Friday, November 30, 2007

The cap and trade scam

I've been intending to talk about this issue for quite a while, and today is a good day to post it because of the idiotic op-ed Piece in The Funny Paper today.

The “cap and trade” plan for carbon dioxide credits. It is corporate welfare of monumental proportions.

The government decides on the state’s CO2 emissions target that it says is needed to meet its CO2 reduction goals. That is the “cap,” in the “cap and trade.”

Then the government grants CO2 “credits” to companies for the sum amount of the target CO2 emissions. Think of them as rationing coupons. Companies must have coupons sufficient for the amount of CO2 they emit from their operations, which is based mostly on how much energy they use. If they want to use more energy than they have coupons for, they can go buy coupons from some company that has more than they need.

Thus, the “trade” in the cap and trade.

From an economics standpoint, if you want to limit some pollutant, and you can identify everyone who might create that pollutant, this is a very efficient way to do it. Why? Because the system “internalizes” the social cost of that pollutant by imposing a cost on the production of it. Assuming the government is smart enough to set the limit at the socially optimal level (a huge assumption, but let’s go with it,) then the cap and trade system creates the correct incentives. Companies have the incentive to reduce their emission of the pollutant, and they get to sell their credits.

But this assumes there are finite and identifiable sources of the pollutant, and they can all be brought under the system. And it also assumes the government can be trusted to allocate the “credits” in a reasonable, fair way.

For CO2 and other greenhouse gasses, nothing could be further from the truth. First, pretty much EVERYTHING (except young plants) emit CO2. It’s not just energy consumption that emits CO2 – livestock, insects, decay of biomass, and yes, breathing – it all creates carbon dioxide and other GHG's.

So a cap and trade system might start out just using energy consumption as a proxy for CO2 emissions, but that is only a small part of where the CO2 comes from, not to mention other greenhouse gasses like methane and nitrous oxide. The production of meat from livestock actually creates far more greenhouse gasses than all the cars on the road and planes in the sky today.

But a cap and trade system does nothing about these other sources of GHG's. So why do they still push for it? Because this isn’t about solving the phony global warming problem.

It is about 1) government rationing of energy consumption; and 2) big corporate payoffs in the form of energy credits to companies that know they are already under their quota, who would be handed tens of millions of dollars in carbon credits.

That's right – it is a big corporate payoff. Companies that have already invested heavily in low CO2 (read: less efficient) energy sources will finally get bailed out of their bad investments. They will get CO2 credits above and beyond what they need, and they get to sell them.

Guess who was one of the earliest and most vigorous proponents of Kyoto, and lobbied congress to give the EPA regulatory control over CO2 emissions? Enron. They knew that capping CO2 emissions would cripple coal-fired energy plants, and Enron was a big natural gas supplier. So they were simply rent seekers, trying to get the government to enrich them by hurting their competitors.

Plus, Enron would also get the CO2 credits, which they could sell and make a market in. A lovely double-whammy!

The Funny Paper today has an op-ed piece that makes one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard about a cap and trade system. I’m sure this idiot believes what he wrote, illiterate as he obviously is about economics. He wrote:

“By capping its gas emissions, Oregon will essentially be creating a new form of wealth out of what had been part of common ownership -- our air.”

Oh, my, it is worse than I thought. He actually believes that issuing rationing coupons creates wealth. If the government issued sugar coupons like it did in WWII, and you didn’t need yours, so you sold them, that certainly would have created wealth for you.

But it came at the expense of others. It is simply a wealth transfer; it doesn’t create a damn dime.

Yet we have people such as this, with no understanding of wealth creation, gracing the editorial pages of a once-great newspaper, making such idiotic statements. We are really in trouble.

Make no mistake, as Oregon goes trippingly down this path with “sustainable energy” mandates, and state based CO2 cap and trade systems, we will do it at an immense cost to ourselves.

You will see politicians of all stripes genuflect to this lunacy, and claim that it creates jobs and grows the economy. They are wrong. It doesn’t.

It is nothing but a huge cost for zero benefit, and a huge financial boon to big corporations who have been trying to build this trough they will feed from for more than a decade.

Oh - and don't forget - also a HUGE increase in government control over the economy.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I thought it was a joke, but he is dead serious!

Over at BlueOregon, some guy named Albert Kaufmann, a regular B.O. columnist, has a post titled: "It's time for a US Societal Re-education Campaign."

When I read the title I thought surely, this must be a lampoon of some sort. Who in their right mind would actually write a title like that? Certainly no one who knew anything about the shameful history of totalitarian socialist regimes like Mao China and the USSR could sincerely suggest that the US government do the same thing.


Right off the bat, this guy acknowledges that similar efforts in the past weren't really all that kosher, but says it is necessary to "save our asses," so we should do it anyway, just call it something other than "re-education."

So, he actually calls for annual week-long mandatory classes in which every citizen would be taught a laundry list of (in his view) essential learnings. He scripts a daily syllabus for what he wants to 'teach' us all. Predictably, what follows is a litany of liberal dreams: global warming, local buying, recycling, anti-capitalism, living without a car, sharing resources, and on and on ad nauseum.

The list itself is hysterical - one after another totalitarian-liberal platform is tossed in as if it is just obvious that all these things are unquestionably desirable things, with which no reasonable person could object. Eat more vegetables. Organic farming. Bicycle riding classes. The ins and outs of hitchhiking! How to play well with others. How to have a romantic relationship!

You simply have to read it - it is that laughable. But also very, very sad, and more than a little bit scary.

Scary because this is a person who simply sees no limitation at all on the power of government to control our lives. The sweeping purview of the items he wants the government to train the entire population about is breathtaking. He seems to have no reticence about his certitude that all the things he lists are such obvious positives that we should use the coercive power of government to make sure we all agree.

Ok, sure he's a kook. I know. But he is not so much a kook that the leading liberal blog in Oregon doesn't give him space to display his idiotic views for all to see, nor does his post generate much opposing views from his fellow BO bloggers.

The sad truth is, this guy isn't really all that far out of the political mainstream here in Oregon. And that should scare us very, very much.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Training Losers

This is a very interesting, and troubling, issue.

Front page Funny Paper today:

The Jefferson High School football team likes to perform the “Haka Dance” before the game to get themselves and their fans motivated. The dance comes from the New Zealand Maori people, and it is all the rage among rugby teams over there, and was performed on an episode of Friday Night Lights.

So the Jefferson High Football team has adopted the dance pre-game. But the problem is they do it near the opposing team’s sideline, facing their opponents, and the dance itself is full of all sorts of moves and gestures of a taunting nature.

The OSAA told them to stop doing the dance in front of the opposing team, but the Jefferson coach allowed the team to vote on it, and they voted to keep doing the dance and accept the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

This is disturbing on a number of levels. First, they are trying to turn this into a cultural issue, since some of the students on the team are from Tongo, an island country near New Zealand. But it is no more cultural than if a few kids of native American heritage imported a war dance to Tigard High School and the team did it before the games.

They are simply trying to cloak the issue in cultural terms as a way to intimidate people from saying it is wrong. The problem is not with the ritual (as stupid as it is) but with the fact they do it in front of the opposing team. That is clearly, no question about it, taunting. It is not only really bad form, it is a penalty.

But the worst part of this is the Jefferson coach is allowing them to continue with the ritual and just take the 15 yard penalty, which is imposed on the opening kickoff.

What kind of a message does this send to these kids? The wrong one, I’ll tell you that.
The message is sends is that it is OK to defy the behavioral standards set by society if you think it helps you, gives you extra motivation, or, especially, if you claim that your cultural standards are different.

That is just terrific. That is precisely the opposite of what these kids need to be taught. I’m sorry to put this indelicately, but kids at Jefferson High School have hard enough time as it is joining productive society without being implicitly told by their football coach that they can break rules by majority vote.

One of the huge benefits of team sports in high school – especially football, with its “cog-in-the-wheel” mentality, is that conforming and rule-following can bring great achievements to a team. Football, first among team sports, requires all the moving parts to perform specific, and for the most part thankless, roles.

There is a name for teams with players who want to defy the rules for their roles: losers.

The coach at Jefferson High School, by literally encouraging his entire team to defy the rules about appropriate conduct, is training an entire team of young men to be losers.

This is a crying shame. The OSAA should step in and act as the adult that Jefferson’s coach obviously isn’t. They should let the team and its fans know that any player or fan who performs the Haka ritual in front of the opposing bench in their playoff game Friday will be ejected.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It's official: The Governor is a proven liar

Funny Paper columnist Steve Duin proved it today: Governor Kulongoski lied to the public about Fred Leonhardt.

Kulongoski has been trying to distance himself from Leonhardt, for obvious reasons, portraying him as a disgruntled employee who was left on the dock when the Kulongoski ship of state left the harbor.

After Leonhardt went public with his accusation that Teddy knew all about Neil because he himself told him, the Governor told The Funny Paper that he and Leonhardt "lost most contact" after Kulongoski was elected to the Supreme Court in 1996.

Oops. One problem with getting away with lies for years and years with no accountability is that when all of a sudden the media decides to do its job and check out your story, you get caught.

It turns out that Leonhardt saved evidence of all sorts of very warm personal connections from Kulongoski from as recently as 2001. Things like notes from Kulongoski to Leonhart's mother, a photograph of Kulongoski at a party at Leonhardt's house, and a personal note on a birthday banner.

So Kulongoski lied when he tried to convince the Oregonian that he and Leonhardt were estranged friends back in 1996.

Which sounds like a wierd thing to get caught lying about. But if you are trying to make a case for some kind of vendetta on the part of Leonhardt, to explain why he would make up the story about telling him about Goldschmidt, then it makes some sense.

Bottom line, Kulongoski's credibility is pretty much shot. He got caught in a lie, red-handed, and now he wants us to believe that he is telling the truth about the central claim Leonhardt is making - that he told Kulongoski about Goldschmidt at Bernie Guisto's party in 1994.

The best part is that Lars Larson's bar complaint against Kulongoski might now have a little more teeth, since it is now provable that Kulongoski has misled the public on a material matter pertaining to the Leonhardt accusation.

Could this be the beginning of the end for Teddy K?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Taxpayer Association, Oregon Style

This is really rich. Only in Oregon.

There's a new task force, just appointed by the Governor, called the "Task Force on Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring." It's the result of a bill from last session, which told the Governor to create the task force to look into a new tax structure for Oregon.

Nothing particularly interesting about this. They've been appointing blue ribbon committees like this for years. And the process for this one is very typical - the enabling legislation proscribes the makeup of the committee by calling for appointees from different categories - labor, small business, big business, etc.

Here's the good part: there is a category for two seats on the committee called: "Taxpayer Association Representatives." Sounds reasonable. After all, if you are discussing options for restructuring the tax system, the taxpayer ought to be at the table.

But guess who was appointed to one of the Taxpayer Association seats?

Chuck Sheketov, from the Oregon Center for Public Policy!

Calling the OCPP a taxpayer association representative is roughly the equivalent of calling Planned Parenthood an "Embryo Advocacy Organization."

It has obviously gotten to the point where there is no real need to even pretend that any other voices should even be at the table when our one-party state decides things. Look at the makeup of the rest of the committee, for a good laugh:

There are two entire categories for unions - One called "Organized Labor Representatives" and the other called "Labor Association Representatives." What the heck is the difference? Then, under the category "General Public Representatives," guess who is the appointed member: a person from "Stand for Children," who I always refer to as their more accurate moniker, "Stand for Unions."

You know it is really bad here when the Governor's office cares so little about keeping up the appearance of engaging diverse viewpoints that they appoint Chuck Sheketov in the Taxpayer Repesentative seat.

A one-party state, and their grip tightens.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Their self-congratulations only cost us $60K

The Funny Paper today absolutely GUSHED over Portland’s newfound fame as the epicenter of sustainability. The city spent $60,000 congratulating itself at the “Greenbuild” conference in Chicago, and according to The Funny Paper, it’s money well spent.

A lavish reception area where all the greenies could come and pay homage Dan Saltzman, along with an entourage of 15 city bureaucrats, complete with hotel rooms and airline flights. But we were the toast of the town:

"The world watches Portland, believe it or not," said Kath Williams, immediate past president of the World Green Building Council. "Portland's got to stand up and take its rightful place as the future."

And get this fawning description of one of the Portland presenters, talking about water conservation in the OHSU building at South Waterfront:

"The water bills in the building have been running less than $100 a month," he said.

The audience gasped.

"That's for a 400,000-square-foot office building -- so match that!"

Applause erupted.

Let me get this straight. This guy tells his audience that a 400,000 square foot building uses $100 a month in water, and the reporter just buys it? No questions, please.

And later in the article:

"At PDX Lounge, meanwhile, Portland worked a separate magic. Dance music pulsed from the PDX Lounge sound system, while Full Sail beer and Medoyeff Vodka flowed from its two bars."

Glad you are paying for their little gathering?

The funny thing is that these folks actually believe their own press. They actually believe that layering on carbon taxes and mandating all sorts of inefficient energy saving systems will actually result in economic activity. Their reasoning goes something like this:

“If Portland establishes a leadership position by taxing the “wrong” kind of construction practices and subsidizing the “right” kind, we will develop expertise here that people from all over the world will come to pay us to learn. Green building construction companies will thrive, and they will get projects all over the world as other cities follow Portland’s lead and taxes carbon emissions in construction just like we do.”

The flaw in this thinking, of course, is that none of these supposed “green” building practices actually make any economic sense. The only way people actually build that way is when mandates force them to. They cost a lot compared to the energy they save.

For decades we have been promised that solar, wind and other “renewable” sources of energy would pencil out if we just gave them a kick start in the form of subsidy. But to this day, the only way anybody will build this stuff is if they are subsidized or coerced.

Of course, subsidy and coercion is the liberal environmentalist’s stock in trade. Hence Dan Saltzman’s carbon tax program, the Kyoto Treaty, the Governor’s “25 by 25” initiative, etc.

All this stuff does is consume more resources to produce the same energy that other sources produce more cheaply. And that makes all of us poorer.

And who gets hit the hardest? The low income, that is who.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Here it comes - the Carbon Tax

It is just perfect. It couldn't have been a better example of the problem. For years, I have said here and elsewhere that the Portland planning elites are motivated by all the accolades and awards they get from all their like-minded comrades back east.

Today, the front page of the Oregonian makes my point.

Dan Saltzman goes to the "Greenbuild International Conference" in Chicago, and at his swanky, invitation-only reception last evening, he unviels his latest, greatest program to win another sustainability award from his chums.

He wants to tax homebuilders who don't use enough carbon-reduction practices, and subsidize those who do. That of course requires "carbon inspectors," along with who knows how much associated bureaucracy.

And oh my, his fellow conferees were nearly orgasmic in their accolades: "It's bold," said Suzanne Malec-McKenna, Commissioner of the Environment for the city of Chicago. "I think it's great. It's definitely the direction our cities need to be going."

So Commissioner Dan is the toast of the sustainability crowd meeting in Chicago. And there was a perfect visual on the back page of the story: Saltzman, Tom Potter, and the lady who runs the city's Office of Sustainable Development, cocktail glasses clinking in mid-toast, huge smiles of accomplishment on their cheery faces.

Meanwhile, back at home, not everybody was smiling. Local builders are ready to go to battle. Saltzman didn’t bother to consult them, and they know exactly what this really means: higher housing costs, as so-called “sustainability” measures are mandated through tax incentives that drive up costs.

The builders know what a farce this stuff is. “Sustainability” apparently means spending a lot of money on energy saving systems that save only a fraction of the energy that would be required for it to be cost effective. Otherwise you wouldn’t have to mandate it –people would WANT to install the stuff without the tax incentive.

But Saltzman types don’t understand this, or they pretend not to. They think it is a good trade to spend $5,000 on some system to save $100 a year in energy cost, because, hey – it isn’t their money. I’ll bet if you offered Saltzman a similar return on his public pensions account he would politely decline.

But not every builder objects. We learn in the article that the program was designed with the help of local builder Gerdling Edlen, who is a “leader” in using these “sustainable” construction practices. Wow, what great, responsible people these builders are! They have made big investments in using all these money-losing techniques, so now they want the government to mandate them so their investment isn’t down the drain! What humanitarians!

The sad part of all this is it will just make housing that much more expensive in Portland, and hurt the low income and the young family that much more.

And that is the legacy of the “progressives:” harm the poor

Thursday, November 01, 2007

More government dysfunction

Reported in the Statesman Journal today: Dan Gardner at BOLI sued the City of Salem because a hotel construction project in an urban renewal area wasn't paying prevailing wage. They lost the suit, because it wasn't a public project. Just getting some kind of subsidy doesn't make it a public project.

The State sued Salem for $1.5 million plus maxiumum penalties, and apparently BOLI did everything it could to drag out the litigation and make it as expensive as possible for Salem. But they forgot one thing: to have a rational legal theory for the lawsuit.

Judge Mary Merten James rebuked BOLI, saying: "At no stage in the proceedings was BOLI able to articulate the factual or legal basis for its claim."

That is actually pretty hard to do. Sue someone and not be able to explain a factual or legal basis for the lawsuit?

It just goes to show what a puppet Dan Gardner is for the unions (as if that distinguishes him from every other highly-placed Democrat in the state.)

Salem sued to make the state pay the legal fees, more than $700K, and Judge James agreed. So, this little dalliance in union-shilling will cost the state more than $700K in legal fees that it must pay Salem.

Terrific. One government harassing another government with a spurious lawsuit. This state is so screwed.