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Green Unemployment



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From IBD yesterday:

CO2 Rules: The Anti-Stimulus

The EPA has prepared a finding for review that global warming is a public health threat, the first step toward regulating the American economy down to your lawn mower.

We are often told how the pursuit of alternative energy will help save the earth from climate change and create lots of green jobs. Advocates rarely use the phrase “global warming” any more because the earth is in fact no longer warming, and hasn’t for a decade due to a decline in solar activity and other natural factors.

They prefer the phrase “climate change” because it can cover a multitude of things such as snow in Malibu or blizzards during global warming conferences and protests. They want to hide the fact that the Earth is not warming. They also want to hide the fact the futile regulation of greenhouse gases will produce an unintended consequence — green unemployment.

Environmentalists celebrated a victory on Monday when the White House acknowledged that the Environmental Protection Agency had transmitted its proposed finding that global warming is a public health threat. The U.S. Supreme Court directed the EPA two years ago to decide that question, ruling that if it found warming to be a threat, it must under the law regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

The EPA’s dire finding echoes last month’s testimony by Howard Franklin, who directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health, before a Senate Committee. Franklin said the CDC “considers climate change a serious public health concern” that could accelerate illnesses and deaths from heat waves, air pollution, and food- and water-borne diseases.

But warming may actually save lives. Warmer weather means longer growing seasons for both food and the raw materials for biofuels. Ironically, the push to biofuels has caused hunger and food riots around the world as crops are diverted and food prices rise. The environment is harmed due to increased biofuel cultivation and agricultural runoff.

A recent BBC report noted that 20,000 deaths are linked to the cold each year in the U.K. and that those deaths fell 3% a year from 1971 through 2003. Thomas Gale Moore, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who has studied and written extensively about global warming, believes as many as 40,000 American lives would be spared each year.

Bjorn Lomborg, author of the book “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” has said the cost of a Kyoto-like pact “just for the U.S. will be higher than the cost of providing the entire world with clean drinking water and sanitation. It’s estimated the latter would prevent 2 million deaths (from diseases like infant diarrhea) a year and prevent half a billion people from becoming seriously ill each year.”

The irony here is that wealthier societies are the healthier societies, and attempts to regulate emissions are attempts to restrain economic growth. Kyoto and its descendants are recipes for global poverty that hurt the very populations they purport to help.

According to a Heritage Foundation analysis, “using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases will be very costly, even given the most generous assumptions.” Clean Air Act regulation of greenhouse gases “could spur additional investment,” Heritage acknowledges, but “this investment was completely undermined by the higher energy prices.”

So much so, says Heritage, that “cumulative GDP losses for 2010 to 2029 approach $7 trillion with single-year losses of nearly $650 billion.” Annual job losses would exceed 800,000 for several years, with some industries experiencing job losses exceeding 50%. . . .

No ‘Wind-Down’ for You!



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It struck me, while putting some slides together: why is there only one industry that Barack Obama thinks is acceptable to enter bankruptcy (ok, maybe “force into” is a more accurate portrayal…but, still)?

Re-reading his vow to the San Francisco Chronicle ed board in light of recent events, one must wonder why Obama won’t place the coal industry “into conservorship, unwind it slowly, protect policyholders and impose haircuts on creditors and counterparties,” as Fed chief Bernanke and the administration seem to want for every entity that’s actually failed. Instead, coal is to be hounded out of existence by an eco-theistic mob.

Something to think about: bankruptcy is simply unacceptable for anything that actually failed, yet must be crammed down the throats of the prosperous, if ideologicially disfavored. I wonder what the mining unions think of this disparate treatment between their automaking brethren and the silk stocking Wall Streeters on the one hand — we’ll call it the Left hand — and them, on the Far Left hand.

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Spring Has Sprung



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There’s a reason why I have been so quiet on the posting front, which is temporary relocation to living on an airplane, as happens this time of year. Gotta help the hemisphere warm up, and all that, you know. But returning home at midnight only to turn around 11 hours later at the same gate to head back out makes even seeing my wife and kids a rarity, let alone registering PG-type thoughts.

The past half-week’s travels have included a wonderful host family and audience in Los Angeles — great people including many from “the industry” interested in defending Western civilization, and willing to take time to fight L.A.’s stunning traffic to hear something new, for which I remain flattered. To see prospering “creative types” chewing over the real story on the global-warming industry and its agenda was a treat. Thanks to the American Freedom Alliance for bringing me out.

While there I did the radio show of old friend, former Reds hurler and now pitchman-for-God, Frank Pastore. He loves doing his homework on the global warming agenda, and is always looking for bite-size ammo for kids to take back to their schools.

I was awarded a prop for my talk: an L.A. Times story conjuring a flooded Los Angeles — seniors and the poor hit hardest, according to the paper (apparently, that’s who bought up all the beachfront property) — which was presented as a virtual certainty, only then to be couched in a subsequent haze of “could” and “may,” and how “if X then Y”: even though X was utterly implausible, Y was the focus. That was fun to read to the audience, pointing out some of the tricks to which we’ve all become accustomed.

Then came following terrific presenters like Tony Blankley at an industry gathering this past Monday in Texas. Then a Furman University talk sponsored by Young America’s Foundation. Furman is a hotbed of administration “sustainability” fetishism, some of whom I have been told harangued Dick Lindzen and CEI’s Fred Smith two years ago. They were nonetheless perfectly pleasant and complimentary about my presentation.

I’ve got UConn next — here’s to hoping this is contemporaneous with a potentially looming Huskies-Mizzou NCAA clash, so I can put my Tigers jersey to good use — then a debate at Colorado Christian, followed by townhall meetings with a Member, and a least one campus talk in Minnesota before making my way home again, finally, after another hectic, yet rewarding as always, few weeks of early Spring.

Oh Goody. A Sequel. . .



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Where’s the Transparency?



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Energy Secretary Chu is on a roll and giving out millions as if he were the banker in Monopoly. The latest is $535 million in the form of a loan guarantee to solar company Solyndra, a deal that could be exposed to a little more sunlight, if you ask me.

Demonstrating that it plans to act quickly with clean-energy loans, the U.S. Department of Energy has made $535 million available to solar start-up Solyndra.

The loan guarantee, announced on Friday, is the first to be approved by the Department of Energy in four years. As part of a broader government stimulus plan, the administration of Energy Secretary Steven Chu has committed to quickly disbursing loans to clean-energy companies.

Demonstrating that it plans to act quickly with clean-energy loans, the U.S. Department of Energy has made $535 million available to solar start-up Solyndra.

The loan guarantee, announced on Friday, is the first to be approved by the Department of Energy in four years. As part of a broader government stimulus plan, the administration of Energy Secretary Steven Chu has committed to quickly disbursing loans to clean-energy companies.

The loan should cover about three-quarters of the cost of the new plant and is conditional on Solyndra raising the rest in equity according to the article above. Some concerns, however. . .

1.  By what process was Solyndra chosen and why?

2.  What are the terms of the loan guarantee? Solyndra went into the private equity market last year to raise funds for this project with suboptimal results. So now Joe Q. Public gets to bet on it?  We really need to know what price Solyndra’s current investors paid for their equity piece and what really were Solyndra’s other financing options.  If the government was the only funder at this point, then taxpayers need to know what makes this company so special.  And if there were other financing options, taxpayers need to know why their dollars were needed at all.

3.  Get ready for the Goldman Sachs chatter, especially after what happened with AIG. Solyndra’s main competitor is a company by the name of First Solar. Rumors swirled last year that Goldman, which had been the investment banker for First Solar, downgraded First Solar to benefit Solyndra. This link also says that Goldman was out raising money for Solyndra last year. And Goldman was the exclusive advisor to Solyndra for the government guaranteed loan. How much of a fee did Goldman earn for arranging the financing and is the government financing actually rescuing a bad investment for Goldman’s clients?

4.  Goldman Sachs downgraded the solar industry last yearBarrons reports from October 2008:

Solar stocks are trading sharply lower this morning after Goldman Sachs analyst Michael Molnar declared he has become cautious on the solar group, “as less generous subsidies combined with a wave of supply pose a real risk.”

Molnar asserts in a research note that the risk of oversupply in the solar market “will soon become a reality as considerably less generous demand subsidies take hold just as a wave of supply and tight financing hit the market.” He thinks that “liberal subsidies of the past in markets like Germany and Spain are unlikely to be replicated in the future givne fears of their ultimate cost in a bad world economy.”

As supply increases, he contends, prices will have to “adjust strongly downward to generate demand.” He thinks that trend will lead to below-consensus estimates for module manufacturers and compressed valuations for stocks in the sector.

Since Goldman was advising Solyndra on this project, did anyone in Chu’s Department of Energy question why taxpayers are guaranteeing the debt on a new solar plant for a market that Goldman’s own analysts have downgraded? Has President Obama’s election changed Goldman’s view on alternative energy to the point that it is now recommending the sector?

5.  Solyndra has big name investors ($600 million invested to date) who will benefit from the deal. Such names as Abu Dhabi, Richard Branson of Virgin, and the Walton family (as in Wal-Mart, through Madrone Capital Partners.) These guys couldn’t arrange traditional debt financing? If not, why? Congress went nuts when Chrysler’s private equity backer asked for taxpayer money. Why is this different?

To me, this fundraising looks more like a bailout then an investment in a shiny new technology. And if it’s a bailout, then the same conditions imposed on other bailed-out companies should apply.

More to come I hope.

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Playing Chicken



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Today’s Wall Street Journal — the news section — covers the political game of hot potato over who gets the blame for making everything you buy more expensive:

The Environmental Protection Agency has sent the White House a proposed finding that carbon dioxide is a danger to public health, a step that could trigger a clampdown on emissions of greenhouse gases across a wide swath of the economy.

If approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, the endangerment finding could clear the way for the EPA to use the Clean Air Act to control emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases believed to contribute to climate change. In effect, the government would treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The EPA submitted the proposed rule to the White House on Friday, according to federal records published Monday.

Such a finding would raise pressure on Congress to enact a system that caps greenhouse gases — which trap the sun’s heat in the earth’s atmosphere — and creates a market for businesses to buy and sell the right to emit them, as President Barack Obama has proposed.

A White House representative said Monday that Mr. Obama’s “strong preference is for Congress to pass energy security legislation that includes a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. The Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must review whether greenhouse-gas emissions pose a threat to public health or welfare, and this is simply the next step in what will be a long process that engages stakeholders and the public.”

I’d say this actually raises pressure on Congress — not to do something Euro-stupid, but to pass a one-liner saying the Clean Air Act as written was not designed or intended for this purpose (a la Blackburn).

Wouldn’t congress want to proceed on the biggest regulatory and tax scheme in history through careful deliberation (and therefore with public input)? Oh . . . right . . . of course not.

Re: Obama’s Teleprompter Strikes Again



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Oh, man.  Barack Obama’s Telemprompter, who is blogging now fwiw, writes about Orion-gate:

I’m sure everyone in America has by now seen the gaffe from yesterday involving the Big Guy’s pronunciation of “Orion” in a critical speech about people turning green or something. Last night, Gibbsy and Rahm called an emergency meeting in the Situation Room, and the three of us sat down to work through exactly how to get Big O’s mojo back for speechifying.

Gibbsy suggested that we use a third screen for the speeches, one either in the podium or in front of the podium, so The Boss wouldn’t have to keep turning his head from side to side to read the screens. I’m a pro, but adding a third screen seems an over-reaction, like the time they made special teleprompter glasses out of a pair of those prank “x-ray glasses” for Big Boy to wear during a debate where electronic-communications aids were forbidden. That said, I’m hip to a threesome at some point in the White House, most Democrats are … except Hillary.

I suggested that maybe, instead of gimmicks and technology, The Boss should read the speeches before he goes out to give them. We had a good laugh over that suggestion, then turned back to more realistic options.

Obama’s Teleprompter Strikes Again



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Via HotAir’s headlines, here’s a pretty funny video of the President botching the pronunciation of the word “Orion” three times while speaking about Orion Energy Systems in Wisconsin. Here’s the local write-up:

All terrific press for Orion, except that Obama kept pronouncing the company’s name wrong, calling it OAR-ee-on.

After finishing his remarks and talking with a few people, the president returned to the microphone and said his prepared remarks led him to pronounce the firm’s name wrong.

“I suspect this is Or-EYE-on as opposed to OAR-ee-on. Just wanted to make sure that when I’m giving you a plug, that we’ve got the right plug. It’s Or-EYE-on.”

Got that? “the president returned to the microphone and said his prepared remarks led him to pronounce the firm’s name wrong.” I think he just blamed the teleprompter.

More Chu Stimulus Bucks



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It looks like Energy Secretary Chu has decided on how to spend $1.2 billion of the $1.6 billion Congress set aside for Department of Energy’s Office of Science:

Declaring leadership in science “vital to America’s prosperity, energy security and global competitiveness,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced Monday that $1.2 billion in federal stimulus money will be distributed to national laboratories.

Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, made the announcement after touring the Brookhaven National Laboratory on eastern Long Island. The lab will be receiving $184 million in stimulus money, including $150 million to build a light source that aims to create the brightest X-ray source in the world.

The project, called National Synchrotron Light Source II, would produce X-rays about 10,000 times brighter than an existing version at the lab, used by about 2,100 researchers a year. Scientists hope the new version would yield breakthroughs in disciplines including biology, medicine, chemistry, environmental sciences and physics.

The $1.2 billion is being distributed among nine labs across the country, including Brookhaven.

“These projects not only provide critically needed short-term economic relief but also represent a strategic investment in our nation’s future,” said Chu, who joined the Obama Cabinet after serving as director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004. . . .

Congress approved $1.6 billion in stimulus funding for the Department of Energy. Officials said they are working on details to distribute the remaining $371 million.

It should be clarified that the $1.6 billion is allocated to the DOE’s Office of Science and is a small part of what the DOE has to allocate toward other projects. Here’s a detailed breakdown from the DOE’s website of this chunk. 

Mother Nature, Serial Polluter



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Mount Redoubt, an active volcano in the Aleutian chain about 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, erupted last night, sending a plume of ash 50,000 feet into the air. Watts Up With That? has Keep reading this post . . .

Greens to CA Solar Power: “Drop Dead”



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More proof that environmentalists will oppose renewable energy that might actually work on a large scale: The New York Times reports today on the green opposition to solar power in the California desert, where solar irradiance is at its peak in the U.S.

Money quote from a Sierra Clubber: “Deserts don’t need to be sacrificed so that people in L.A. can keep heating their swimming pools.”

An Odd Use For Stimulus Money



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Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has directed $116 million of stimulus dollars to his old employer, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California:

The Department of Energy will give Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory $115.8 million from the U.S. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This money will be spent upgrading the Advanced Light Source, a particle accelerator, and on building a new type of accelerator, the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator. The lab will also use the money to take down the Bevatron, an accelerator shut down in 1993.

I have no idea how many jobs these projects create, if any, but why should one penny of taxpayer dollars be used to dismantle an old science project?  According to the LBL website, there’s not even a project planned yet for the land once the Bevatron is dismantled. 

But at least we know Chu will return in glory to his old roost when his service in the Obama regime is over.

The Coming Green Burden



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What one hand giveth, the other taketh away. The federal stimulus bill will reportedly net the average American $13 a week. Today, Michigan’s two major utilities announced that federal green emissions mandates will in part necessitate an 11 percent electric rate hike this year — or approximately $10 a month to the average Michigander.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the bills that are coming due on the “greening of America.

Michigan sports the nation’s highest unemployment rate at 10.6 percent and can ill-afford higher utility costs. But as a state controlled by hip Obamawannabe, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, and her union allies, Michigan bears watching as a harbinger for what awaits the U.S.

Like Obama, Granholm has ordered a fundamental restructuring of Michigan’s energy infrastructure, putting all new state coal plants on hold and demanding a 45 percent cut in coal generation in 20 years . . . allegedly to be filled by government-mandated wind power.

Meanwhile, Democratic Washington is trying to force through a cap-and-trade law that will discriminate against coal-heavy manufacturing states like Michigan. Utility executives predict electricity rates may climb another 40 percent as a result.

Finally, in anticipation of these costs, the state utilities lobbied for — and have received — a gutting of the state’s electric deregulation law, so that they can get a guaranteed return on the enormous investment of, say, a low-carbon nuclear plant. Translation for ratepayers of a re-monopolized environment: More rate hikes ahead.

The Solar and Renewable Utopia



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“We know the right thing to do,” said President Barack Obama at his press conference on energy this afternoon.  “We’ve known the right choice for a generation. The time has come to make that choice and act on what we know. . . . We have achieved more in two months for a clean energy economy than we have done in perhaps 30 years.”

Thirty years, that would be . . . hmmm . . . 1979, right? Wasn’t that the year — yes, it was. That was the date when Jimmy Carter finally got his Grand Energy Plan through Congress, setting us the road to corn ethanol, the Synthetic Fuels Corporation, and a host of other harebrained schemes.

Carter Redux, that’s the only way to put it. After 30 years out of power, the purveyors of the Solar and Renewable Utopia are back. We’re going to develop windmills, make solar panels affordable, and redesign buildings so they use only half as much energy — in theory, at least. The subtext, of course, is this — we won’t have to deal with coal, nuclear, or any of those other nasty technologies that aren’t “clean and renewable.”

So what’s wrong with this picture? Well, the problem is that 30 years hasn’t changed the physics of things like the intensity of sunlight or wind power. Nuclear power has 2 million times the energy density of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are again about ten times as dense as wind and solar. Multiply it out and that comes to a factor of 20 million. How does this manifest itself? Well, in the amount of land that will be required to collect all that solar and wind energy before we can begin using it.

All this came home to me again the other night while I was watching Thomas Friedman’s “Green is the New Red, White and Blue” special, which ran on the Discovery Channel. At one point, Friedman finds a hydrogen car running on fuel cells and producing zero emissions. The cars costs a million dollars to build, he notes, but don’t worry, mass production will bring that down. Then he goes to a hydrogen filling station in California, run by Honda. “Where do you get the hydrogen,” he asks. His enthusiasm wanes, however, when he learns about the flimsiness of solar energy. “These solar panels,” he says, “measuring 700 square feet, take a week to generate enough hydrogen to fill one fuel tank.”

Anything solar immediately runs into the same problem. There just isn’t that much energy there to begin with. In January 2009, three leading solar researchers, writing in Scientific American, proposed that by 2050 American get all its electricity from solar panels in the Southwestern desert.  All we would require would be 46,000 square miles — about one-third of New Mexico, America’s fifth largest state. Al Gore repeated this proposal before the Senate Energy Committee in February, although he managed to reduce the requirements to 10,000 square miles, based on the untested claims of a California company.

All this may seem like vaporware, but it’s being put into effect in California right now. The state has adopted a “renewable portfolio mandate,” which says that it must get 20 percent of its electricity from so-called “renewables” by 2020. This leaves the utilities in a position of buying anything some budding entrepreneur offers them. Thinly funded companies are furiously drawing up plans to fill California deserts with solar installations, knowing the utilities will have to buy anything they generate.

All this hit a snag last week. California Senator Diane Feinstein announced she would introduce a bill setting 600,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management holdings in the Mojave Desert off-limits to solar projects.  “Such development would violate the spirit of what conservationists had intended when they donated much of the land to the public,” she said.  “It would destroy the entire Mojave Desert ecosystem,” added David Myers, executive director of The Wildlands Conservancy, which originally dedicated some of the land to the BLM.

Hmmm . . . endangered species? Environmental impact? Didn’t anybody ever think of these things before? So here’s another consideration. One of the biggest problems solar panels is that they accumulate dust, dirt, and sand, which block their effectiveness. Existing installations have to be washed down continually with water. Has anybody thought of where in the middle of the desert you’re going to find enough water to wash down 10,000 square miles of solar panels every month?

The one path not being pursued by the Obama administration, of course, is nuclear energy. That would be too easy. All we’d have to do is admit that the purveyors of “clean and renewable energy” are living in a fantasy world. Once that was done, we could employ current technology, use the existing electrical grid, and skip all the business of flagellating ourselves about all the harm we do to the planet. We could put tens of thousands of construction workers to work, cut through bureaucracy (we’d have to give up the five-year reviews by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission), and let Silicon Valley go back to building computers instead of thinking they can solve world energy problems.

Granted, Susan Hockfield — president of MIT, who introduced Obama this afternoon — did say something about developing “safer and more efficient nuclear technologies,” but that’s always the way. Safe and acceptable nuclear energy is always somewhere over the horizon. In fact, the technology we’ve got now is already safe and efficient. We just have to use it. Energy Secretary Steven Chu spoke for the administration two weeks ago, however, when he cancelled Yucca Mountain. The move wasn’t really that significant, since reprocessing nuclear fuel makes much more sense. (See “There is No Such Thing as Nuclear Waste” in the Wall Street Journal.) But it speaks volumes about what to expect form the Obama Administration on nuclear power.

Jimmy Carter’s Presidency was brought down by his failure to deal with the energy problem.  After four years of floundering around with oil price controls and “alternate energy” Carter was overwhelmed by world events.

Is the Obama Presidency headed down the same road? I wouldn’t bet against it.

Of course, the Research and Development Tax Credit — which Obama repeatedly mentioned in his speech, touting the hope it provides for energy research — was the brainchild of the Reagan administration and part of Kemp-Roth Tax Act of 1981. So maybe Obama is learning something.

– William Tucker is author of Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Energy Odyssey.

What Gives the Alarmists Nightmares?



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Would you believe it’s the Nano, a $2,000 car produced in India? From the Green, Inc. blog at the NYTimes.com:

People across India have been saving money for months with the goal of purchasing the car, made by Tata Motors, a branch of the Indian conglomerate Tata Group, and which will be priced at about $2,000. For many, it would represent a leap, overnight, from the indignity of two-wheeled motor scooters to the relative luxury of four wheels and a roof.

For millions the car has become emblematic of their aspirations, as Vishal Bhatia, a Green Inc. reader in Mumbai, suggested in his comment the last time I posted about the Nano:

“I’m buying it because it gives a sense of freedom,” Mr. Bhatia wrote, “freedom to go to someplace in uncrumpled clothes, with my deodorant still being able to mask my body odor. But above all to see the look in my family’s eyes when they see it in person.”

Environmentalists, however, have decried the Nano and its low-cost imitators as an impending disaster. Certainly, the seemingly guaranteed success of the Nano may create more traffic and strain on India’s already rickety urban infrastructure.

And although the car may emit fewer greenhouse gases than some two-wheelers, its launch still has troubled officials leading efforts on global climate protection. Last year, the Nobel Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri, who is head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was quoted as saying he was “having nightmares” about the car.

Unbelievable. These guys actually have nightmares about broadening prosperity — and the economic freedom that brings it about.

The New York Times Profiles Energy Secretary Chu



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The Times today:

For a slight, soft-spoken Nobel laureate, Washington has been an initiation that he has likened to being “dumped in the deep end of the pool.” Dr. Chu, 61, was chairman of Stanford’s physics department and ran a national research laboratory. But in addition to being verbally slapped around by Mr. McCain, he has been forced to backtrack on some ill-informed comments about OPEC and ordered to spend quickly tens of billions of dollars in stimulus money with virtually no top-level help.

In other words either, “Help, I’m drowning!” or “I’m in way over my head.” Maybe that’s a little harsh. How about, “Hey America, give me a break. I just started swimming lessons last week.”

And if Secretary Chu thinks McCain was harsh now, wait until the stimulus checks start getting spent. 

It’s Official



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Environmentalism is a religion. This should work out well.

You really have to read about the tantrum to believe it — he was let go quite possibly because he was a greenie nag and boor — though I’m not sure that simply reading it is sufficient to convince all that this isn’t a joke.

The good news is that the tribunal determined the gent’s global warming beliefs were indeed a philosophy, as opposed to grounded in “facts and science.” Gee, really?

So Much for Small Cars



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Wall Street Journal:

Last summer, when gas cost $4 a gallon, buyers snapped up small cars so fast that dealers couldn’t keep them in stock. Now, with gas prices half that level, almost 500,000 fuel-thrifty models are piled up unsold around the country.

The turnabout comes at a bad time for the struggling U.S. car industry, which has revamped factories and shifted product plans to produce more small cars in coming years. The moves are prompted by coming stricter federal fuel-economy standards and the Obama administration’s car-bailout plan, which encourages auto makers to boost their vehicles’ mileage.

Practically every small car in the market is stacked up at dealerships. At the end of February, Honda Motor Co. had 22,191 Fits on dealer lots — enough to last 125 days at the current sales rate, according to Autodata Corp. In July, it had a nine-day supply, while the industry generally considers a 55- to 60-day supply healthy.

For other models the supply situation is even worse. Toyota Motor Corp. has enough Yaris subcompacts to last 175 days. Chrysler LLC has a 205-day supply of the Dodge Caliber. And Chevrolet dealers have 427 days’ worth of Aveo subcompacts. At the current sales rate, General Motors Corp. could stop making the Aveo and it wouldn’t run out until May 24, 2010.

“I don’t think Americans really like small cars,” said Beau Boeckmann, whose family’s Galpin Ford in southern California is the country’s largest Ford dealer. “They drive them when they think they have to, when gas prices are high. But we’re big people and we like big cars.”

Not-So-Smart Grid



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Great news. The new Obama proposed “smart grid” for distribution of electrical power might be vulnerable to hackers.

Re: Yabba Dabba Doo!



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I can’t believe I missed the Henry Payne cartoon below, which would have made the perfect illustration for this reader-feedback post.

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