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Setting Future Priorities



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The time travelers at the New York Post published this morning the transcript of a talk Bjørn Lomborg will give later today. (Amazing!)

IN the heart of a financial crisis, most of us carefully consider every last purchase. It is important that politicians do the same when making vital policy decisions.

Instead of focusing on initiatives with the greatest benefits, they tend to be swayed by those with the most vocal advocates. Take the Kyoto Protocol. Its $180 billion annual global cost would perhaps be worth the investment if it made any substantial difference to global warming. But even if Kyoto were implemented for the rest of this century, it would cut temperatures by just 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

This doesn’t pass a basic cost-benefit test. The investment would cause more immediate financial hardship than eventual good. There are many better uses for the money.

That point was underscored by Copenhagen Consensus 2008, a project I designed to champion the use of economic tools in international aid and development policy.

For two years before Copenhagen Consensus 2008, teams of experts wrote papers identifying the best ways to solve the world’s biggest problems: air pollution, conflict, disease, inadequate education, global warming, malnutrition and hunger, sanitation and water challenges, subsidies and trade barriers, terrorism and gender-disparity issues. They identified the investments that would best tackle each challenge and outlined the costs and benefits of each.

A group of prestigious economists — including five Nobel laureates — gathered and examined this research. They took the long menu of investments and turned it into a prioritized list of opportunities. At the bottom — the least cost-effective investment the world could make to respond to any of these problems — was dealing with climate change through immediate CO2 cuts, as the Kyoto Protocol attempts.

At the top was the provision of micronutrients — particularly vitamin A and zinc — to undernourished children in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

For just $60 million annually, we could reach 80 percent of the world’s 140 million or so undernourished children. The economic gains from improving their lives would eventually clear $1 billion a year.

For another $286 million, we could iodize salt and fortify basic food with iron for 80 percent of the children who are at risk of stunting and poor development because they’re going without.

Interestingly — and perhaps predictably — many of the economists’ top-ranked solutions were to problems that don’t attract many headlines or much celebrity attention. The simple act of deworming children in developing countries, for example, would improve nourishment and allow some of the world’s most disadvantaged kids to learn more and get better jobs later.

Copenhagen Consensus 2008 showed that we know how to stop people from dying from malnutrition, pollution, HIV/AIDS and malaria. Solving these problems would open a world of opportunities, including allowing a disadvantaged community to grow, develop and care about longer-term issues like global warming.

What we need to do now is cheap and simple. It’s mostly a question of getting what’s needed (micronutrients, cleaner forms of fuel, free condoms and mosquito nets) to those in need. Death tolls remain high because we have limited resources, and these problems are not considered our biggest concerns.

Economic tools such as cost-benefit analysis and prioritization will never offer the last word in public policy debate — and nor should they — but they can provide a vital input for decision-makers.

The process that worked for Copenhagen Consensus 2008 — and that encouraged philanthropic organizations to invest more in malnutrition — is also relevant for national and state governments and city administrations.

Prioritization is difficult for any politician, whether a member of the Obama team or a city administrator. The project would give a city like New York the opportunity to focus on the spending priorities that achieve the most. Vested interests and lobbying groups create a lot of noise. Copenhagen Consensus sets aside that noise, so that the costs and benefits of competing options can be seriously considered side-by-side.

The recession that has made life more difficult also offers an opportunity for us all to rethink our priorities — and ensure that each dollar spent achieves as much as possible.

The Clunkers Compromise



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The House of Representatives has its “cash for clunkers” bill and it bears only a dim family resemblance to the enviro-alarmists’ original vision of forcing Americans into smaller, greener cars. Call it the “Cash for Old Guzzlers to Buy New Guzzlers” bill. Call it reality. Call it a refreshing reminder that green dreams to remake mankind must still get by mankind’s Congressional representatives.

Democrats claimed that “Cash for Clunkers” was based on Germany’s successful “scrappage” legislation, which has given a huge shot in the arm to that country’s auto sales. But this was a lie — parroted by media outlets — from the start. Germany’s program offers a trade-in on any car older than nine years in exchange for any vehicle the customer wants. Democrats, on the other hand, saw an opportunity for social engineering.

Last month, New York representative Steve Israel (D., Greens) offered legislation requiring that eligible vehicles for sale get a whopping 25 percent more than current fuel-mileage rules, or 34 mpg for cars and 28 mpg for trucks. In effect, this meant that only high-mpg hybrids would qualify for purchase, a fact that left out almost the entire GM fleet and all of Chrysler’s.

Enter Ohio representative Betty Sutton (D., Unions) — backed by the Michigan delegation — with a proposal broadening the definition of fuel-efficient cars to those that meet current CAFE mandates (27 mpg for cars; 22 mpg for trucks). Then enter the auto industry, which is sucking wind and thinks a scrappage program should actually sell cars.

Then stir and bake.

What emerged from the oven this week is this: Customers get a $3,500—$4,500 federal rebate (on top of similar, $4,000 dealer incentives) to trade in their old car for a new car getting just 22 mpg, or a truck that gets 18 mpg — which covers virtually everything except Lamborghinis and Hummers.

The greens got one bone: To be eligible for trade in, old cars and trucks must get less than 18 mpg, a perverse provision that will “diminish the program’s effectiveness in removing vehicles from the road,” says auto analyst Joe Baker with CSM Worldwide.

In effect, though, owners of a giant 2006 Chevy Tahoe SUV (fuel mileage: 18 mpg) can trade in for a brand new, giant, 2009 Chevy Tahoe SUV (18 mpg). Or a 1999 Ford Explorer SUV (16 mpg) can be traded for a 2009 Ford Explorer SUV (18 mpg).

The feds estimate that the clunkers program would increase sales by 1 million units, a paltry 7 percent increase over 2008 sales. Under Germany’s unlimited scrappage program, by contrast, sales have increased by 40 percent.

Despite the restricted eligibility, automakers were thrilled with the compromise because it will move new SUVs and sedans gathering dust on dealer lots — whereas initial green proposals would have moved very few.

“Anything helps,” says industry trade rep Charles Territo, who excepts the House legislation is likely to be adopted by the Senate.

Henry Payne is a writer and editorial cartoonist for the Detroit News.

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Carbon Capture?



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Via Heliogenic Climate Change (“The Sun, not a harmless essential trace gas, drives climate change”), here’s a handy boil-down of “Carbon Capture and Burial — a Stupid Answer to a Silly Question,” from the Carbon Sense Coalition’s Viv Forbes:

“These are the likely effects [of carbon capture and storage (CCS)]:

  • About 30% [some say as high as 50%] of the power station electricity will be wasted in separating, compressing and pumping of CO2. Thus a power station now using 1 million tonnes of coal per annum will need 1.5 Mt of coal to produce the same output of usable power for electricity consumers or other industries.

  • A 50% increase in coal used will require a similar increase in coal mine capacity and transport and handling facilities — a huge waste of community land, resources and capital.

  • The resource life of every thermal coal mine will be reduced by 30% [50%].

  • Capital costs for every power station forced to wear this ball-and-chain will rise 30-100%, and electricity charges must rise by a similar amount to cover the parasitic power losses and the increased capital and operating costs.

  • No wonder some greens support CCB [carbon capture and burial] – it will make coal fired electricity so expensive that even piddle power from windmills will look attractive.

  • The same dismal story will emerge at every cement plant and steel works that is forced to install CCB.

  • The figures for gas powered facilities are similar in principle, and only slightly better.

  • The use of oxygen instead of air in the boilers merely shifts the nitrogen separation costs from the end of the process to the beginning.

  • And after all that trouble and expense, the effect on climate is probably undetectable. There is no proof or evidence that man’s production of CO2 controls the climate.

A typical 1,000 MW power station could burn about 3 million tonnes of coal per year, requiring 300 trains per year to supply the coal. If CCB is installed, the extra power needed will call for another 150 trains of coal. And if trains were used to haul away the captured CO2, the mass of material moved would require another 1,150 trains per year, each train carrying 10,000 tonnes.

Australia currently uses 128 million tonnes of coal per year to generate electricity. The CO2 produced by all of these stations could total over 300 million tonnes py. If triple header trains were used to transport this as liquefied CO2 it would require 30,000 trains per year or 600 trains per week. No matter what method of transport is used, the tonnage realities are still there and it will require immense energy to capture, compress, transport and bury the CO2 anywhere.”

Planet Gore, Explained



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When we named this blog, it was really to honor Mr. Al Gore, as in, we hope one day he’s charge of the entire planet. We’re really fans of his and hope this blog hasn’t caused him any “substantial emotional distress.” Yeah, that’s the ticket. 

(Prince Charles — we love you, too!)

Al Gore’s Green



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Marc Morano on The O’Reilly Factor. Good stuff:

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Green Jobs Americans Won’t Be Allowed to Do



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Google is using goats to clear brush and weeds from the company’s headquarters rather than gas-powered machines.

Saved by Big Oil



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Turns out those big, bad oilmen are good for something after all: rescuing eco-sailors. The Beeb has the story:

An expedition team which set sail from Plymouth on a 5,000-mile carbon emission-free trip to Greenland have been rescued by an oil tanker.

The team, which left Mount Batten Marina in Plymouth on 19 April in a boat named the Fleur, aimed to rely on sail, solar and man power on a 580-mile (933km/h) journey to and from the highest point of the Greenland ice cap.

The expedition was followed by up to 40 schools across the UK to promote climate change awareness.

But atrocious weather dogged their journey after 27 April, culminating with the rescue on 1 May after the boat was temporarily capsized three times by the wind.

In one incident Mr Stoddart hit his head and the wind generator and solar panels were ripped from the yacht.

Water was also getting into the boat from waves breaking over it and the crew took refuge in the forward cabin.

The crew were 400 miles (644km) off the west coast of Ireland when they sent a mayday to Falmouth coastguards who co-ordinated the rescue with Irish coastguards.

The transfer from the Fleur to Overseas Yellowstone was achieved in 42mph (67km/h) winds.

Mr Spink and Mr Surcouf were able to jump across to a rope ladder. But Mr Stoddart fell into the sea, was thrown a line by the crew and hauled aboard.

The Prince and His Priorities



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The Telegraph’s James Delingpole has a few choice observations about the Frog-and-Prince video Greg linked earlier. Excerpted below, read the whole thing here:

Do we reckon all the logging companies and cattle ranchers making their fortune in the Amazon basin are suddenly going to go: “Oh well, if the future King of England, Han Solo and the star of that towering meisterwerk of international cinema Jumanji says what we’re doing is wrong, well we’d better give up now!”
[. . .] Do we reckon they’re going to listen to any new international rainforest-saving directives any more than they listened to any of the previous ones?

Of course they’re not. Prince Charles’s campaign has about as much chance as saving the rainforests as shoving a “Free Tibet” sticker on your car bumper does of driving the Chinese out of Lhasa. . . . It’s a total waste of energy.

This is what’s wrong with the modern green movement: like one of its early founding fathers Adolf Hitler, it will insist on fighting its wars on too many fronts. Some of its battles really are worth fighting: over-fishing is one; the destruction of the rainforests is definitely another. Unfortunately, the main effort of its campaigning has been wasted on a chimera: the thing they used to call “global warming” and now call “climate change.” As Bjorn Lomborg and others have pointed out, this has resulted in billions and billions of dollars being squandered trying to prevent a natural process, when the same amount of money could have been used to do real good: providing vitamins to deficient children; providing drinkable water to every person on the planet; etc.

It’s also exactly where Prince Charles goes wrong in his video. He uses rainforests as an excuse to bleat about “the urgent fight against climate change” and “the battle against catastrophic climate change”, conflating two very different problems: one real and quite urgent, the other largely illusory. If he stuck to the rainforests and ignored the anthropogenic global warming drivel, his message would have so much more impact and credibility.

There’s only one thing that can stop deforestation and that’s money: money to enable countries like Brazil to pay for enforcement; money for bribes, blackmail, eco-tourism projects, conservation, land purchase. Far more money, unfortunately, than Prince Charles nets every year from the Duchy of Cornwall; more money even than the millions  Al Gore has made from “carbon saving” projects.

Yet if it weren’t for the green movement that money would be much more easily available. To take but one example: the global costs of implementing the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions stand so far at around $633 billion. The potential temperature saving by the year 2050 this has brought about it is 0.006565159 degrees Centigrade. (Check out the hilarious but depressing clock at Junkscience.com).

For money like that you could buy yourself an awful lot of rainforest. But unless Prince Charles and his fellow green campaigners can get their priorities sorted, those beloved trees of theirs (and picturesque tribespeople, and two-toed sloths, and pink dolphins) are doomed.

The Environmental Impact of Electric Cars



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Here’s a good piece from the Christian Science Monitor on electric cars and the bitter reality that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. An excerpt:

Advocates of these next-gen cars, however, often act like someone who takes for granted that a light will go on whenever they flip a switch. They fail to ask two critical questions:

Will electric utilities be able to build enough power plants for all these electron guzzlers? And, even if they can, will new plants simply burn coal or oil in the same old dirty way — negating to a degree the anticarbon benefits of hybrid-electric cars?

Only a handful of studies have looked at these questions. “It seems that general excitement with the idea of PHEVs springs from the perceived possibility of a ‘free lunch,’ ” states the latest study, done by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “There are some concerns, however, about whether this lunch is really ‘free.’ “

The study says many electric-car owners will likely want to charge their vehicles in the evening during peak usage, rather than at night — even with lower rates. The result may be a rise in coal or oil burning by utilities. And all electricity consumers could see rates rise by 40 percent or more.

In Britain, a similar study by the Campaign for Better Transport found that a move to electric vehicles might require increasing the country’s electricity capacity by 2.4 to 3.5 times.

Nuclear would go a long way to solving this, but I highly doubt we’ll see any new nuclear plants any time soon.

Chuck Schumer: For the Birds



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Sen. Schumer is proposing legislation that mandates the FAA report each and every aircraft bird strike. Notes the AP piece, “Schumer said Wednesday the problem can’t be properly addressed until it’s understood.”

Maybe Sen. Shumer should have tried to understand the bird-strike problem before earmarking funds for non-lethal bird control. Note from the link that Sen. Schumer doesn’t mention the threat to people, only the goose threat to the environment.

Green vs. Green



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Fox News:

A key part of President Obama’s energy plan — replacing fossil fuels with green alternatives — is facing increasing opposition from an unlikely source: environmentalists.

Some environmentalists, who have successfully fought a wind farm on the border of Oregon and Washington, are trying to block a massive solar plant in the Mojave desert. And now an Oregon county is considering a ban on wind power in the foothills of the blue mountains.

“We all want to be as green as we can be. But at what cost?” Richard Jolly of the Blue Mountain Alliance. “To take everything from us? This valley could be surrounded by them.”

Jolly says 400-foot wind turbines are a bird-killing eyesore. The developer argues the danger to birds is exaggerated but admits every big energy project has its downside.

“If we hold out for the perfect environmental silver bullet, if you will, it will always be 15 years down the road,” he said. “We have to make incremental progress.”

For decades, environmental groups have talked about “big oil,” painting the petroleum industry as greedy and destructive. Now similar language is being applied to renewables. Instead of eco-friendly green power, increasingly it’s “big wind” and “big solar.”

Getcha popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the show.

Chryslergate: More Evidence of White House Threats



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Detroit, Mich. — The scandal over White House threats to Chrysler debt holders got deeper yesterday — and its MSM cover-up more inexcusable — as two more representatives of creditors corroborated lawyer Tom Lauria’s account that the Obama administration threatened them with ruin if they did not accept Chrysler’s restructuring terms giving 55 percent of the company to the UAW.

Media outlets like MSNBC pooh-poohed Lauria’s account over the weekend by noting that Perella Weinberg — the firm allegedly threatened for not taking the administration’s forced deal of 29 cents on their investment dollar — denied the allegation. Others noted that Perella Weinberg had since caved to the administration, and therefore had every reason to deny earlier threats.

But Jim Carney of Business Insider reported Tuesday that “sources familiar with the matter say that other firms felt they were threatened as well. None of the sources would agree to speak except on the condition of anonymity, citing fear of political repercussions.”

“The sources, who represent creditors to Chrysler, say they were taken aback by the hardball tactics that the Obama administration employed to cajole them into acquiescing to plans to restructure Chrysler,” continues the Insider story. “One person described the administration as the most shocking ‘end justifies the means’ group they have ever encountered. . . . Both were voters for Obama in the last election.”

The administration’s bullying tactics are reverberating through the investment world. Cliff Asness, a managing partner at AQR Capital Management, writes that “the President’s attempted diktat takes money from bondholders and gives it to a labor union that delivers money and votes for him. . . . Shaking down lenders for the benefit of political donors is recycled corruption and abuse of power.”

Obama may ultimately win this power play to deliver Chrysler to the UAW. But it is not healthy for Chrysler in the long run. Desperate for investment, Chrysler (and other UAW shops) will be shunned by investors that perceive it is just an extension of the Democrat/UAW mafia that can change contract terms and ride roughshod over the law anytime it wants.

Prince Charles and Kermit the Frog?



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It’s the Economy, Stupid



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Via Climate Depot, there’s this item in US News & World Report on what America thinks of Al Gore’s global warming crusade:

He admits that it’s counterintuitive, but Gallup Poll Editor Frank Newport says he sees no evidence that Al Gore’s campaign against global warming is winning. “It’s just not caught on,” says Newport. “They have failed.” Or, more bluntly: “Any measure that we look at shows Al Gore’s losing at the moment. The public is just not that concerned.” What the public is worried about: the economy. Newport says the economy trumps the environment right now, a strong indicator that President Obama’s bid to put a cap-and-trade pollution regime into operation isn’t likely to be politically popular.

 

That’s not to say people aren’t passionate about the issue. But it’s the direction of their passion that will disappoint Gore. Newport says that some 41 percent believe global warming claims are exaggerated, and “that’s the highest we’ve seen.” Ask people to name their biggest concerns, and just 1 percent to 2 percent cite the environment. “The environment doesn’t show up at all,” says Newport.

 

“It’s Al Gore’s greatest frustration,” says Newport. “We seem less concerned than more about global warming over the years. . . . Despite the movies and publicity and all that, we’re just not seeing it take off with the American public. And that was occurring even before the latest economic recession.”

Are You Now or Have You Ever Been Remotely Sentient?



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This is pretty funny, watching an alarmist get the tables turned on him rather nicely with his mindless flailing about past associations with Enron. Trust me: I have withstood the same inane, limp-wristed efforts at guilt-by-association.

The alarmists seem to be rather slow on the uptake that people like me (who left the company) or Rob Bradley (who constantly warned against Enron´s major initiative creating the U.S. global-warming industry and cap-and-trade movement — while greens adopted the hated company’s agenda) come out quite well in this analysis.

Good News for Atkins Dieters



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(Selective) Preemptive Denial



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Fox News wonders: “Could reduced sunspots be tied to temperatures on Earth?”

That’s what has astrophysicists and meteorologists wondering as the sun enters a prolonged “quiet period,” a deviation from the usual 11-year sunspot cycle in which the dark blobs on our star’s surface ebb and flow, reports National Geographic News.

And there may be a link to global warming — or, in this case, cooling. Current theories link an earlier solar quiet time to the “Little Ice Age,” a cold snap that lasted from about 1300 to 1800 in Europe and North America.

During such “solar minimums,” as they’re called, the sun dims a bit, magnetic activity is reduced and solar storms are fewer. No one knows how long each will last until it’s over.

The Maunder Minimum, a period of extremely low sunspot activity from about 1645 to 1715, coincided with the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, when Dutch canals regularly froze during the winter.

This past January, the Dutch canals again froze, for the first time in 16 years.

But scientists say it may be too early to tell if this solar minimum will really have a prolonged effect.

“There are many uncertainties,” Jose Abreu, a doctoral candidate in Switzerland, tells National Geographic News. “We don’t know the sensitivity of the climate to changes in solar intensity. In my opinion, I wouldn’t play with things I don’t know.

Fox was inspired by this item from National Geographic — entitled “Sun Oddly Quiet–Hints at Next ‘Little Ice Age’?” — and dutifully reproduces NatGeo’s (perfectly legitimate) scientific caution not to make too much of short-term climate events:

[R]esearchers are on guard against their concerns about a new cold snap being misinterpreted.

“[Global warming] skeptics tend to leap forward,” said Mike Lockwood, a solar terrestrial physicist at the University of Southampton in the U.K.

He and other researchers are therefore engaged in what they call “preemptive denial” of a solar minimum leading to global cooling.

If only the warmists’ favored spokesmen played by that rule.

In any case, the latest SOHO image of the sun (from Sunday, fittingly):

 

Shady Solar in Sicily



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From yesterday’s Financial Times [registration required]:

Like giant sentinels, dozens of wind turbines straddle the mountain ridges near Sicily’s infamous mafia stronghold of Corleone. But despite a strong breeze rippling the leaves in groves of olive and fig trees, the soaring blades of the turbines have stood motionless for over a year.

Further west, near the port of Trapani and the ancient hill-top town of Salemi, two more wind farms are similarly frozen.

Just who approved, built and sold these renewable energy projects, which were developed on the basis of public subsidies, has become the subject of investigation for Sicily’s anti-Mafia magistrates, who are trying to keep track of organised crime’s latest bid to move into mainstream business.

As one official put it: “Sicily is blessed with sun and wind, but it is also cursed by the Mafia.”

Multinationals are starting to find out something that is well known to Italian investors: that concealed beneath Europe’s most generous system of incentives — supported by “green credits” that industrial polluters have to purchase — there exists a web of corruption and shady deals
More from FT.

The Junkman Disheth



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Even before hearing what the National Council for a New America had to say, I was unimpressed with the rollout. Having caught a glimpse of Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and Eric Cantor on the tube, I Googled the group’s name. It was buried on Eric Cantor’s website (it has since moved higher on the Google results page, at least), under the name We the People. So which is it, gents? WtP or NCNA?

Green Hell author Steve Milloy is no more impressed with the group’s energy platform.

The NCNA has a platform that differs from the hydras only in that it is the lite version of “leave no government program behind.” Though the NCNAs couldn’t defeat Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, perhaps two of the most unpopular Congressional leaders ever, or Barack Obama, the least-experienced-and-most-socialist major party presidential candidate of all time, they think they’re up to fixing the economy, healthcare, education, energy, and national security through more government. Let’s look at what NCNA says about energy, one of this blog’s main issues:

American families and businesses cannot afford an energy policy where we are held hostage by foreign oil cartels and dictators. As a nation, we can no longer send billions of dollars overseas each year, often to countries that help fund our enemies. We must implement a comprehensive energy policy that includes traditional fuels, alternative energy, and conservation resulting in affordable, reliable domestic energy. Such a policy will stabilize costs for families and businesses while at the same time creating much-needed jobs here at home.

If the NCNAs knew anything about energy they’d know that we’re not being held hostage by “foreign oil cartels and dictators” — we’re being held hostage by domestic rent-seeking energy cartels and green dictators. We don’t need a “comprehensive policy” that interferes destructively with free markets. Rather, we need open energy markets that are able to choose workable energy solutions and deliver them at competitive prices. Free market prosperity creates good jobs — pork-barreling congressmen create non-productve bureaucracy. We don’t send money to fund our enemies. We buy oil on the open market. It’s called trade. BTW, our “enemies” will get our money anyway — through Chinese oil purchases.

Re: The Obama Energy Tax



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Hey, if they think they can rebrand cap-and-trade as “cap and cash back” . . .

[Uh, back to whom? What, is this like an Obama Discover card? Get five cents in imaginary economic and environmental benefits for every dollar you spend? (Only don't read the fine print, where the $3,900 annual fee is listed)]

 . . . we can call it the Obama Energy Tax.

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