one company is already marketing limited quantities of incandescent bulbs that meet the 2012 standard, and researchers are promising a wave of innovative products in the next few years.

Indeed, the incandescent bulb is turning into a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation.

“There’s a massive misperception that incandescents are going away quickly,” said Chris Calwell, a researcher with Ecos Consulting who studies the bulb market. “There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades.”

The first of the new bulbs are 30 percent more efficient than older incandescents, but they are also more expensive at $5 each and more. Phillips says that a 70 watt bulb gives off the same amount of light as a 100 watt bulb and lasts about three times as long.

We have ranted extensively about this government mandate, which we resent.  We don’t think the government has any business messing about with our light bulbs, and have searched for the line in the Constitution that says they do.  See here, here, and here.

The whole bit about “saving energy” is misplaced.  We are energy independent when it comes to electricity, and could easily be more so.  The usual rationale is “getting off of foreign oil.” But at present, and for the foreseeable future, oil powers our transportation, not our lights.  But that kind of good sense seldom engenders government mandates.

Peak Oil Nonsense, and Clean Energy Hooey. by The Elephant's Child
May 20, 2009, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Energy, Freedom, Science/Technology | Tags: , ,


Did you wonder where our oil comes from?  Here are the sources of all that “foreign oil” that is so often declaimed.  [ Click on the image to enlarge]

Aside from the (erroneous) belief that “global warming” is a threat to the life of the planet, there is a widely held belief that we have reached and passed “peak oil,” and it’s all downhill from here on out.  So we have no choice but to move to smaller, more efficient cars, hybrids, electric cars, alternate fuels and clean renewable energy.  “Sustainable” is the euphemism of choice.  And the Obama administration doesn’t like coal.

So-called “clean renewable energy” has nothing to do with transportation.  Wind and solar produce some electricity, but do not power automobiles. Peak oil advocates point to declining oil production in Mexico as a sign of an imminent global peak, but ignore indications that the Mexican government has been starving the national oil company of capital.  Many academics assume that once prices retreat that they will continue to decline, or conversely, ignore the effects of price controls, tax changes or other economic changes.

A new study by the energy consultancy IHS-CERA (formerly Cambridge Energy Associates) notes that in 2000, Canada’s oil sands produced just 600,000 barrels of oil a day, while today they produce 1.3 million barrels.  By 2030 they could be producing as much as 6 million barrels.  If we have not antagonized our neighbors too much, perhaps we can buy some of it.

Only a very minor role for alternative energy over the next three decades is predicted by any reputable major forecaster.  Fossil fuels will continue to be the source of our transportation energy. The United States government has removed more than 31 billion barrels of oil, 154 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 11 billion tons of coal from the market by laws that make it difficult if not impossible to prospect or produce energy on federal lands.  To keep our economy healthy and growing, we must have more oil.

But lawmakers in Congress have gone after our most important supplier with “buy American” provisions in the stimulus plan.  Officials have suggested perhaps Canada’s oil is too “dirty”, and would increase our “carbon footprint.” And Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, is suggesting that we need a wall and fences on our Northern border so that our Southern neighbors will not feel discriminated against.

I hope our friends to the North will forgive our foolishness when we are freezing to death in the dark.

A rare and welcome boost for one of the world’s most endangered great apes. by The Elephant's Child


Good News! A new orangutan population has been found in Indonesia.  A team surveying forests snuggled between jagged, limestone cliffs on the eastern rim of Borneo island counted 219 orangutan nests, indicating a “substantial” number of the animals said Erik Melijard, a senior ecologist for the U.S. based The Nature Conservancy.

“We can’t say for sure how many,” he said, but even a cautious estimate would indicate “several hundred at least, maybe 1,000 or 2.000 even.”

The team also encountered an adult male— which threw branches at the crew as they tried to take photographs— a mother and a child.  There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 orangutans left in the wild, 90% of them in Indonesia, and the remainder in neighboring Malaysia.

These countries produce palm oil, used not only in food and cosmetics, but it is in great demand for making “clean burning” fuels in Europe and the United States.  Some rain forests where the animals spend most of their lives, have been clear cut.  Palm oil plantations, a lucrative source of employment and palm oil production, have led workers to kill orangutans as marauding pests, in spite of efforts to save the animals.

The inaccessibility of the area where the new population was found, as well as its poor soil and steep topography have shielded the area from development.  A Canadian scientist, Birute Mary Galdikas, who has spent nearly 40 years studying orangutans in the wild, says that most of the remaining populations are small and scattered, which makes them vulnerable.

The orangutan is called the “man of the forest.”  The story inadvertently shows how very difficult it is to get good estimates of the numbers of a species in the wild.

A Simple (but brilliant) Plan. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama’s new science adviser told the Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed.

Geoengineering is, for example, shooting particles into the air — essentially making an artificial volcano; or using artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it.

Cooling the atmosphere at a time when the planet is rapidly cooling might not seem like the best of ideas.  Turning a temporary cooling into an ice age?  Absolutely brilliant, but then that is what they are doing to the economy, isn’t it  — turning a temporary downturn into a lengthy depression?

But to follow the logic, Mark Roth, over at American Thinker, points out that if it is desirable to shoot pollutants into the earth’s upper atmosphere in order to reduce the supposed effects of the sun’s rays on global temperatures, then:

“I can’t believe” Mr. Roth said, “that these genius scientists have so completely missed the obvious solution — remove pollution controls from automobiles. This will accomplish a few things all at once:

  1. put sulfur in the atmosphere;
  2. reduce the cost of manufacture of cars;
  3. reduce the sales price of cars;
  4. increase the gas mileage and improve efficiency; thereby
  5. reducing operating costs; not to mention
  6. reducing national oil and gas consumption; which in turn,
  7. reduces the costs of production and delivery of goods and services; which among other things,
  8. reduces the cost of food and electricity; which
  9. allows for increased spending for travel and dining out, which…”

“We would save the costs of fueling and replacement of the ICBMs slated to launch debris into the atmosphere, thereby avoiding an increase in the defense budget for necessary replacements, although it could be argued that Obama, seeing no need for missile defense, would not regard replacement as necessary, so that saving would have to be deferred to a future administration.”

This is such a superb insight, and so fitting, that I could not resist reprinting the whole thing.  The original is here. Save the planet (from non-existent warming), save the auto industry, save the economy all in one grand fell-swoop, as well as thoroughly embarrass the Obama administration for not thinking of it before they spent all that money.

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