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Chrysler and Obama’s Euro-envy



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“In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world,” President Obama said in France this April. “There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.”

Obama’s sweeping apologies to Europe include not just American foreign and climate policy, but also the cars that American manufacturers make. It is important to understand the administration’s eagerness for a Chrysler/Fiat alliance in that context.

”For years, while foreign competitors were investing in more fuel-efficient technology for their vehicles, American automakers were spending their time investing in bigger, faster cars,” he said during the campaign addressing a theme he has continued to sound in office.

Never mind that Chrysler’s downfall was a result of losing market share to foreign competitors that made those bigger and faster cars with better quality. What clearly appeals to the president about Fiat is his fixation with Europe’s high-mpg cars and his determination to build them here. Obama’s plan requires that, in return for a 35 percent stake in the Detroit automaker, Fiat must transplant its engine technology to Chrysler plants and produce a 40-mpg car.

But Fiat invested in fuel-efficient cars because that’s what an Italian market of high gas taxes and crowded city streets demanded. Chrysler, on the other hand, is a company that built its reputation on minivans, the iconic Jeep brand, and the earth-pawing Dodge Viper. It is a culture bred in a land of low fuel prices and vast spaces. Similar marriages in the past have ended on the rocks. GM-Fiat, for example. Or Daimler-Chrysler.

Grafting an “econobox” Fiat culture onto “ram-tough” Chrysler looks easy only to an arrogant politician who has been so dismissive of market experience, even derisive.

All in the Spin



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The tax-and-rationers’ great hope, to paraphrase Luther, is to “spin boldly.” From the New York Times:

The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.”

The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.

Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about “our deteriorating atmosphere.” Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.”

EcoAmerica has been conducting research for the last several years to find new ways to frame environmental issues and so build public support for climate change legislation and other initiatives. A summary of the group’s latest findings and recommendations was accidentally sent by e-mail to a number of news organizations by someone who sat in this week on a briefing intended for government officials and environmental leaders.

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Blame Poverty, Not Pork, for the Swine Flu



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“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before,” Rahm Emanuel famously remarked after President Obama’s election in November 2008. Swine flu is shaping up to be no exception.

Reuters reported earlier this week that, “Weather experts are studying swine flu to see if climate could influence its spread and severity.” While even the UN’s World Meteorological Organization seems to agree (so far anyway) that the 0.07 degree Celsius per decade increase in mean global temperature that has occurred since 1880 is unlikely to have affected the virtually random process of genetic mutation in viruses, some unidentified “experts” are apparently still willing to spend taxpayer money to look into the matter.

Such nonsensical research aside, my guess as to where swine flu could play an inflammatory role to advance the green agenda is with respect to the issue of large-scale livestock production.

Climate alarmists rank the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production up with emissions from the transportation sector — each is responsible for about 20 percent of total global emissions goes the lore –hence their calls to reduce meat consumption.

IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri says we should have two or more meat-free days a week. New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman equates the environmental impacts of livestock production to those of nuclear war. On the loopier side is Paul McCartney’s ex-wife, Heather Mills, whose global warming worries led her to recommend that people switch from cow’s milk to milk from dogs and rats.

A major boogeyman of the cow-farts-cause-global-warming crowd is the much-dreaded “factory farm” (green-speak) or “confined animal feeding operations” (industry-speak). Though anti-meat and anti-business greens have tried many ways to attack large-scale livestock production — e.g., allegations of manure-laden run-off and overuse of groundwater — global warming fears seem to have gotten them the most press. Now comes swine flu to add fuel to the fire.

For example, a recent Grist.org article, “Swine-flu outbreak could be linked to Smithfield factory farms,” railed about how “Mexican authorities treat hog CAFOs with just as much if not more indulgence than [sic] their peers north of the border, to the detriment of surrounding communities and the general public health.”

But as the greens try to lay the blame for swine flu on Smithfield and factory farming in hopes of effecting policy change in the U.S., the real problem in Mexico is not livestock production but poverty — average income is one-fourth of that in the U.S., and Veracruz, the state in which the flu outbreak is thought to have started, is among the poorest Mexican states. Not surprisingly, Mexicans pay a significant price in terms of health for that disparity. Mexican infant mortality, for example, is three times higher than in the U.S., and Veracruz is below the national average in terms of health indicators.

Rather than supporting economic development in Mexico as means of improving public-health conditions, the greens are content to sit back and exploit the swine flu crisis as another means for advancing their anti-people, anti-business and, yes, anti-environment social and political agenda. Remember, it’s the wealthiest nations that have the cleanest environments. So opposing economic development is essentially a vote for foul air and fetid water.
 
President Obama is under pressure to move the U.S. away from large-scale livestock production. He’s already embraced global warming as a reason to reduce our meat consumption. Will he fall for the swine flu angle as well?

You can almost hear the first green president channeling JFK: “Ask not what you can do for a crisis; ask what the crisis can do for you.”

– Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of the new book, Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them.


‘Cash for Clunkers’ Gaining Momentum



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CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney.com) — A congressional effort to subsidize new cars sales for consumers who scrap old ones is gaining momentum, as leaders seek to help the struggling auto industry.

So-called cash-for-clunkers legislation introduced in January aimed to encourage the purchase of more fuel efficient cars. Consumers with old, gas guzzlers could get $1,500 to $5,000 vouchers funded by the government to use toward the purchase of new cars.

The goal: reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel car sales. How far the legislation should go to accomplish those often competing goals has become a bone of contention on Capitol Hill.

The bills didn’t move very far until President Obama weighed in with his support a few weeks ago. Now negotiators are working this week on the details of a cash for clunkers program that would be added to an over-arching clean energy bill.

Don’t worry, taxpayer. The incentives are “funded by the government” and must be free.

A New, Green Way to Get Rid of Old Tires



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Headline of the Day



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VoteVets.org Goes Green



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A new ad that’s running, according to the Daily Kos, in four districts on why veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are supporting President Obama’s green energy agenda:

Hilarious



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California’s attorney general, Jerry Brown, had two tires stolen off his Prius. Even funnier: it was parked outside City Hall.

What’s Good for Chrysler is Good for the Masses



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Regarding my post and Henry’s below (and his longer Corner item), the signals could not be any more clear about the present and future machinations and motivations involved in the unfolding Chrysler disaster than what I just saw:

At his presser announcing the matter, the individual immediately to his left (not much room, admittedly . . . except possibly for recent-ex-board members of the Socialist International) appeared to be none other than Climate and Energy Czarina Carol Browner.

Ummm . . . why? At an event to announce an auto company’s . . . state . . . managed . . . future. Ah. Right.

This was mere hours after the EPA head whom Ms. Browner oversees had just told NPR that “The President has said — and I couldn’t agree more — that what this country needs is one single national road map that tells auto makers who are trying to become solvent again, what kind of car it is they need to be designing and building for the American people. . . . [Because that] is free enterprise in a way. [But don't forget that . . . ] first and foremost the free enterprise system has us where we are right this second.”

Well, actually no, it wasn’t free enterprise that mandated lenders make loans to people who couldn’t pay them back and automakers to make automobiles that people didn’t want to buy. As seems to be this sort’s standard response to failed central planning, we’re hearing others blamed amid calls for more and better central planners. Heaven help us all.

Obama’s Product Line



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President Obama — not Treasury Secretary Geithner or car czar Rattner — made the announcement this morning that the U.S. government intends to reorganize Chrysler in bankruptcy under an alliance with Italian manufacturer Fiat (as I noted over on the Corner). The intent was clearly to establish that President Obama is taking personal responsibility for Chrysler’s survival, and as self-appointed CEO, he emphasized that the company’s future lies in making small, fuel-efficient cars.

“Fiat will (introduce) a vehicle produced at a Chrysler factory in the U.S. that performs at 40 mpg,” CEO Obama said in his first product roll-out.

Why? Because there is a market for a 40-mpg cars in the U.S.? Or because it will meet Washington’s CAFE rules? We know CEO Obama admires European market socialism, but as CEO of an American auto company he should know that 40-mpg small cars are a sliver of the U.S. market. Fiat is experienced at making 40-mpg vehicles because Euro-consumers demand them in a market with $6-a-gallon petrol.

Obama’s obsession with small cars demonstrates the perils of a politician running a for-profit auto company: He wants to make cars that meet regulatory needs, not consumer needs.

The EBA (Everything’s our Business Agency)



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Cafe Hayek has something you’ll want to be seated to read (put it this way: even NPR was taken aback).

Seated, preferably not in one of those museum-bound vehicles as you have come to know them:

In this NPR interview, Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA, gives her perspective (and her boss’s) on the auto industry (HT: TJ Goss). In the second quote from her, I have tried to reproduce the sounds she makes in trying to avoid telling a ridiculous lie. She tells it anyway. From the 3:35 mark of the interview:

Jackson: The President has said — and I couldn’t agree more — that what this country needs is one single national road map that tells auto makers who are trying to become solvent again, what kind of car it is they need to be designing and building for the American people.

NPR reporter (interrupting): Is that the role of the government. though? I mean that doesn’t sound like free enterprise.

Jackson: Well, ih it , it is free enterprise in a way. Umm uhh you know, first and foremost the free enterprise system has us where we are right this second (laughs) and so some would argue that the government already has a much larger role than we might have when Henry Ford rolled the first cars off the assembly line.

Trabant meets Obama . . . the TraBama 2010.

A Feasible Alternative to Coal



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Today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports on the recent discovery of a large natural gas deposit in Northern Louisiana.

CADDO PARISH, La. — A massive natural-gas discovery here in northern Louisiana heralds a big shift in the nation’s energy landscape. After an era of declining production, the U.S. is now swimming in natural gas.

Even conservative estimates suggest the Louisiana discovery — known as the Haynesville Shale, for the dense rock formation that contains the gas — could hold some 200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s the equivalent of 33 billion barrels of oil, or 18 years’ worth of current U.S. oil production. Some industry executives think the field could be several times that size.

Huge new fields also have been found in Texas, Arkansas and Pennsylvania. One industry-backed study estimates the U.S. has more than 2,200 trillion cubic feet of gas waiting to be pumped, enough to satisfy nearly 100 years of current U.S. natural-gas demand.

Quick primer on natural gas: Its carbon impact is roughly half of coal’s. It has multiple energy uses. It’s found right here at home. Politicians have placed much of it off limits — yet they want us off of coal. Good luck with that, without much more natural gas. And nuclear.

No Feasible Alternative to Oil



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The Freakonomics item I excerpted yesterday? Navy Bob will have none of it:

Interesting articles cited by Dubner, but he makes the same error every other energy pundit seems to make — that new or more efficient ways to produce electricity will somehow replace oil.

 

There’s no connection between oil and electricity. Schemes to produce more electricity from tidal and wave power and transmit it more efficiently through ultra-high-voltage power lines will not reduce oil consumption or imports by a single barrel. They’re dreamed up for environmental reasons (or potential cost savings in the case of more efficient transmission.). Oil is not burned to produce electricity except in isolated and insignificant amounts. The electricity that flows through transmission lines to our homes and factories comes from coal, nukes, dams, natural gas, and the occasional windmill and solar panel. We could increase electricity production a hundredfold from all sources, and we’d still need the same amount of oil. Oil is produced and imported to make fuel for vehicle engines — gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel. All the other petroleum products produced from a barrel — heating oil, bunker C, lubricating oil, grease, waxes, Vaseline – are essentially leftovers. If they were all eliminated, we’d still have to import the same amount of oil to make fuel for transportation. Electricity does not go into vehicles’ fuel tanks. And until we get lighter, cheaper batteries with much greater capacity, it never will.

So Those Green Jobs Can’t Be Outsourced, Eh?



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You know, the jobs President Obama promises we’ll be world leaders in . . .

Maybe he means they’ll become our leading export.

From Benny Peiser:

International wind-turbine maker Vestas has announced that it will lay off 1900 employees including 600 in the UK. The news was well received by markets, with Vestas raising £700m in a Danish share issue the next day and announcing investments in Chinese plants. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper to make wind turbines in India or China, just like most manufactured goods. So forget about a glorious future of British windmill makers winning orders from around the globe.
   –Lewis Page, The Register, 29 April 2009

‘Cash for Clunkers’ Gets a Reality Check



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Democrats have spent this term in Green Neverland daydreaming about what cars automakers should build in order to save the planet and themselves. Detroit “must build the cars of the future” our president likes to say. But with Washington now finding itself an investor in the most complicated consumer-products business on the planet, politicians are being forced to face reality.

Take this week’s House effort to draft a “cash for clunkers” bill modeled after European “scrappage” incentives for consumers to trade in their old cars for new models, thus jump-starting dead car sales.

Loath to let a crisis go to waste, Democrats added green provisions to force consumers to consider only fuel-efficient cars. Two bills emerged from this process, with green groups favoring a proposal sponsored by Rep. Steve Israel (D., N.Y.) requiring that eligible cars for purchase get a whopping 25 percent more than current fuel mileage rules, or 34 mpg for cars and 28 mpg for trucks. (A competing bill from Rep. Betty Sutton (D., Ohio), supported by the Michigan delegation, would extend the deal to American cars only — a measure protested for its protectionist trade implications).

Well, hello, reality. While Congress fancies the idea that Americans crave small cars, they don’t. The number of vehicles that meet the Israel bill criteria is small — and they are small cars, so-called B or C-class cars like the Toyota Yaris or hybrids like the Toyota Prius. As a result, the bills would have discriminated against families that need larger vehicles and ultimately would have done little for Detroit because the mpg designation would bypass the D and E class segments which are the meat of auto sales. For example, Chrysler — the hardest-hit automaker — would have no vehicles qualify.

As a result, a compromise reportedly reached Wednesday between the two bills departs significantly from their original, green priorities. Charles Territo of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says dryly: “Members of Congress are getting much more insight into the vehicles that consumers want.”

Gone are the hard ideological demands that a voucher worth $3,000 to $5,000 go only to small cars — replaced by rules that echo existing federal CAFE rules of 22.7 mpg for trucks 27.5 mpg for cars, averages that every major manufacturer meets.

Furthermore, Rep. Israel indicated that the standards would be soft, requiring the purchase of vehicles “at or near existing CAFE standards.” In other words, a loophole you can drive a Chrysler Town & Country minivan (21 mpg) or GMC Canyon Crew Cab pickup (21 mpg) through.

“It’s a disappointing compromise,” Israel said, trying to appease outraged green groups. “It isn’t exactly visionary.”

No, but it’s a nod to reality.

Low-Grade Arguments for Cap-n-trade



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I am reminded of one more note about that depressing spectacle at the Earth Day confab I have serially alluded to in this space. First, I read something today that aptly described the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade plan — even sans most key details — as still being “intentionally complex.” Of course. It’s entire purpose is to hide the tax. Then there is the Daily Oklahoman’s editorial today (“The proposal . . . takes 648 pages to detail a system that would cap the amount of greenhouse gases companies can emit”) and Larry Kudlow’s comments (“huge, unwieldy tax”) over on the Corner.

 

This reminded me of how an NRDC co-panelist promoted cap-and-trade as the simple alternative to a direct tax, which he dismissed as too complicated. He suggested the audience consider how confusing their tax preparations had been just one week prior — well, that’s pretty much all you need to know about taxes, he ruled. Some argument. I suggested he take a look at how Europe’s scheme worked out, if he really wanted to see complicated.

                                                                                                                

I’ve noted how the rationers’ lead stab to promote cap-and-trade over the less inefficient, less costly tax, is the claim that it supposedly provides “certainty of emissions,” vs. a tax’s “certainty of cost” — even though Europe proved that any cap-and-trade scheme that can be enacted will have so many outs (“offsets,” and their cousin, the “safety valve”) that it brings no such thing. The closest thing to a “certainty” is that covered emissions will rise, until it’s just too costly to buy the offsets, at which point the covered emitters will leave.

 

My conclusion from all of this is that, if these are the best they can do in support of the thing, as it certainly seems is the case, you know it’s on a thin reed and likely won’t make it through a robust exposure to democracy (Europe’s scheme, as you know, was never subjected to such consideration).

False-Peak Oil?



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Stephen J. Dubner on the Times’s Freakonomics blog:

It is always interesting to watch what happens when the media latches onto a given issue and then, as the reality on the ground evolves — sometimes radically — the media fails to catch up to, or even monitor, the changes. This means the public is stuck with an outdated version of conventional wisdom which, even if it were true in the first place, is no longer so.

With oil prices falling by more than two-thirds last year before a slight rebound, the “peak oil” frenzy seems to have abated for now. Even its proponents must admit that high oil prices were driven in large part by a huge spike in demand (which has now fallen) and not just scarcity (whether real or sinisterly implied by those who hold oil reserves).

But even though the hysteria has died down, new technologies march on, quietly changing the rules of the debate (if, that is, there still were a debate).

Consider, for instance, this fascinating article by Guy Chazan from the Wall Street Journal’s special report yesterday on energy. It’s called “Squeeze That Sponge.” Highlights:

Despite the engineering advances of the past century, nearly two-thirds of crude still gets left in the ground. So oil companies are raising the ante, investing billions of dollars in cutting-edge technology to increase the amount of crude they can tap. The potential rewards are huge: Raising the average recovery rate world-wide to 50 percent from 35 percent would boost the world’s recoverable oil by about 1.2 trillion barrels — equal to the whole of today’s proven reserves, the International Energy Agency says.

Such recovery measures aren’t pie-in-the-sky, either. Chazan’s article brims with specific examples; for instance:

One method of improving oil recovery could become a vital weapon against global warming: Some companies are pumping carbon dioxide into reservoirs to flush more oil out of the ground. The technique could become increasingly attractive as the world seeks to reduce greenhouse gases. Why not put the carbon dioxide to work, the thinking goes, rather than simply storing it in disused oil reservoirs, as is also done currently.

And:

BP is also experimenting with microbes that reduce the viscosity of heavy oil and help trapped oil move more freely. Another new technology: LoSal, a flooding technique that uses water with reduced salinity, unlike the salt water many oil companies use. BP has discovered that less salinity in the water can improve recovery rates.

This isn’t to say that oil is inexhaustible, nor that energy companies shouldn’t be pursuing more diverse and cleaner energy solutions. But they are. Consider two other articles in the Journal’s special section: this one on tidal and wave power and this one on ultra-high-voltage power lines, which can move electricity further and with less line loss than regular power lines.

So many contemporary debates about energy are lame because the issue is a) heavily politicized; and b) fraught with too many adjectives and not enough numbers. . . .

Read the rest here.

The Accidental Supporter



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I do a weekly hit on WIBC’s “Garrison” show — his “Grumpy Old Men Wednesday” cabinet stocked with the likes of me, Michael Ledeen, Jed Babbin, David Horowitz . . . grumps one and all. Greg, you might be interested to know, took over for the old Mike Pence Show.

And we are vexed with almost equal regularity by the congressional (particularly the Senate) representation of his state, which gets as much or more of its electricity from coal than any other state — about 95 percent — and which, according to a Heritage Foundation analysis, would boast eight of the top 20 House districts in terms of job loss from any cap-and-trade rationing.

So after today’s show I was pleased to see the following constituent response from Sen. Evan Bayh forwarded by a listener — Bayh having sworn in the past  that he would never do anything to harm his constituents on this front, while out of the other side of his mouth justifying his position on such anti-Hoosier legislation by claiming that he’s simply “following the lead of Indiana’s senior Senator” (Richard Lugar — a Kyotophile if ever there was one). Um, does that dodge apply to every issue and, if not, why just here?

Dear Mr. [Hoosier]:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the impacts of global climate change. I appreciate your thoughts and concerns on this issue. 

            I am deeply concerned about the threat posed by global climate change. The scientific consensus on this issue is unequivocal. Global warming is real and greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are causing it. Scientists and others warn that climate change threatens our nation’s security, and may imperil future generations’ opportunity for safe, healthy, and prosperous lives.

             However, any carbon-constraining mechanism must protect Hoosier ratepayers, workers and businesses from increased costs. Additionally, other nations of the world must be included in this effort, because if they are not, our action will be for naught. 

            Please rest assured, should legislation regarding global climate change be introduced in the 111th Congress, I will keep your views in mind.

         Again, thank you for contacting me.  I hope the information I have provided is helpful. My website,  http://bayh.senate.gov, can provide additional details about legislation and state projects, and you can also sign up to receive my monthly e-newsletter, The Bayh Bulletin, by clicking on the link at the top of my homepage.  I value your input and hope you will continue to keep me informed of the issues important to you.

Office of Senator Evan Bayh
(202) 224-5623
Russell 131
Washington, D.C. 20510

So here we see that — although Sen. Bayh naturally didn’t write this letter, which was queued up by the herd of Legislative Correspondents populating the back rooms of all such offices — he and his colleagues ought to have it glued to them wherever and whenever they utter comment on the issue, as the best way to make sure they really do keep such concerns in mind.

This isn’t just an exercise in saying a lot without saying anything, of having something both ways. No doubt, real, serious threat . . . but, uh, one that we’ll only address if it’s free.

Here’s a contest: is it the first half, the last half, or both halves of that utterly inane formulation that he doesn’t actually believe? (Plus, really, how long do we let politicians get away with vowing that, e.g., measures designed and intended to increase energy prices will, at all cost, not increase your energy prices? Folks, you only continue to be treated as children as long as you allow it.)

Note that Sen. Bayh does let slip one key acknowledgement: that any legislation that the U.S. passes, unless in implementation of an international deal that also requires actual reductions by India, China, Mexico, et al., will be for naught. All pain, no gain.

Thank you, Junior Senator, for taking the time to admit this — which, yes, will prove helpful. And please rest assured that we look forward to repeating this early and often, should the House ever risk repeating the BTU debacle and sending a similar bill over to the Senate for burial.

Catastrophic Climate Change



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Via Climate Depot: global warming responsible for . . . kitty fecundity.

Taxpayers, Taxpaying Customers, and Taxpayers



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Planet Gore reader Peter R. writes in to comment on my item below:

I love when the Greenpeacenik suggests that the cost of refitting every building in the U.S. with solar panels should be borne by a combination of government, business, and the taxpayers.

I guess she thinks those three entities all have separate pools of money to draw from, unrelated to one another.

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