On Wednesday night I put up a relatively quick post handicapping the various officer races for Maryland Republican Party leadership. But there was one person I may have missed, and his name is Gary Collins.
Over the last few days his social media has been on fire because he had noted his thought about trying for the brass ring, but deciding against it – only to find a lot of people want him to consider it anyway. It seems to me there can be floor nominations (although my recollection is rusty on this) so he may have something of a support base if he decides to try.
Back in the summer, though, Gary was one of the strongest Trumpkin voices screaming for my resignation, and I suppose he eventually got his wish because I did. Now he has to be careful what he wished for, though, because I’m going to give him (and anyone else who seeks the top spot) some free advice from an outsider who was once on the inside. It’s not so much on how to be chair of the party as it is a general treatise on philosophy. So here goes.
- There are two numbers for the new Chair to remember: 818,890 and 1,677,926. The former number is the Democratic vote in 2014, and the latter in 2016. We can’t count on a weak Democrat that the party can’t get excited about to run in 2018, and you can be sure that the other party will be trying to tie the person who only won in 2014 by about 65,000 votes to the guy who lost two years later, in large part from Democrats and independents voting against him as opposed to being for their own flawed nominee, by over 700,000 votes. (You can fairly say that 1/3 of Hillary’s popular vote margin came from this state.) This is true even though Larry Hogan didn’t support Donald Trump and reportedly didn’t vote for him.
- Thus, job one for the party Chair is to re-elect the governor and job 1A is to get him more help. You may not like it, and the chances are reasonably good the winner supported Trump from early on. But not everything Trump says or does will play well here, especially when 2/5 of the voters live in the Capital region.
- Legislatively, this will be the year in the cycle the General Assembly majority is most aggressive. You can bet that paid sick leave will pass and they will dare Hogan to veto it. Even other crazy stuff like the “chicken tax” and a renewed push for the O’Malley-era phosphorus regulations have a decent chance of passing – both to burnish the far-left legacy of ambitious Democrats and to attempt to embarrass Governor Hogan. Meanwhile, if it’s an administration-sponsored bill you can be certain the committee chairs have standing orders to throw it in their desk drawers and lose the key. (Of course, identical Democrat-sponsored legislation will have a chance at passing, provided they get all the credit.) Bear in mind that 2017 will be aggressive because 2018 is an election year and the filing deadline will again likely be during session – so those who wish to move up in the ranks may keep their powder dry on the most extreme issues next session until they see who wins that fall.
- Conservatives have a lot to lose. Larry Hogan is not a doctrinaire conservative, but he needs a second term for one big reason – sort of like the rationale of keeping the Supreme Court that #NeverTrump people were constantly subjected to. It’s the redistricting, stupid. They got rid of Roscoe Bartlett by adding thousands of Montgomery County voters to the Sixth District (while diluting the former Sixth District voters into the Eighth or packing them into the First) so the next target will be Andy Harris. If you subtracted out the four Lower Shore counties from his district and pushed it over into Baltimore City, you would only lose a little in the Democratic Third and Seventh Districts but pick up the First. The Lower Shore voters would be well outnumbered by PG and Charles County as part of the Fifth District (such a district split is not unprecedented.) Democrats dreamed about this last time out, and they want no part of an independent redistricting commission.
- One place to play offense: vulnerable Democrat Senators. I live in Jim Mathias’s district, and it’s very interesting how much more of an advocate he was for an elected school board after 2014. He’s always tried to play up his somewhat centrist (compared to most Democrats. anyway) voting record, and I suspect there are a handful of other D’s who may try to do the same. Don’t let them get away with it, because over years of doing the monoblogue Accountability Project I’ve found (with a couple rare exceptions) that even the worst Republican is superior to the best Democrat as far as voting is concerned.
So whoever wins Saturday can feel free to use these ideas. As for me, I have far better plans for my weekend – I’ll wave in the general direction in Frederick as we go by. Fair warning: comment moderation may be slow or non-existent.
I liked what I wrote on a Facebook post regarding this article so much that I had to share. It’s illustrative of how one side argues with the other on the topic.
My story begins when I saw this reply, by Karl Shipps. He’s not a friend of mine, but in a quick check of his Facebook page it’s noteworthy that he signed a petition called “Don’t Let Myron Ebell Dismantle the EPA.” (Ebell is a noted skeptic of the idea that mankind is a prime driver in our climate.) Shipps wrote:
This story takes you to a climate change denial website. These people are not to be trusted.
So it sounds like this gentleman is denying the “deniers”? Well, that wouldn’t stand with me so I wrote:
Few deny climate change. What they correctly debate is mankind’s impact on it.
So, piling on was another person, Jim Davis – same general tenor, but in his concession was a more emotional appeal. I guess I was already winning.
Yes, it’s hard to say with 100% certainty that the climate change is due or even strongly enhanced by human activity. However, on a planet on which we ultimately WILL run out of fossil fuels, why not reduce the pollution so we can breathe cleaner air (note the recent terrible pollution in major cities around the world) and stop polluting our fresh water. And do we really want to continue to send our children into coal mines?
All right, I decided it was time to set folks straight with some logic. So here we go:
First off, we don’t send children into coal mines. Adults make a conscious decision to work in the field, particularly when the average starting salary can be $60,000.
But to address the main point: it will be decades or centuries before we “run out” of fossil fuels – in truth, the definition of running out is the point where it’s not economically viable to extract them. (Case in point: there was a recent oil find in Texas of 2 billion barrels, but at this time the price of oil is too low to make it economically viable to extract it.)
And the usage of fossil fuels is what global climate change alarmists truly wish to go after. Anyone with any sense knows that our climate is mainly controlled by the sun: near the equator it’s mainly tropical because of the duration of sunshine over the year and close to the poles it’s extremely cold since days are short. And given that the world has endured ice ages and blossomed during warm periods over the last 2,000 years or more, to believe mankind can affect this with his SUVs and coal-fired plants is pure folly. Nor can we claim what we have is the optimum, normal climate: after all, with a degree of global warming it would open up thousands of acres to food production where the growing season is too short now.
Furthermore, trying to predict weather two weeks out is tricky enough, let alone forecasting the temperature trends a century hence. So I have figured out the game, and our economic progress is best advanced when energy sources are cheap and plentiful.
As I said before, few deny there is climate change – we have thousands of years of recorded history to suggest that it does and will continue to do so. What I “deny” is that our lifestyle has any major effect on it, because the “solution” to climate change always seems to be more government mandate, taxation, and control.
So am I wrong, or out of bounds here?
This is why I don’t object to drilling for oil, fracking, or any other attempt to use the resources our nation and world was blessed with. Over time we have found that fossil fuels are inexpensive and reliable sources of energy, unlike the “renewable” sources that either aren’t reliable (we don’t have constant wind or sunshine, and even a river’s flow can be diminished by drought) or not economically viable without government subsidy or artificial market carveout. This is why we have treaties and agreements that mandate carbon reduction because the market would never do this on its own, nor should it.
The best example of this that I can think of is the common farmer. A century ago he would build a windmill to provide power for his farm, but as soon as he could hook up to electricity as utility companies moved into rural areas, he generally did because it was much more reliable. (Much of this was done through a New Deal initiative which also electrified individual homes as a job-creation measure; that was later expanded for communications. Eighty years later, even though practically all the rural areas of the country have long since been connected to electricity and basic telephone service, the program was again modified for energy efficiency purposes. It’s additional proof that government is less about solving problems and more about self-preservation for bureaucrats.)
To me, logic dictates that global climate change is real but not influenced by man, and that distinction removes any excuse for government to be involved.
Commentary by Marita Noon
For the past decade, I have been dedicated to fighting bad energy policies. My efforts began in New Mexico, where the organizations I lead are based, and expanded to focus on national issues. When I accepted the executive director position on January 1, 2007, New Mexico had an anti-energy governor and America had a pro-energy president. Two years later that flipped. By then, I’d become deeply committed to what I began to call the “energy makes America great!” message and I’d realized the issues in which I was engaged didn’t stop at the state line.
While I do not come from a background in energy, and have no formal education in it, through my work, I quickly learned about the important role that energy plays in America’s economic prosperity and growth. Because I didn’t know a lot about energy before taking the position, I understood how little the average person thinks about energy – until their power goes out or gasoline prices spike. I believe that if people better understand the role of energy in their lives, they’d make wiser choices when they vote. I have been passionate about the cause.
The election of Donald Trump as our 45th president is a vindication of my work as one of his big campaign messages was about America’s abundant resources and his promise to manage and maximize them – rather than to lock them up.
While I have worked these past ten years to educate people and keep a positive energy message in the public dialog, during the past several months I have specifically engaged in doing everything I could to be sure our next president was pro-energy. I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if Hillary Clinton won, and I hadn’t done everything I could to prevent that from happening. I don’t have the reach of a Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, or Sean Hannity – or even Ann Coulter, Laura Ingram, or Michelle Malkin. But I do have a platform. My weekly column is widely distributed. I typically do dozens of radio interviews each month. And I’ve frequently spoken for many industry, political, and civic organizations.
Because most of my time as executive director was during the Obama years, I’ve fought for the Keystone pipeline and against the many punitive regulations that stem from the green agenda – most specifically the Clean Power Plan that is the cornerstone of Obama’s climate change agenda.
The recent news cycle has been so myopically focused on the presidential election, I suspect few people are even aware of the U.N. climate change meeting going on right now, November 7-18, in Morocco. There green campaigners and policymakers are meeting for talks on implementing the Paris climate agreement. Imagine their shock when they realized that Trump would be our next president. He’s made canceling Obama’s commitment and ending the billions of climate change payments to the U.N. a key part of his stump speech. On November 9, Bloomberg wrote: “Doubts about U.S. support for the accord could stall progress in talks in Morocco this week and next, since other nations wouldn’t trust that any commitments the U.S. made will stick after Trump takes office.”
Truly, getting the entire globe onboard for the plan that would raise energy costs, hurt the poor, and lower living standards was always doubtful. Just last week, China, which gave lip-service to the agreement, announced that it will raise coal power capacity by as much as 20 percent by 2020 – this, despite its climate pledge. Last month news came out of France that it would drop plans for a carbon tax – which was expected to kick start broader European action to cut emissions and drive forward the international climate accord. But now, under a Trump presidency, the Paris climate agreement’s entire future is “doubtful.”
Trump will kill the Clean Power Plan and other key climate policies. He’ll end the war on coal. Coal-fueled power plants that were slated for closure can now achieve their full life expectancy and continue to provide communities with cost-effective electricity. He’ll approve the Keystone pipeline and improve drilling access on federal lands. He’ll roll back regulations and diminish the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority. Wind and solar companies already realize their days of feeding at the government trough are over: immediately following Trump’s victory announcement, stock in the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer “plunged” and solar stocks have been “hammered.”
Trump’s energy policies are my energy policies. Mission accomplished.
Thank you to the thousands of individuals and companies, from coast-to-coast, who have supported this work through notes of encouragement, membership in the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy, and financial contributions. Contrary to what those who send me nasty notes might believe, I do not think the Koch brothers or ExxonMobil even know I exist.
I have used what I call a Field-of-Dreams fundraising model: “If you build it, they will come.” This has mostly worked throughout my ten years at the helm. I’d send out fundraising letters and those who believed in my work sent checks – with an annual average of about $500 each. But then came the downturn in oil prices and coal company bankruptcies – and the accompanying job losses. Suddenly, the pool of people who’d written checks, and could continue to do so, got smaller. Likewise, the types of events where I’ve been a popular presenter no longer have a budget for speakers.
Nearly a year ago, I had to discontinue the services of the DC-based PR firm I’d used to successfully schedule all those interviews. During 2016, there’s only sporadically been enough in the checking account to cover my salary. Because I believed so strongly in the “energy makes America great!” message, I’ve continued without pay – hoping my efforts would impact the election.
It has been a good decade. I’ve gone to some great places and met amazing people – many of whom I will always consider friends. Some of my favorite achievements include: the publication of my book Energy Freedom; being part of the successful effort to keep the sand dune lizard from being listed as an endangered species; meeting with legislators in the Southeast to give them my booklet Solar Power in the US – lessons learned and guidance for policymakers; going to Washington, DC, and working on the effort to lift the oil export ban; and the massive “green-energy crony-corruption scandal” collaboration with Christine Lakatos (and the huge body of work we created including her blog the Green Corruption Files). In fact, the final piece Lakatos and I did together: “Haiti needs electricity, Hillary gives them a sweatshop,” received nearly 15,000 Facebook “shares” from its publication on Breitbart (for comparison, one of my columns a couple of weeks earlier, received 8). Out with a bang!
The original organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy and the companion advocacy arm Energy Makes America Great (founded in 2010) will reemerge in some form – which is still being discussed. But I will no longer be involved (with the possible exception of occasional writing.)
Most of my readers and supporters don’t know that during my executive director tenure, my marriage of 29 years ended. I was single for several years and then married one of those “amazing people” I met in this work. I moved from Albuquerque to Lubbock – where my husband’s work is based. Throughout it all, I never missed writing and distributing my weekly column – even during my honeymoon (my first weekly column was published by Townhall.com in 2011). I’ve done radio interviews from my bed, office, and car; hotel rooms; and airports – and have been honored to be a regular guest on many, many shows.
Will I miss this? Yes. But I am excited about my future. For the first time in my 58 years, I’ve had the opportunity to ask myself: “what do I really want to do?”
In my youth, I majored in interior design because I loved fixing up houses. Over the years, I’ve claimed that I was codependent with houses – not people. People can fix themselves, but when I see a house in need, I feel compelled to fix it – though, until now, that was never an option for me.
When I purchased my home in New Mexico at an auction on the courthouse steps, it was incomplete. Serving as the “general contractor,” I lined up the team to finish the house and did much of the work myself. When I moved to Lubbock in December 2014, my husband and I bought a house that needed TLC. Along with him, I’ve personally planned, painted, and planted. While I’ve always enjoyed my professional endeavors, these hands-on rehab projects have been some of my most rewarding.
In August, I was at my mother’s in Palm Springs. There, I got some work done on her vacation rental - which I manage. It was a bit of an epiphany: this is what I love doing. I came home and had a long conversation with my husband. Together, we’ve now started a real estate rehab business – though he will continue to spend most of his time in his work as a CPA.
I am looking forward to embarking on a new chapter in my life: Triumph Properties Lubbock Inc. This opportunity brings me full circle. I’ve made an offer on my first flip house and, because it is a short sale, I am waiting for the bank’s response. I invite you to keep in touch through Facebook.
I am honored and humbled by your encouragement and support. My work here is finished.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
Editor’s note: While I’ve only had Marita on board a fairly short time (I picked up her column starting this past March) I have had the pleasure of reading it before anyone else does to get it ready for publication – I do so as I tweak it slightly to make it look better on WordPress and my website. She is definitely a voice on energy that we need and her departure from full-time writing means I’ll have to begin addressing that topic more as part of my usual commentary on the political scene. But if she passes anything else along I will be certain to make room – after all, now she will become an expert in another vital industry, that of construction.
But her usual Tuesday morning columns will be missed by this writer, and it brings up a different topic I’ll likely discuss at length later this week.
Commentary by Marita Noon
During the 2016 election, both candidates promised to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. Donald Trump made the recovery of jobs lost to China and Mexico a cornerstone of his campaign. Hillary Clinton’s website states: “While too many politicians and experts in Washington gave up on American manufacturing, Hillary never did.”
“The rhetoric,” reports US News, “has struck home with Americans across the country – particularly those currently or formerly employed in the embattled U.S. goods-producing and manufacturing sectors, who have repeatedly borne the brunt of corporate efforts to move work overseas.”
Because many of the lost jobs are due to automation and technological improvements – which have enabled more production from fewer workers – there is skepticism on both sides of the aisle as to whether these lost jobs can actually come back. However, I believe, most Americans don’t want to see more of our jobs disappear. Harry Moser, founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative, which aims to bring manufacturing back home, is optimistic. He told me that we are now losing about as many jobs to offshoring, as we are recovering: “We’ve gone from losing somewhere around 200,000 manufacturing jobs a year in 2000 to 2003 to net breaking even. Balancing the trade deficit will increase U.S. manufacturing by about four million jobs at current levels of productivity.”
According to MarketWatch.com, the percentage of people who work in manufacturing is at a record low of 8.5% – which compares to “20% in 1980, 30% in 1960 and a record 39% during World War Two.”
While there are many factors driving offshoring, lower wages give countries like China and Mexico a competitive advantage. Energy costs, however, give the U.S. an advantage as “manufacturers need a lot of energy to make their processes work,” stated Gary Marmo, director of sales for New Jersey’s Elizabethtown Gas. He says: “A typical office building will use 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 therms a year. A good sized manufacturing plant will probably use that same amount in just a couple of days.” Electricity frequently represents one of the top operating costs for energy intensive industries such as plastics, metals, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals – and, according to a recent study comparing costs in the U.S. and China, electricity is about 50 percent higher in China.
Because manufacturing is energy intensive, bringing industry back to the U.S. and/or attracting businesses to relocate here, will increase our energy consumption. As my column last week on the Clinton Foundation and Haiti makes clear, industry needs energy.
President Obama has derided U.S, energy use: “The U.S. uses far more electricity than its North American neighbors combined,” but the U.S. also does more with our energy. Comparing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and energy consumption numbers for the U.S. and Canada, for example, both use a similar volume of energy but the U.S. has substantially higher GDP. A study of global energy consumption versus GDP found: “energy is so intrinsically linked to GDP that energy policy more or less dictates how our economy performs.”
Mike Haseler, the study’s author, explains: “rising GDP is an indication of a prosperous economy” – which is why economic commentators cite GDP numbers when they say: “President Barack Obama may become the first president since Herbert Hoover not to serve during a year in which the growth in real GDP was at least 3 percent.” Yet, in the name of climate change, through government policy, many countries are trying to discourage energy use by forcing costs up. Haseler states: “They are cutting energy use as the economy of Europe collapses because European industry can no longer compete with countries where energy prices are not artificially raised by senseless ‘green’ policies.”
The energy advantage is not just an issue between countries, it is a factor in where companies locate within the U.S. “High electricity bills are a strong disincentive to create new jobs associated with a new or expanded product line,” writes Don Welch, president of New Hampshire based Globe Manufacturing Co, LLC. New Hampshire’s electric prices are 55.6 percent higher than the national average. Welch’s company is the leading producer of firefighting turnout gear. He explains: “higher electricity costs not only add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of making our products – firefighting suits and equipment – but it’s money we could otherwise re-invest in the business, including creating new jobs here in New Hampshire. New Hampshire’s high electricity prices are a drag on our economy. It puts New Hampshire companies like mine at a competitive disadvantage compared to companies in other parts of the country.” Because Globe also has plants in three different states, he clearly sees the difference energy costs make in doing business. Welch says: “I already know that the electric bill I am paying at my facility in Oklahoma is half of what I pay in New Hampshire.” If he is going to add a product line, energy costs are a big factor in deciding where to expand.
John F. Olson, president and CEO of Whelen Engineering Company, of Charlestown, NH, and Chester, CT agrees. In a letter to the editor, Olson wrote: “Manufacturers are in competition with other U.S. manufacturers, or even worse, offshore competition in China. New Hampshire manufacturers have the most expensive electricity in the country.”
If we can bring back manufacturing jobs – or at least stem the flow of them from our country – we need to be encouraging low-cost energy and making more of it available. Moser believes: “balancing the trade deficit should be the number 1 national priority.” He told me that would take a 25 percent increase in manufacturing – which would require about a 10 percent increase in energy usage. Yet, climate change policies demand that we take greater cuts than the developing countries like China and India. If our energy costs continue to go up, as they have in New Hampshire, we’ll lose the best competitive advantage we have.
Moser explains: “Manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect among the major sectors. Every job created in manufacturing creates additional jobs in other sectors that supply, support and service manufacturers.”
To bring manufacturing back to the U.S., or encourage expansion, we need energy that is abundant, available and affordable – and we’ll need to use more, not less. If we want to balance our trade deficit, boost GDP, and have a prosperous economy, energy is the key. As I am known for saying: “energy makes America great!”
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
Commentary by Marita Noon
If Hillary Clinton becomes our next president, one of the changes you can expect is an invasion of industrial wind development in your community that has the potential to severely damage your property values, ruin the viewshed, impact your sleep patterns, and cause your electricity rates to “necessarily skyrocket” – all thanks to your tax dollars.
The Democratic presidential candidate frequently references her pledge to install 500 million solar panels. Her website promises: “The United States will have more than half a billion solar panels installed across the country by the end of Hillary Clinton’s first term.” And, while we know she wants to make America “the clean energy super power of the 21st century,” finding her position on wind energy is not so obvious. Perhaps that is because, as more and more people learn more about its impacts on their lives, its support continues to wane.
More and more communities are saying: “We don’t want wind turbines here.” For example, in Ohio, a wind project was “downed” when the Logan County Commissioners voted unanimously to reject EverPower’s request for a payment in lieu of taxes to build 18 wind turbines – though since then, the developer is taking another bite at the project, and the locals are furious. In Michigan, the entire Lincoln Township Board opposes a plan from DTE Energy to bring 50 to 70 more wind turbines to the community – despite the fact that four of the five members would profit from easement agreements they’d previously signed.
While not one of her top talking points, a President Hillary will increase the amount of taxpayer dollars available to industrial wind developers. At a July 2015 campaign stop in Iowa, she supported tax incentives and said: “We need to continue the production tax credits.” Previously, she claimed that she wants to make the production tax credits (PTC) for wind and solar permanent. (Note: without the PTC, even the wind industry acknowledges it won’t “be able to continue.”) She frequently says: “I want more wind, more solar, more advanced biofuels, more energy efficiency.” Remember, her party platform includes: “We are committed to getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade.” And: “We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century.”
So, if your area hasn’t been faced with the construction of the detrimental and dangerous turbines, you can expect that it will be – even if you live in an area not known to be windy. That’s the bad news. The good news is the more wind turbines spring up, the more opposition they receive – and, therefore, the more tools there are available to help break the next wind project.
Rather than trying to figure out what to do on your own, John Droz, Jr., a North Carolina-based physicist and citizen advocate, who has worked with about 100 communities, encourages citizens who want to protect their community from the threat of a proposed wind project to maximize the resources that are available to them.
Kevon Martis, who, as the volunteer director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, has helped protect citizens in 7 states, told me: “Nothing makes it harder for a wind developer in one community than if the neighboring community already has an operating wind plant. Once they can see the actual impacts of turning entire townships into 50 story tall power plants, they can no longer be led down the primrose path by wind companies and their agents.” Martis’ equitable wind zoning advocacy has been extremely effective. In his home state of Michigan, wind has been on the ballot at the Township level 11 times since 2009 and has never won. In Argyle Township, in Sanilac County, Invenergy spent $164,000 in campaign funds in the 36-square-mile township, yet the people prevailed at the ballot box.
Two communities in Vermont have industrial wind on the ballot on November 8 and it is playing a big role in the state’s gubernatorial race where many Democrats are pledging to vote for the Republican candidate, who opposes more wind energy development. There, the foreign developer is essentially offering a bribe to the voters to approve the project.
Martis uses a concept he calls “trespass zoning” – which he says is a “de facto subsidy extracted from neighbors without any compensation.” Because the definition of trespassing is: “to enter the owner’s land or property without permission,” Martis argues that wind turbine setbacks, that cross the property line and go to the dwelling, allows the externalities of wind development – noise pollution, turbine rotor failure and its attendant debris field, property value loss, and visual blight – to trespass. He explains: “Where the wind developer can use these unleased properties for nuisance noise and safety easements free of charge, they have no reason to approach the neighboring residents to negotiate a fair price for their loss of amenity. Trespass zoning has deprived wind plant neighbors of all economic bargaining power. It has donated their private property to the neighboring landowner’s wind developer tenant.”
Droz agrees that zoning is important – as are regulations. He believes that since an industrial wind project is something you may have to live with for more than 20 years, it seems wise to carefully, objectively, and thoughtfully investigate the matter ahead of time. Droz says: “In most circumstances, your first line of defense is a well-written, protective set of wind-energy regulations that focus on protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the community. They can be a stand-alone law, or part of a more comprehensive zoning document.”
Mary Kay Barton, a citizen activist from New York State, began writing about the industrial wind issue more than a dozen years ago when her home area in Western New York State was targeted by industrial wind developers. Wyoming County was slated to have more than 2,000 industrial wind turbines strewn throughout its 16 Townships. So far, the massive projects have been limited by the outrage of residents to the current 308 turbines in 5 rural districts. Barton told me: “We wouldn’t even be talking about industrial wind if cronyism at the top wasn’t enabling the consumer fraud of industrial wind to exist with countless subsidies, incentives and renewable mandates.”
Minnesota citizen energy activist, Kristi Rosenquist, points out: “Wind is promoted as mitigating climate change and benefiting local rural economies – it does neither.”
Through his free citizen advocacy service, Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, Droz tries to make it easier for communities to succeed when dealing with industrial wind energy by learning lessons from some of the other 250 communities – including those near Martis, Barton, and Rosenquist – that have had to deal with it.
At WiseEnergy.org, Droz has a wealth of information available including a model wind energy law that is derived from existing effective ordinances plus inputs from numerous independent experts. He advocates a wind energy law that contains carefully crafted conditions about these five elements:
- Property value guarantees;
- Turbine setbacks;
- Noise standards;
- Environmental assessment and protections; and
Droz, Martis, Barton, and Rosenquist are just four of the many citizen advocates that have had to become experts on the adverse impacts of wind energy – which provides negligible benefits while raising taxes and electricity rates. Because of their experiences, many are willing to help those who are just now being faced with the threat.
Because I’ve frequently written on wind energy and the favorable tax and regulatory treatment it receives, I often have people reaching out to me for help – but I am not the expert, just the messenger. These folks are dealing with it day in and day out.
Here are some additional resources they suggest:
If the threat of industrial wind energy development isn’t a problem for you now, save this information, as it likely would be under a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Barton explains: “My town was able to stop the ludicrous siting of these environmentally-destructive facilities by enacting a citizen-protective law back in 2007. Since then, however, Governor Cuomo enacted what I refer to as his ‘Power-Grab NY Act,’ which stripped ‘Home Rule’ from New York State communities and placed the decision-making process regarding energy-generation facilities above 25 MW (that translates: industrial wind factories) in the hands of five unelected Albany bureaucrats. Other states are sure to follow Cuomo’s authoritarian lead. I urge people to be pro-active! Get protective laws on the books now – before corrupt officials steal your Constitutional rights to decide for yourselves.”
Think about your community 20, 40, 60+ years from now.
“There was a time when the environmental movement opposed noise pollution, fought industrial blight, and supported ‘little guys’ whose quality of life was threatened by ‘corporate greed,’” writes Martis. “But that was a long time ago, before wind energy.”
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.
The author really didn’t plan it out that way, but I think it worked out well that my usual Tuesday morning column from Marita Noon preceded this particular post, since we share a very similar philosophy insofar as energy issues are concerned. In five bullet points or less, the next President should:
- Dismantle to the fullest extent possible the Environmental Protection Agency, which was created in 1970. Governmental functions that predated the EPA can be reverted to their original department after a review of their current usefulness.
- The same goes for the Department of Energy, which was a waste of same since President Carter created it.
- Eliminate the federal subsidies and carveouts for so-called “green” energy. If wind, solar, and so forth are viable they should be able to stand in the market.
- On a related note, dispatch with the Renewable Fuel Standard (ethanol mandate), CAFE standards (anti-market regulation), and (coal-industry killing) Clean Power Plan.
- Finally, walk away from the Paris Climate Agreement. Make the (correct) statement that mankind has little impact on the climate.
This was one for which I could have made about fifteen bullet points. But let’s see what candidates have to say, bearing in mind this category is worth seven valuable points. If you want to see the first parts of this overall exercise before continuing on, feel free to begin here.
Castle: Does not believe in man-made climate change, believes it is a “hoax.”
“I’m for the United States becoming energy independent as quickly as possible, using all of the resources that we have. Coal miners would be very happy with me, I think.” We seem to worry more about our environment than that of the places we get energy from. (Facebook)
Hedges: “We advocate increased research on and development of non-fossil fuel resources, tax breaks for companies engaging in such, and subsidies for consumers wishing to change from fossil fuels to renewable domestic sources of energy.” (party platform)
“(P)ollution abatement projects must balance costs with benefits. We believe that climatic change is an existential threat to civilization, and we will co-operate with other nations in mitigating its effects.” (party platform)
Hoefling: Energy independence is a given if we will simply get government out of the way. We have vast resources, just waiting for us to rein in the radical environmentalists and the out-of-control judges who have empowered them. (Facebook conversation)
Johnson: Protect the Environment. Promote Competition. Incentivize Innovation.
We need to stand firm to protect our environment for our future generations, especially those designated areas of protection like our National Parks. Consistent with that responsibility, the proper role of government is to enforce reasonable environmental protections. Governor Johnson did that as Governor, and would do so as President.
Governor Johnson believes the Environmental Protection Agency, when focused on its true mission, plays an important role in keeping the environment and citizens safe.
Johnson does not, however, believe the government should be engaging in social and economic engineering for the purpose of creating winners and losers in what should be a robust free market. Preventing a polluter from harming our water or air is one thing. Having politicians in Washington, D.C., acting on behalf of high powered lobbyists, determine the future of clean energy innovation is another.
In a healthy economy that allows the market to function unimpeded, consumers, innovators, and personal choices will do more to bring about environmental protection and restoration than will government regulations driven by special interests. Too often, when Washington, D.C. gets involved, the winners are those with the political clout to write the rules of the game, and the losers are the people and businesses actually trying to innovate.
When it comes to global climate change, Johnson and Weld believe that the politicians in Washington, D.C. are having the wrong debate.
Is the climate changing? Probably so.
Is man contributing to that change? Probably so.
But the critical question is whether the politicians’ efforts to regulate, tax and manipulate the private sector are cost-effective – or effective at all. The debate should be about how we can protect our resources and environment for future generations. Governors Johnson and Weld strongly believe that the federal government should prevent future harm by focusing on regulations that protect us from real harm, rather than needlessly costing American jobs and freedom in order to pursue a political agenda. (campaign website)
McMullin: Affordable gas and electricity are important for every American family. From the cost of commuting to the price of groceries, energy expenses are built into every part of our economy. Energy companies have made remarkable advances that create jobs and benefit consumers, yet interference from Washington has prevented American families from reaping the benefits they should. Evan McMullin will roll back the heavy-handed regulations that are hurting consumers while ensuring that we protect the natural environment.
Over the past ten years, there has been a revolution in American energy production; transforming the U.S. into an energy superpower. We are now the world’s leading producer of oil, even ahead of Saudi Arabia. With more oil being produced, prices have come down at the pump. Natural gas prices have also fallen dramatically because of booming American production. Meanwhile, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have fallen because natural gas burns more cleanly than other fuels.
Evan McMullin will make sure that there is a level playing field for all types of energy producers, so American families have lower electricity bills and pay less at the pump. Right now, renewable energy producers receive more than $13 billion per year in subsidies, while fossil fuel producers receive $3.5 billion. Evan would put an end to all of these subsidies, which benefit politically connected corporations rather than American consumers. Evan also opposes state-level renewable energy mandates, which force consumers to purchase expensive electricity from renewable sources, adding to the burden of families who are already dealing with a long-term increase in electricity prices.
Our natural environment is a divine gift and each of us has the responsibility to serve as its steward. There is an important role for the government to play in ensuring that our children and our children’s children have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean parks and forests to play in.
We should also be concerned about the direction of global temperatures, which have risen about 1 degree Celsius over the past 50 years. President Obama’s response to climate change has been to rely on expensive, heavy-handed regulations that put Americans out of work.
Evan McMullin believes that promoting innovation is the most promising way to deal with climate change without placing a heavy burden on the backs of American taxpayers and workers. The right way to promote innovation is to invest in basic research, not to provide loans and grants to politically connected corporations. Our environment will be best preserved when America’s leading minds are focused on the problem, not when government is dictating the answers.
The centerpiece of the Obama administration’s climate change policy is the Clean Power Plan, whose implementation has been blocked by the Supreme Court. The plan will force dozens of power plants to close and destroy tens of thousands of jobs. The annual cost of implementation will be more than $8 billion. The administration also signed the Paris Climate Agreement, whose implementation would lead to annual economic losses of $40 billion per year if its goals were accomplished via regulation.
Evan opposes the Clean Power Plan because he believes we can protect the environment without causing so much economic devastation. He would reject a regulatory approach to pursuing the goals of the Paris accord, focusing instead on innovation.
The natural gas boom in the United States has already shown how innovation can benefit both the environment and the economy. Since the beginning of the gas boom, carbon dioxide emissions in the United States have fallen back to the levels they were at in the mid-1990s. This happened not because of government planning or regulation, but because the private sector made technological breakthroughs that increased our access to cleaner natural gas.
Together, we have an opportunity to create jobs, save money for hard working families, and protect the environment. (campaign website)
I’m relatively disappointed that Darrell Castle hasn’t seemed to pay a lot of attention to this issue, as it certainly is influenced with a proper reading of the Constitution. On the surface he does well, but not to the extent where he would get a high score. 3 points.
In listening to and reading about Jim Hedges, he noted there were places where the Prohibition Party was far more “progressive” in an attempt (misguided, in my opinion) to draw younger voters. This is one area where that philosophy certainly applies, and “more of the same” is not good for our nation when it comes to energy policy. No points.
I feel the same way about Tom Hoefling as I do Castle: a nice approach on a broad scale, but more specifics would be nice. 3 points.
Gary Johnson gets it, sort of. But the problem is that he is conceding key points of the argument to the other side by leaving open-ended the contention that government is essential to provide “reasonable” environmental protection. Given that, one could make the case that everything we have adopted over the 46 years since the EPA came into being is “reasonable” because some bureaucrat thought it so. I think the government should get out of the free market, too – but I have outlined a number of concrete steps on my bullet point list above. Where are his? 2.5 points.
Despite his misplaced “concern” about global temperatures, I actually believe Evan McMullin has the best overall approach and philosophy. No, it’s not perfect, but on balance I think he would certainly consider addressing much of what I would like to see done. In this category he shines compared to the competition. 5.5 points.
We will see if the candidates recover when it comes to the next category, social issues.
Commentary by Marita Noon
One of the recent WikiLeaks email dumps revealed some interesting things about hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. (This enhanced drilling technology is a big part of America’s new era of energy abundance.)
First, they add to the growing question about what Hillary Clinton really believes: her public comments, or her private positions?
Regarding fracking, the leaked emails offer a glimpse into speeches she made to closed groups that we’ve previously been unable to access. One such speech was given to the troubled Deutsche Bank on April 24, 2013. There, she praised fracking as a tool to “make even more countries more energy self-sufficient.” She told the audience: “I’ve promoted fracking in other places around the world.” She bragged about “the advantages that are going to come to us, especially in manufacturing, because we’re now going to produce more oil and gas.”
Yet everything she’s said in the campaign paints a different picture.
Her stated energy policies are decidedly anti-fossil fuel. The Democratic Party platform calls for “a goal of producing 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2050.” In addition to promoting “enough clean renewable energy to power every home in America within ten years,” Hillary’s website outlines her desire to “reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States and around the world.” She’s declared that banning fossil fuel extraction on public lands is: “a done deal.” While she won’t come out and clearly state that she’d ban fracking, at a March 6 CNN debate with Bernie Sanders in Flint, Michigan, she proudly stated: “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” And, she has pledged to “stop fossil fuels.”
Then there’s her comment about green-group funding, as coming from Russia. It’s long been suspected that Russia is protecting its national oil-and-gas interests by funding anti-fracking activism – while not a new idea, the current attention makes it worth revisiting.
To the best of my knowledge, Russia’s reported involvement in shaping public opinion came to light in 2010, when different WikiLeaks revelations made public private intelligence from Stratfor – which had previously published a background brief on Shale Gas Activism – that speculated on Russian funding for the anti-fracking movie Gasland.
In 2013, filmmaker Phelim McAleer, in his film FrackNation, pointed out Russia’s “disingenuous objections” to fracking. In it, British journalist James Delingpole said: “Russia is screwed if it can’t export its gas, so it is really important for Russia that the shale gas revolution does not happen. It is also in Russia’s best interest to fund those environmental groups which are committed to campaigning against fracking.”
Then in June 2014, while serving as NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Prime Minister of Denmark, stated that he’d “met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.” According to The Guardian, “He declined to give details of those operations, saying: ‘that is my interpretation.’”
A few months later, the New York Times (NYT) featured a story titled: “Russian money suspected behind fracking protests.” It recounts several cases in different Eastern European countries that are most dependent on Russian energy, where Chevron planned exploratory gas drilling that then “faced a sudden surge of street protests by activists, many of whom had previously shown little interest in environmental issues.” NYT quotes the Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta: “Energy is the most effective weapon today of the Russian Federation – much more effective than aircraft and tanks.”
“Russia,” the NYT adds, “has generally shown scant concern for environmental protection and has a long record of harassing and even jailing environmentalists who stage protests. On fracking, however, Russian authorities have turned enthusiastically green, with Mr. Putin declaring last year that fracking ‘poses a huge environmental problem.’ Places that have allowed it, he said, ‘no longer have water coming out of their taps but a blackish slime.’” Russian television, aimed at foreign audiences, carried warnings about poisoned water. Yet, exploration in western Romania by Gazprom, Russia’s biggest oil firm, has not stirred similar mass protests. Additionally, “Pro-Russian separatists in the east, who have otherwise shown no interest in green issues, have denounced fracking as a mortal danger.”
In January 2015, The Washington Free Beacon reported on a Bermudian firm that had connections to Russian oil interests and was funneling money to anti-fracking groups in the U.S. It outlines how the money-laundering scheme works and concludes: “The overlap between executives at firms with ties to Russian oil interests and a multi-million-dollar donor to U.S. environmentalist groups has some experts worried that Russians may be replicating anti-fracking tactics used in Europe to attack the practice in the United States.” I addressed it in February in my column titled: “Naming enemies of U.S. fossil fuel development” – where I also brought up reports of OPEC reported involvement in funding anti-fracking activities.
In March 2015, at the Forbes Reinventing America Summit in Chicago, Harold Hamm, Chairman and CEO at Continental Resources – also known as the “fracking king” – said: “Russia’s spent a great deal of money over here to cause a panic in the United States over fracking to stop it, because suddenly their market share is going away.”
Anti-fracking groups such as Greenpeace, dismiss such accusations as “silly.”
Despite all the multiple claims linking Russia to anti-fracking activity, there’s been scant hard evidence.
But, now, thanks to WikiLeaks, Russia’s reported anti-fracking funding is back in the headlines: “Leaked emails show Hillary Clinton blaming Russians for funding ‘phony’ anti-fracking groups,” wrote the Washington Times.
With knowledge only someone with a high-level security clearance and an understanding of foreign relations, like the Secretary of State, would have, Hillary, in a June 2014 speech in Edmonton, Canada, reportedly said the following to an audience:
“We were up against Russia pushing oligarchs and others to buy media. We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort, oh that pipeline, that fracking, whatever will be a problem for you, and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.”
Now, thanks to WikiLeaks, we have the first “semi-official confirmation,” as Delingpole called it, “of Russia’s sponsorship of the vast, influential and obscenely well-funded anti-fracking industry.”
McAleer, in a press release, accuses these groups of “acting as paid agents for a hostile foreign power.”
Remember, these groups are big supporters of Hillary and - based on her stated public policies – she’s a big supporter of their anti-fracking agenda. As I’ve said before, we are in an economic war and there are many who don’t want America to win. The cheap energy prices fracking has provided give the U.S. an economic advantage – hence the hostility toward it.
Commentary by Marita Noon
President Obama’s flagship policy on climate change had its day in court on Tuesday, September 27. The international community is closely watching; most Americans, however, are unaware of the historic case known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) – which according to David Rivkin, one of the attorneys arguing against the plan: “is not just to reduce emissions, but to create a new electrical system.”
For those who haven’t followed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule, here’s a brief history that brings us to up to date:
- EPA published the final CPP rule in the Federal Register on October 2015.
- More than two dozen states and a variety of industry groups and businesses immediately filed challenges against it – with a final bipartisan coalition of more than 150 entities including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 electric co-ops, 3 labor unions, and about a half dozen nonprofits.
- On January 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a request for a stay that would have prevented implementation of the rule until the court challenges were resolved.
- On February 9, the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS), in an unprecedented action, before the case was heard by the lower court, overruled, and issued a stay that delays enforcement of CPP.
- The Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear oral arguments before a three-judge panel on June 2, but pushed them to September 27 to be heard by the full court – something the court almost never does (though for issues involving “a question of exceptional importance” procedural rules allow for the case to proceed directly to a hearing before the full appeals court).
The court, which is already fully briefed on a case before hearing the oral arguments, typically allows a maximum 60-90 minutes to hear both sides and occasionally, with an extremely complex case, will allow two hours. The oral argument phase allows the judges to interact with lawyers from both sides and with each other. However, for the CPP, the court scheduled a morning session focusing on the EPA’s authority to promulgate the rule and an afternoon session on the constitutional claims against the rule – which ended up totaling nearly 7 hours. Jeff Holmstead, a partner with Bracewell Law, representing one of the lead challengers, told me this was the only time the full court has sat all day to hear a case.
One of the issues addressed was whether or not the EPA could “exercise major transformative power without a clear statement from Congress on the issue” – with the 2014 Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) v. EPA determining it could not. Republican appointee Judge Brett Kavanaugh noted that the UARG scenario “sounds exactly like this one.”
Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush appointee, questioned: “Why isn’t this debate going on in the floor of the Senate?” In a post-oral argument press conference, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) pointed out that the debate has been held on the Senate floor in the form of cap-and-trade legislation – which has failed repeatedly over a 15-year period. Therefore, he said, the Obama administration has tried to do through regulation what the Senate wouldn’t do through legislation.
“Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, one of Obama’s mentors,” writes the Dallas Morning News: “made a star appearance to argue that the Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional.”
Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, a Bush appointee, concluded: “You have given us all we need and more, perhaps, to work on it.”
The day in court featured many of the nation’s best oral advocates and both sides feel good about how the case was presented.
For the challengers (who call CPP “an unlawful power grab”), West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who along with Texas AG Ken Paxton, co-lead the case, reported: “We said (then) that we were looking forward to having our day in court on the merits. Today was that day. I think that the collective coalition was able to put very strong legal arguments forward, as to why this regulation is unlawful, and why it should be set aside.”
But the case has its proponents, too, and they, also, left feeling optimistic. In a blog post for the Environmental Defense Fund, Martha Roberts wrote about what she observed in the courtroom: “The judges today were prepared and engaged. They asked sharply probing questions of all sides. But the big news is that a majority of judges appeared receptive to arguments in support of the Clean Power Plan.” She concluded that she’s confident “that climate protection can win the day.”
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) summarized the session saying that stakeholders on all sides were left “parsing questions and reactions, and searching for signs of which way the judges are leaning.” U.S. News reported: “The judges repeatedly interrupted the lawyers for both sides to ask pointed questions about the legal underpinnings of their positions.”
The decision, which is not expected for several months, may come down to the ideological make-up of the court: 6 of the judges were appointed by Democrat presidents and 4 by Republicans. Though, according to WSJ, Obama appointee Judge Patricia Millet “expressed concern that the administration was in effect requiring power plants to subsidize companies competing with them for electricity demand.” She offered hope to the challengers when she said: “That seems to be quite different from traditional regulation.” Additionally, in his opinion published in the Washington Post, Constitutional law professor Jonathan Adler, stated: “Some of the early reports indicate that several Democratic nominees posed tough questions to the attorney defending the EPA.”
Now, the judges will deliberate and discuss. Whatever decision they come to, experts agree that the losing side will appeal and that the case will end up in front of the Supreme Court – most likely in the 2017/2018 session with a decision possible as late as June 2018. There, the ultimate result really rests in the presidential election, as the current SCOTUS make up will be changed with the addition of the ninth Justice, who will be appointed by the November 8 winner – and that Justice will reflect the new president’s ideology.
Hillary Clinton has promised to continue Obama’s climate change policies while Donald Trump has announced he’ll rescind the CPP and cancel the Paris Climate Agreement.
The CPP is about more than the higher electricity costs and decreased grid reliability, which results from heavy reliance on wind and solar energy as CPP requires, and, as the South Australian experiment proves, doesn’t work. It has far-reaching impacts. WSJ states: “Even a partial rebuke of the Clean Power Plan could make it impossible for the U.S. to hit the goals Mr. Obama pledged in the Paris climate deal.” With Obama’s climate legacy at stake, the international community is paying close attention.
And Americans should be. Our energy stability hangs in the balance.
The Buffalo Billion fraud and bribery scheme: corruption and pay-to-play, a symbol of everything they’re doing
Commentary by Marita Noon
When New York’s Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo gushed over SolarCity’s new solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, the audience likely didn’t grasp the recently-revealed meaning of his words: “It is such a metaphor – a symbol of everything we’re doing.”
The 1.2 million square foot building, being built by the state of New York on the site of a former steel plant, is looking more and more like another political promise of help for one of the poorest cities in the state that ends up enriching cronies without ever achieving any potential for the people.
Yes, it is a symbol of everything they’re doing.
Previously, during her first senatorial bid, Hillary Clinton also promised jobs to the economically depressed region of the state of New York – 200,000 to be exact. Citing a report from the Washington Post, CBSNews states: “Jobs data show that job growth stagnated in Upstate New York during her eight years in office, the report said, and manufacturing jobs dropped by nearly a quarter.” The Post’s extensive story reveals that jobs never materialized – despite “initial glowing headlines.” It claims: “Clinton’s self-styled role as economic promoter” actually “involved loyal campaign contributors who also supported the Clinton Foundation.” Through federal grants and legislation, she helped steer money to programs, companies, and initiatives that benefitted the donors but failed to reverse the economic decline of the region.
Now, new corruption charges reveal the same pay-to-play model linked to Cuomo’s upstate “Buffalo Billion” economic revitalization plan – and the promised jobs also look they will never materialize.
Back on January 5, 2012, Cuomo announced a $1 billion five-year economic development pledge for Buffalo. It was to be the governor’s banner economic initiative with the SolarCity factory as the cornerstone and a pledge of 1,460 direct factory jobs. Other companies, including IBM and a Japanese clean-energy company were also lined up.
With the state-of-the-art solar panel factory ready for equipment to be installed, the wisdom of the entire program is being scrutinized – and is coming up short.
First, on September 22, two of Cuomo’s closest aides – along with several others – were charged in corruption and fraud cases involving state contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Addressing the press at his Manhattan office, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara asserted: “that ‘pervasive corruption and fraud’ infested one of the governor’s signature economic development programs. Companies got rich, and the public got bamboozled,” reports The Observer. Bharara described the bid-rigging and bribery arrangement: “Behind the scenes they were cynically rigging the whole process so that the contracts would go to handpicked ‘friends of the administration’ – ‘friends’ being a euphemism for large donors. Through rigged bids, state contracts worth billions of dollars in public development monies, meant to revitalize and renew upstate New York, were instead just another way to corruptly award cronies who were willing to pay to play.”
The 79-page criminal complaint notes that campaign contributions to Cuomo poured in from people connected to the bribe-paying companies as soon as those businesses began pursuing state projects.
One of the companies that received the lucrative contracts was LPCiminelli – run by “Cuomo mega-donor” Louis Ciminelli. He allegedly offered bribes to Cuomo confidante Todd Howe – who has admitted to pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers to rig bids on multimillion-dollar state contracts linked to Buffalo Billion projects.
Ciminelli received the $750 million contract to build the SolarCity plant. The Buffalo News cites Bharara as saying: “the state’s bidding process for the factory being built for SolarCity at RiverBend in South Buffalo turned into a ‘criminal’ enterprise that favored LPCiminelli, where company executives were given inside information about how the deal was to be awarded.”
Part of Cuomo’s deal with SolarCity – in which the state owns the building and equipment with SolarCity leasing it under a 10-year deal – requires the company to meet a timetable of job-creation quotas or pay hefty penalties. Even before the building was complete, however, the company slashed its job commitment from 1460 to 500. According to the Investigative Post, SolarCity claims it will still employ the original number, but due to automation, the majority of them will not be at the Buffalo plant. With the state’s $750 million investment, that works out to $1.5 million per manufacturing job. In a press release, Cuomo promised 1460 “direct manufacturing jobs at the new facility.”
Even the 500 jobs will only materialize if the plant actually starts production – currently slated for June 2017. SolarCity’s future is, as Crain’s New York Business puts it: “uncertain.”
Amid the company’s myriad problems are the facts that it has never been profitable, nor does it have manufacturing experience.
In February 2014, SolarCity’s stock price peaked at about $85 a share. Today, a share is less than $20. Microaxis gives it a probability of bankruptcy score of 48 percent. Crains reports that it posted a $251 million loss in Q1 2016 and a loss of $230 million in Q2. To “stop the bleeding,” Elon Musk (a donor to both the Obama and Clinton campaigns and the Clinton Foundation), who owns more than 20 percent of the company, announced that Tesla (of which he also owns more than 20 percent) would purchase SolarCity – this after as many as 15 other potential buyers and investors looked at the company and decided to pass. SolarCity even considered selling the solar panel manufacturing business.
Both SolarCity and Tesla are, according to the Buffalo News, facing a “cash bind” – this despite receiving billions in federal and state grants and tax credits as I’ve previously addressed. Tesla is described as “cash-eating electric vehicle and battery making businesses.” For SolarCity, its model – which finances its solar panel installations in order to make a profit on a lease that can be as long as 30 years, while it collects the lucrative government incentives worth billions (a practice for which Solar City is currently under Congressional investigation) – requires constantly raising new money from investors. Once the Tesla deal was announced, SolarCity’s lenders started to pull back.
The Buffalo News reports: “Stock in SolarCity…now trades for $4 a share less, or 19 percent less, than what Tesla is offering – a gap indicating that investors are uncertain the deal will be completed.” Additionally, the deal is being challenged by four separate lawsuits – which could delay the deal. Addressing the merger, one analyst said: “We see a lot more that can go wrong than can go right.”
Then there is the manufacturing angle. Originally, the Buffalo plant was going to manufacture high-efficacy solar panel modules developed by Silevo – a company SolarCity bought in 2014. Crain’s reports that it will instead produce complete solar roofs: something it says “Dow Chemical recently abandoned after five years because it could not find a way to make a profit on the technology.” But then, the Buffalo News says: “The initial production in Buffalo is expected to include photovoltaic cells that SolarCity purchases from suppliers and are used in the products that will be assembled in the South Park Avenue factory.”
Whatever the plant builds or manufactures, getting it operating will be expensive – even with the New York taxpayers owning the building and equipment – and will drain scarce cash from SolarCity at a time when its financing costs have increased.
Buffalo residents wonder if they’ll be stuck with the world’s largest empty warehouse and without the promised jobs.
No wonder the entire project is in doubt. Because of the Cuomo administration corruption allegations, other proposed job-creators, including IBM, have pulled out until the probe is completed.
For now, Cuomo is not a part of the criminal complaint – though his name is mentioned many times – and he claims he knew nothing about it, nor does he think he’s a target of the ongoing federal probe. “It is almost inconceivable the governor didn’t know what was going on,” Doug Muzzio, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College, said. “And if he didn’t know what was going on, you can argue he should have known.”
Bharara has suggested that the better name for the program would be: “The Buffalo Billion Fraud and Bribery Scheme.”
Yep, the Buffalo Billion project is a “symbol” of the political promises and crony corruption – “everything we’re doing” – that takes taxpayers dollars to reward political donors and then walks away when the jobs don’t materialize.
Commentary by Marita Noon
Ford Motor Company made headlines on Wednesday, September 9, when, during an investor conference, CEO Mark Fields told attendees that it will invest $1.6 billion building a manufacturing plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and will move all of its small car production there during the next two to three years.
The announcement was hardly news as Ford has been talking about the shift for more than a year. But in the throes of an election that has both candidates decrying companies that send jobs to low-wage countries, the decision was an invitation for attention. The next day, during a speech in Flint, MI, Donald Trump declared that it was: “horrible.” He’s previously called the proposed move “an absolute disgrace” and promised to punish Ford with a 35 percent tariff on cars made in Mexico that are then sold in America – which he believes will prevent them from moving production out of the U.S.
No one wants American jobs to go away – and Ford plans to build more profitable vehicles in the plants that currently produce the Focus and C-Max small cars. It claims it is not going anywhere and that the U.S. is its home. Reports do indicate that no jobs at the Wayne, MI, plant will be lost, as it will likely be converted to building the new mid-size Ranger pick-up truck and, possibly, a new Bronco compact sport-utility.
But there’s more to the story that isn’t generally being addressed.
Earlier this year, Fields told CNBC: “We’re always going to invest where it makes sense for business.”
Obviously, it no longer makes “sense” to invest in small car production in America. Most of the news surrounding the move to Mexico addressed the benefit of low-cost labor. According to the Detroit Free Press: “The industry has known for decades that domestic manufacturers struggle to make a profit on small cars.” In Slate’s MoneyBox blog, Jordan Weissmann says: “You can protest that Ford should find a way to consistently churn out profits while manufacturing small cars at home, but that’s easier said than done.”
The number of auto jobs in Mexico is up 40 percent from 2008, while they are only up in the U.S. by 15 percent over the same period. Reuters reports: “American automakers pay Mexican workers $8 to 10 an hour, including benefits.” By comparison, Ford’s labor costs average $57 per hour at home.
Even with the huge labor cost differential, American car companies’ trucks and SUVs are profitable to manufacture in the U.S. and they are the vehicles Americans want to buy – which should raise the question: Why do car companies make small cars when they can’t make them profitably? The answer is the story not being addressed in the current coverage of Ford. And this is where Trump could, possibly, change the outcome.
In a free-market world, companies that want to stay in business should stop activities that lose money and focus on those that make money. Yet the Big Three automakers continue to produce small cars that for years have made little, if any, money.
Business Insider explains: “If Ford is going to keep them around, it needs to address the profit problem. Americans don’t want to buy small vehicles at the moment (actually, they almost never want to buy small cars), so Ford’s only rationale for continuing to build them is to satisfy the more stringent fuel-economy standards in the future.” Those fuel standards are called CAFE - which stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy. In short, it means that car companies can only sell the bigger vehicles that Americans want if it also produces cars that achieve very high fuel efficiency (including electric vehicles, in which Ford is investing heavily) that results in an “average” of the mandated miles per gallon – which is now 54.5 by 2025.
Merrill Matthews, Ph.D., a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, blames the Ford move on, along with other draconian government policies, the CAFE standards: “The CAFE standards, which began in 1975, require auto manufacturers to meet government-imposed fuel economy standards across a fleet of cars. In order to meet those standards, which have been dramatically increased under President Obama, carmakers have to make light, inexpensive cars with high fuel economy to offset their trucks and SUVs with lower fuel economy. And electric cars really help their fuel economy balance. So the companies make minimally or even unprofitable small cars and electric vehicles so they can sell their popular and profitable large products – and hope for a profit in the end. By moving their small cars to Mexico, which has skilled but cheaper labor, Ford hopes to break even or make a little profit off of them.”
While the CAFE standards have increased dramatically under the Obama administration, and have also increased costs for consumers, most people don’t realize that they are not set in stone. Brad Plumer, senior editor for VOX.com outlines the options: “A new president can revise them, up or down. These CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) rules are scheduled to come up for a midterm review in 2017. At that point, automakers may lobby to allow the standards to rise more slowly – particularly if sales of fuel-efficient vehicles have been sluggish due to low oil prices. Green groups, meanwhile, could push to make the standards stricter, or to have them keep increasing past 2025, to push vehicle emissions down even further.”
A President Trump could, perhaps, by promising to allow car companies to make whatever kind of cars they want to make, entice Ford to keep its money in America – though, admittedly, there are other factors (such as trade deals) that make manufacturing small cars attractive in Mexico. CAFE is just one of the many policies that make doing business difficult in America.
Revising the CAFE standards, which could reduce the cost of future cars and would remove government intrusion from vehicle selection, is something Trump can do that would make doing business in America “make sense” again for U.S. car companies. For all business, let’s make America a place where it makes sense to invest.
Commentary by Marita Noon
People in seven states, from South Dakota to Texas, were awakened Saturday morning, September 3, by Oklahoma’s most powerful earthquake in recorded history. The 5.8 tremor was centered near Pawnee, OK. Several buildings sustained minor damage and there were no serious injuries.
That we know.
What we don’t know is what caused the quake – but that didn’t stop the alarmist headlines from quickly blaming it on “fracking.”
Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein promptly tweeted: “Fracking causes polluted drinking water + earthquakes. The #GreenNewDeal comes with none of these side effects, Oklahoma. #BanFracking”
A headline in Forbes stated: “Thanks to fracking, earthquake hazards in parts of Oklahoma now comparable to California.”
The Dallas Morning News proclaimed: “Oklahoma shuts down fracking water wells after quake rattles Dallas to Dakotas.”
NaturalNews.com questions: “Was Oklahoma’s recent record breaking earthquake caused by fracking?”
A report from ABC claims: “The increase of high-magnitude earthquakes in the region has been tied to the surge in oil and gas operators’ use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking…”
Citing a March 2016 report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on “induced earthquakes,” CNN says: “The report found that oil and gas drilling activity, particularly practices like hydraulic fracturing or fracking, is at issue. Saturday’s earthquake spurred state regulators in Oklahoma to order 37 disposal wells, which are used by frackers, to shut down over a 725-square mile area.”
Despite these dramatic accusations, the science doesn’t support them. The USGS website clearly states: “Fracking is NOT causing most of the induced earthquakes.” An important study from Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences on the Oklahoma earthquakes, which I wrote about last year, makes clear that they are “unrelated to hydraulic fracturing.”
While the exact cause of the September 3 quake is still undetermined, geologists close to the research do not believe it is fracking related. (Realize 5.5 El Reno earthquake, centered near the western edge of Oklahoma City, in 1952 was from natural causes.) At a September 8 meeting on Seismicity in Oklahoma, according to Rex Buchanan, Interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey: “There was relatively little conversation about fracking and far more conversation about wastewater.”
William Ellsworth, Professor (Research) of Geophysics at Stanford University, told me that while no specific information about this direct case is available: “I don’t have any information that would allow me to rule out fracking. However, it is extremely unlikely. Fracking occurs for a few days at most, if at all, when the well is being finished. Wastewater injection goes on continuously for years and years.”
The error in the reporting occurs, I believe, because people don’t generally understand the difference between drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and produced water and flowback water, and, therefore, merge them all into one package.
Yes, it does appear that the increase in induced, or human-caused, earthquakes may be the result of oil-and-gas development, yet totally banning fracking, as Stein and Hillary Clinton support, would not diminish the tremors.
First, not every oil or gas well is drilled using hydraulic fracturing. As Ellsworth mentioned, fracking is a part of the process used on some wells. However, much of the drilling done in the part of Oklahoma where the seismic activity first occurred is conventional and doesn’t involve fracking – which provided a premise for the Stanford researchers’ study.
When a well uses the hydraulic fracturing enhanced recovery technology, millions of gallons of water, plus sand and chemicals, are pumped into the well at high pressure to crack the rock and release the resource. When the oil or gas comes up from deep underground, the liquids injected come back to the surface too. This is called flowback water. That water is separated from the oil and/or gas and may be reused, recycled (as I wrote about in December), or disposed of in deep wells known as injection wells – which are believed to be the source of the induced seismic activity.
“Ha!” you may think, “See, it is connected to fracking.” This brings the discussion to produced water – which is different from flowback water.
This type of wastewater is produced at nearly every oil and gas extraction well – whether or not it is fracked. The water, oil, and gas are all “remnants of ancient seas that heat, pressure and time transformed,” explains Scott Tinker, Texas’ state geologist and director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology. He continues: “Although the water is natural, it can be several orders of magnitude more saline than seawater and is often laced with naturally occurring radioactive material. It is toxic to plants and animals, so operators bury it deep underground to protect drinking-water supplies closer to the surface.” In Oklahoma, the wastewater is often injected into the Arbuckle formation.
While the hydraulic fracturing process is typically only a few days, the produced water can be brought to the surface with the oil and/or gas for years. With the increased oil and gas extraction in the past several years – before the 2014 bust, the volumes of wastewater also soared. In parts of Oklahoma, ten barrels of wastewater are produced with every barrel of oil. Scientific American reports that some of those high-volume injection wells “absorbed more than 300,000 barrels of water per month.”
The authors of the Stanford study were “able to review data about the amount of wastewater injected at the wells as well as the total amount of hydraulic fracturing happening in each study area, they were able to conclude that the bulk of the injected water was produced water generated using conventional oil extraction techniques, not during hydraulic fracturing,” writes Ker Than for Stanford. Professor Mark Zoback, lead author of the study states: “We know that some of the produced water came from wells that were hydraulically fractured, but in the three areas of most seismicity, over 95 percent of the wastewater disposal is produced water, not hydraulic flowback water.” Ellsworth agrees. Last year, he told the Associated Press: “The controversial method of hydraulic fracturing or fracking, even though that may be used in the drilling, is not physically causing the shakes.”
So, if banning fracking won’t stop the shaking, what will? The geologists contacted for this coverage agree that more work is needed. While the quakes seem to be connected to the wastewater injection wells, there are thousands of such wells where no discernable seismic activity has occurred. Oklahoma has been putting new restrictions on some of its thousands of disposal wells for more than a year to curb seismic activity and that, combined with reduced drilling activity due to low prices, has reduced the rate of the tremors. In Texas, when the volumes of wastewater being injected into the vicinity of that state’s earthquakes were reduced, the earthquakes died down as well. Other mitigation strategies are being explored.
Jeremy Boak, director, Oklahoma Geological Survey, told me: “The Oklahoma Geological Survey is on record as concluding that the rise from 1-2 M3.0+ earthquakes per year to 579 (2014), 907 (2015) and the current 482 (to date in 2016) are largely driven by increased fluid pressure in faults in the basement driven largely by injection of water co-produced with oil and gas and disposed of in the Arbuckle Group, which sits on top of basement. Both the increase and the current decreasing rate appear to be in response to changes in the rate of injection. There are natural earthquakes in Oklahoma, but the current numbers dwarf the inferred background rate.”
Interestingly, most of the aforementioned reports that link fracking and earthquakes, ultimately acknowledge that it is the wastewater disposal, not the actual hydraulic fracturing, that is associated with the increased seismic activity – but, they generally fail to separate the different types of wastewater and, therefore, make the dramatic claims about fracking.
Boak emphasized: “There are places where there are documented cases of earthquakes on individual faults occurring very near and during hydraulic fracturing operations, including one published case in Oklahoma. These are generally small earthquakes, although some larger ones (M4.0+) have occurred in British Columbia. Therefore, it is technically very important to maintain the distinction between injection-induced and hydraulic fracturing-induced earthquakes, or we may take the wrong action to solve the problem. Should the OGS and Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) staff find further Oklahoma examples of such earthquakes, the OCC will take action. The current issue of injection-induced seismicity must take precedence.”
When you hear supposedly solid sources blaming hydraulic fracturing for earthquakes, remember the facts don’t support the accusations. Fracking isn’t causing Oklahoma’s increased earthquakes.
Commentary by Marita Noon
University of Michigan’s Energy Institute research professor John DeCicco, Ph.D., believes that rising carbon dioxide emissions are causing global warming and, therefore, humans must find a way to reduce its levels in the atmosphere – but ethanol is the wrong solution. According to his just-released study, political support for biofuels, particularly ethanol, has exacerbated the problem instead of being the cure it was advertised to be.
DeCicco and his co-authors assert: “Contrary to popular belief, the heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas emitted when biofuels are burned is not fully balanced by the CO2 uptake that occurs as the plants grow.” The presumption that biofuels emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases (GHG) than gasoline does is, according to DeCicco: “misguided.”
His research, three years in the making, including extensive peer-review, has upended the conventional wisdom and angered the alternative fuel lobbyists. The headline-grabbing claim is that biofuels are worse for the climate than gasoline.
Past bipartisan support for ethanol was based on two, now false, assumptions.
First, based on fears of waning oil supplies, alternative fuels were promoted to increase energy security. DeCicco points out: “Every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has backed programs to develop alternative transportation fuels.” Now, in the midst of a global oil glut, we know that hydraulic fracturing has been the biggest factor in America’s new era of energy abundance – not biofuels. Additionally, ethanol has been championed for its perceived reduction in GHG. Using a new approach, DeCicco and his researchers, conclude: “rising U.S. biofuel use has been associated with a net increase rather than a net decrease in CO2 emissions.”
DeCicco has been focused on this topic for nearly a decade. In 2007, when the Energy Independence and Security Act (also known as the expanded ethanol mandate) was in the works, he told me: “I realized that something seemed horribly amiss with a law that established a sweeping mandate which rested on assumptions, not scientific fact, that were unverified and might be quite wrong, even though they were commonly accepted and politically correct (and politically convenient).” Having spent 20 years as a green group scientist, DeCicco has qualified green bona fides. From that perspective he saw that while biofuels sounded good, no one had checked the math.
Previously, based on life cycle analysis (LCA), it has been assumed that crop-based biofuels, were not just carbon neutral, but actually offered modest net GHG reductions. This, DeCicco says, is the “premise of most climate related fuel policies promulgated to date, including measures such as the LCFS [California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard] and RFS [the federal Renewable Fuel Standard passed in 2005 and expanded in 2007].”
The DeCicco study differs from LCA – which assumes that any carbon dioxide released from a vehicle’s tailpipe as a result of burning biofuel is absorbed from the atmosphere by the growing of the crop. In LCA, biofuel use is modeled as a static system, one presumed to be in equilibrium with the atmosphere in terms of its material carbon flow. The Carbon balance effects of U.S. biofuel production and use study uses Annual Basis Carbon (ABC) accounting – which does not treat biofuels as inherently carbon neutral. Instead, it treats biofuels as “part of a dynamic stock-and-flow system.” Its methodology “tallies CO2 emissions based on the chemistry in the specific locations where they occur.” In May, on my radio program, DeCicco explained: “Life Cycle Analysis is wrong because it fails to actually look at what is going on at the farms.”
In short, DeCicco told me: “Biofuels get a credit they didn’t deserve; instead they leave a debit.”
The concept behind DeCicco’s premise is that the idea of ethanol being carbon neutral assumes that the ground where the corn is grown was barren dirt (without any plants removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) before the farmer decided to plant corn for ethanol. If that were the case, then, yes, planting corn on that land, converting that corn to ethanol that is then burned as a vehicle fuel, might come close to being carbon neutral. But the reality is that land already had corn, or some other crop, growing on it – so that land’s use was already absorbing CO2. You can’t count it twice.
DeCicco explains “Growing the corn that becomes ethanol absorbs no more carbon from the air than the corn that goes into cattle feed or corn flakes. Burning the ethanol releases essentially the same amount of CO2 as burning gasoline. No less CO2 went into the air from the tailpipe; no more CO2 was removed from the air at the cornfield. So where’s the climate benefit?”
Much of that farmland was growing corn to feed cattle and chickens – also known as feedstock. The RFS requires an ever-increasing amount of ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. Since the RFS became law in 2005, the amount of land dedicated to growing corn for ethanol has increased from 12.4 percent of the overall corn crop to 38.6 percent. While the annual supply of corn has increased by 17 percent, the amount going into feedstock has decreased from 57.5 percent to 37.98% – as a graphic from the Detroit Free Press illustrates.
The rub comes from the fact that we are not eating less. Globally, more food is required, not less. The livestock still needs to be fed. So while the percentage of corn going into feedstock in the U.S. has decreased because of the RFS, that corn is now grown somewhere else. DeCicco explained: “When you rob Peter to pay Paul, Peter has to get his resource from someplace else.” One such place is Brazil where previous pasture land, because it is already flat, has been converted to growing crops. Ranchers have been pushed out to what was forest and deforestation is taking place.
Adding to the biofuels-are-worse-than-
DeCicco says: “it is this domino effect that makes ethanol worse.”
How much worse?
The study looks at the period with the highest increase in ethanol production due to the RFS: 2005-2013 (remember, the study took three years). The research provides an overview of eight years of overall climate impacts of America’s multibillion-dollar biofuel industry. It doesn’t address issues such as increased fertilizer use and the subsequent water pollution.
The conclusion is that the increased carbon dioxide uptake by the crops was only enough to offset 37 percent of the CO2 emissions due to biofuel combustion – meaning “rising U.S. biofuel use has been associated with a net increase rather than a net decrease in CO2 emissions.”
Instead of a “disco-era ‘anything but oil’ energy policy,” DeCicco’s research finds, that while further work is needed to examine the research and policy implications going forward, “it makes more sense to soak up CO2 through reforestation and redouble efforts to protect forests rather than producing biofuels, which puts carbon rich lands at risk.”
Regardless of differing views on climate change, we can generally agree that more trees are a good thing and that “using government mandates and subsidies to promote politically favored fuels de jour is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”