Odds and ends number 107

This will be a little shorter than some, but I thought it was a good time to clear out the mailbox and give you some good reading.

All solar and wind is all wrong

Recently I got an e-mail from the Caesar Rodney Institute that told me:

Proposed legislation nationally and in some states would establish a requirement 100% of electricity be generated from “renewable” sources such as wind and solar power. This policy will lead to unacceptable electric price increases and blackouts. 

100% Wind and Solar. 100% WRONG.” Caesar Rodney Institute, October 8, 2021.

This goes in the category of “duh” for me, but apparently some states are thinking they can pull this off – and in principle, perhaps they can. But there is a big problem with the reality, to wit:

When we look at states from Virginia to Maine, with some of the most aggressive requirements for wind and solar power along with taxes on emissions from power plants, we see two disturbing trends. One is more reliance on imported power. The Virginia plan drops reliable power generation from 95% now to 45% in 2035, and imports from other states grow from 25% to 40%. The RGGI states have increased imports from 5% in 2008 to 17% in 2019. Electricity exporting states are also under pressure to reduce conventional power generation. Pennsylvania’s Governor Wolf would like to cut generation by 30% by 2030, which would end exports. Massachusetts is importing 57% of its power, Delaware 50%. It is likely there will be very little export power available, requiring each state to generate 100% in state.

Ibid.

The second part is the government-created market for so-called “renewable energy credits” (read: mechanism for wealth transfer.) I like looking at farm fields, not 600-foot tall wind turbines (that would make all of us sick from the low-frequency noise) or acres of solar panels that might power a few hundred homes at peak efficiency, not twenty years down the line.

If I store a tankful of natural gas or a lump of coal for a time, it works pretty much as well as it would have when I put it there, at a cheaper price point. Let’s ditch these phony market mandates, shall we?

A Made in America call

My friends at the Alliance for American Manufacturing alerted me to this irony: those who created the CCP virus and allowed it to come to our shores are benefitting from dumping cheap N95 masks on our shores while American companies suffer.

At least that’s how James Wyner, the CEO of the Shawmut Corporation tells it. “We worked hard to create an American-made product that wasn’t dependent on foreign governments like China. We labored around-the-clock to get things up-and-running in 120 days, and created hundreds of new jobs in the process. Our masks received rave reviews for comfort and protection. Now Made in China imports are back.”

Interestingly, the tariff suspension was put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020 to deal with the spot shortage of PPE, but no one from the Biden regime has reinstated it. Wonder why?

One can say Wyner is living up to his name because there was always this risk, but we can substitute a lot of things for N95 masks that we should be making – including the aforementioned solar panels that are often made in China.

And since I’m talking about AAM, it’s worth reminding readers one of their annual programs is the Made in U.S.A. Holiday Gift Guide and it’s time for suggestions. Now that Halloween is just about in the rear view mirror, it’s time to start the stampede to Christmas. (Thanksgiving? What’s that?)

WTF is he thinking?

So did you know that AT&T is “by far the largest single funder of One America News”? Me neither. Just looking at it as an observer, maybe it has something to do with DirecTV, which AT&T owned until recently. And when I checked into the story, I found out it was true.

Okay, this is a problem why? (And full disclosure here: we are DirecTV subscribers and my package includes OANN. Can’t recall the last time I watched it, though – maybe immediately post-election?)

Well, the reason I bring this up is because Rick Weiland – miserably failed political candidate and my semi-correspondent loony leftist from the otherwise sane bastion known as South Dakota – sent me an e-mail demanding AT&T cut ties with OANN. Get a load of this rubbish:

Listen, the bottom line is clear: AT&T has not only been helping to spread disinformation about everything from the 2020 election to public safety during the pandemic, it’s also been instrumental in the success of Donald Trump’s favorite cable news channel while it continues to whitewash what happened on Jan. 6th.

AT&T needs to take bold action and join the fight against deadly disinformation — by cutting all ties with OAN. And (sic) your name to demand action now!

Unless AT&T hears from us — it will continue to fund the network that has fueled an insurrection, dozens of voter suppression bills, and the proliferation of disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“WTF is AT&T thinking?”, Rick Weiland, October 11, 2021.

Now I’m not crazy about DirecTV – it’s one of the few options I have for TV watching out here in God’s country – but when you consider the Reuters “investigation” comes down to a entrepreneur creating a product to address a market need, I shrug my shoulders on this one. I think Merrick Garland is doing far more to whitewash what happened on January 6th and Weiland isn’t asking us to kick him out of office.

And next week I expect an e-mail from Weiland condemning a recent attack on a federal building. Should I hold my breath for the call on people to drop their funding? Thought not.

If I want to watch the partisan media, my satellite brings me CNN, MSNBC, and so forth. Maybe we should do more to encourage a variety of viewpoints instead of shutting down those we don’t agree with. However, AT&T did hear from me recently: I sent in another month’s bill.

This one worries me a bit

I think this is more because I’m on a mailing list than being anything resembling a power blogger anymore, but I guess at least someone was thinking of me and it’s worth a few lines.

To avoid going all tl:dr on you, I’m just going to link to the Executive Summary of the 2022 Index of U.S. Military Strength from the Heritage Foundation. While I obviously have an interest in our nation remaining free and independent, I also have an interest in having several young men our stepdaughter knows from being classmates (in the same class as well as a few years ahead or behind) stay on this side of the grass as enlisted men. So judge this one for yourself.

Sunday evening reading

This is more for a particular author than for individual articles. And it all began with selling a book.

You may recall last year during the pandemic that I introduced people to a site called ammo.com. While they sell ammunition, I look at them now as a provider of a different kind of weaponry: potent arguments for limiting government and history you don’t find anywhere else. Where else can you find a retailer that sees deplatforming, righteousness, and the decline of civil society as topics worth discussing? (Being a former league bowler from a Rust Belt bowling town, the latter hit me where I live.)

It’s an alternate view of history and society complements of a writer named Sam Jacobs. If I were to bring back Ten Questions or do a podcast, he would be a subject because I’m curious how he got to a political point not all that far off of mine. They never told me how they liked Rise and Fall, but I do like hearing from their website each Friday.

Speaking of Friday, a programming note: I pushed it back a week because of website issues I was having, but the return of Weekend of Local Rock is now scheduled for the coming weekend. I may get a post in midweek if the mood strikes me (particularly with the offyear elections on Tuesday.) We will see.

But this should do for now, right? Mailbox is clean as a whistle.

Odds and ends number 102

I’m bringing back those chunks of blogging goodness that take anywhere from a couple sentences to a handful of paragraphs.

A surplus? Give it back!

It’s been a tough year for state governments around the nation, and Delaware was no exception. But there was a surprise when the First State beancounters came up with the numbers at the end of the year – we had a $347 million surplus thanks to record real estate transfer taxes and very successful IPOs.

Of course, just because we have an extra $347 million doesn’t mean the state won’t have plans for the money that don’t involve returning it to the hard-working taxpayers of Delaware. But I also noticed this nugget: “At one time, far more people came into Delaware to work, but it’s been closer to 50-50 recently, officials said Monday. And many of those who leave Delaware, but are now working at home, have higher paying jobs than those coming from out of state to work in Delaware.” I’m one of those 65,000 who leave Delaware to work, which was the reverse of where we were before we moved when my wife was one of the 65,000 who came into Delaware to work. Neither of us have a typical “work from home” job (although mine is a more likely candidate – not counting the side hustles I actually do from the comfort of my rocking chair) so the gig economy hasn’t hit us yet.

If they are taxing us too much, give it back. If they’re not taxing us enough; well, we don’t need everything the state spends its money on.

A little help from their friends

We had some issues in Texas a couple weeks back, and in the spirit of never letting a crisis go to waste, the left-leaners at the Alliance for American Manufacturing are now demanding a “Made in America” infrastructure bill. As Texas resident Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch wrote at the group’s behest:

It didn’t have to be like this. While we are seeing unusual weather in Texas, the electric grid here also hasn’t received updates it has needed for years. As one expert put it, the grid “limped along on underinvestment and neglect until it finally broke under predictable circumstances.”

And it’s not just Texas. States like Oregon, Kentucky and Louisiana also are seeing power outages right now. California faced similar struggles last year.

These are the real world consequences of America’s failure to modernize its infrastructure. Now it’s time to learn from our mistakes and get to work.

“TAKE ACTION: What Happened in Texas Could Happen Anywhere”, Alliance for American Manufacturing, February 18, 2021

In fact, in the e-mail, Brotherton-Bunch actually says, “The crisis in Texas this week once again is highlighting the consequences of inaction. But every crisis also yields opportunity.”

Suppose, however, that the federal infrastructure bill did away with Davis-Bacon laws that add labor costs to the project unnecessarily. Sure, the leftist groups that back prevailing wage will tell you that the increased wage brings an increase in productivity, but to me that claim is rather dubious. Surely the reason the AAM really wants the infrastructure bill is to prop up their union backers – just like the push for an overall $15 minimum wage most benefits Big Labor in general and the SEIU in particular – moreover, if it goes to things the federal government may want that may not be what the locality needs.

Infrastructure in most cases should be more of a state priority. We’ve spent enough federal money for three lifetimes in mine, but those in power now want to put drunken sailors to shame. I guess the AAM just wants their cut.

The hopeful tone didn’t age well

Just days before Joe Biden’s inauguration, Bobby Jindal – the two-term governor of Louisiana and 2016 Republican presidential candidate (the one I endorsed initially) placed an op-ed at the Fox News site that sounded conciliatory toward the incoming administration, pointing out areas of common ground between the perceived moderate Biden and populist Republicans that backed Trump. In part, this was because President Trump…

…modified the traditional conservative argument that the problem was government was doing too much for too many — and instead argued it was not doing enough for the right people.

Trump expanded the definition of the deserving poor to include everyday working families whose wages had stagnated for years. Democrats have long used similar arguments to enact universal social welfare programs. President Obama cited the plight of working Americans to include both Medicaid expansion for the poor and exchange subsidies under ObamaCare for families earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level.

And Trump tapped into working-class anxiety by promising to pursue policies, like tighter immigration controls, tariffs, farm aid, and renegotiated trade deals, that would protect their jobs and incomes from unfair foreign competition.

Trump further promised to protect entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security that benefited his base supporters, while railing against a corrupt Washington establishment that conspired to enrich the coastal elites and expand wasteful redistribution programs for favored liberal constituencies.

But Trump seemed more interested in adding spending he liked — such as military spending, his border wall, his long-promised infrastructure bill, and direct pandemic assistance — than in eliminating spending he did not like.

“Bobby Jindal: Biden may find support for some proposals among populist Republicans in Congress,” FoxNews.com, January 17, 2021.

This big-government populism was the philosophy candidates like Lauren Witzke ran on last year.

I would agree with Jindal except for the fact that Democrats inside the Beltway seldom backed Trump’s initiatives despite the fact that a significant number of rank-and-file Democrats in the Rust Belt and other areas of flyover country eschewed the 2016 Democrat standardbearer Hillary Clinton to vote for Trump.

However, it should be said that the trajectory of history pre-pandemic was favoring Trump’s contention we could grow our way out of a deficit, as the annual shortages were coming down until trillions of dollars of stimulus and transfer payments were supposedly made necessary thanks to the “15 days to stop the spread” that are now closing in on a year in many places. Had Trump not been denied a second term he may have been proven correct.

But it was disappointing to read this from a man who was a successful budget-cutter in his home state, making the tough choices to save taxpayer dollars. And as an aside, one of those “common ground” issues Jindal cited was infrastructure.

First it was RGGI, now it’s TCI

It’s been percolating under the surface for quite awhile now, but when you start talking about a potential gas tax increase, people begin to listen.

It wasn’t enough to address so-called manmade climate change by developing a way for public utilities to transfer protection money to state governments (also known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or as the subtitle suggests, RGGI) – nope, they decided to attack the internal combustion engine in the same way. As Penny Dryden and Eleanor Fort explained at Delaware Online back in December 2020:

As Delaware faces a significant drop in tax revenue due to the pandemic, the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) can offer needed funding for communities along Routes 13 and 40 and other pollution burdened areas across Delaware, including Route 9, Northeast Wilmington, Belvedere Newport and Sussex County. TCI is a collaboration between eleven northeast and mid-Atlantic governors and the mayor of Washington, D.C., who have been working to develop a regional cap and invest program that would significantly cut tailpipe pollution while building a fair and just zero-emission transportation system.

“Building a transportation and climate initiative that works for Delaware,” Penny Dryden and Eleanor Fort, Delaware Online, December 17, 2020.

Never mind I put the lie to the tax revenue claim a few paragraphs ago, but the duo are only following what was laid out a couple years earlier as goals for the TCI:

Informed by input from hundreds of stakeholders and expert analysis, the participating TCI jurisdictions will design a regional low-carbon transportation policy proposal that would cap and reduce carbon emissions from the combustion of transportation fuels through a cap-and-invest program or other pricing mechanism, and allow each TCI jurisdiction to invest proceeds from the program into low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure. This proposed program, when combined with existing programs and complementary policies, will be designed to achieve substantial reductions in transportation sector emissions and provide net economic and social benefits for participating states.

“Transportation and Climate Initiative Statement,” December 18, 2018.

Welcome to wealth transfer program part two, where rural folks and those who drive for business or pleasure will be transferring their wealth and freedom into more government largesse that will go to boondoggles they pick because the public won’t. In an Open Letter on the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a number of groups advocating the rightsizing of government in these affected states and beyond called TCI “the wrong idea at the wrong time.” And in case you haven’t noticed, gas that was around $2.19 a gallon back in November has gone up 50 cents a gallon since – granted, some of that is normal (it seems like gas prices annually peak in the late spring) but the recent 20 cent surge blamed on Texas refineries being kicked offline thanks to the massive snowstorm there will take its sweet time to work itself out. Yet to someone who drives a 20 MPG truck 20,000 miles a year such as a rural worker, that per-gallon increase works out to $500 a year they can’t spend on food, clothing, or other necessities. A 27-cent gas tax increase such as the one the Caesar Rodney Institute has worried could be proposed for Delaware would cost that Sussex County worker $270 a year on top of the 50-cent increase.

Something on a favored flag

I suppose that since I wrote a book with it on the cover, one would consider my flag of choice the Gadsden flag. That yellow-and-black symbol of our colonial days became the icon of the TEA Party, and it got a little bit of its due recently thanks to my Ammo.com friend Sam Jacobs pushing an article on it.

Every so often I see a Gadsden flag adorning a pole under an American flag or see a Virginia Gadsden license plate – surprised those haven’t been banned from the state yet. (I just checked and they are still available, shockingly enough. But I doubt there’s any in the D.C. suburbs.) It’s comforting to know there are still people like me out there.

And since I now have an open space on the front of my car because Delaware only requires one license plate, maybe I can find a Gadsden plate to increase my old car’s value. (15 years old, almost 200,000 miles that would have been a lot of gas tax for greedy governments around the nation.)

Programming note

I have one more item in my e-mail box that will graduate to a full-length article, I believe. Be advised, though: writing may be a little sparse for a bit as I seem to be the snake that swallowed the goat and that big lump of various side hustles is making its way through my workload these days.

And speaking of the TEA Party, I believe I noted that I deactivated my old Rise and Fall website a couple months back. I think the Facebook page for it will be next to go. Last year I abandoned a book project that became a series of posts here on the Indivisible movement, and I started on another idea I had for an e-book before pulling the plug because I didn’t like how I thought I had to frame it – too unworkable. To be honest, right now is not the time in my life for a book.

So I guess I will stay in this little forum for now.

A new way to vacuum from our wallets

Over the years from time to time I have written about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate compact ostensibly to address climate change (under the mistaken belief mankind can significantly affect that natural phenomenon) but one which in reality acts as a wealth redistributor in most of its member states.

But thanks to the sharp-eyed folks at the Delaware Freedom Coalition – who noticed a small article in one of the New Jersey Patch websites (they’re still around?) – we now know that these same states and three others (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) are trying to do the same thing with your gasoline. In the words of the Connecticut-based Hartford Courant, which is linked in the Patch article:

The concept calls for a regional cap-and-trade plan that would raise money that would be used to combat climate change at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking to weaken standards for automobile emissions. For example, the money would help in improving electric-car charging and investing in mass transit as ways to reduce emissions.

“Connecticut among states studying regional gas tax,” Christopher Keating, Hartford Courant, October 25, 2019.

[In an unrelated move, Delaware Rep. Krista Griffith already proposed a measure this year to allow the public usage of state-owned electric car charging stations, a bill that fell one Senate vote short of passage (two Senators were absent at the time of the vote.) That’s certain to come back in 2020, but the proceeds from this proposed gas tax could be earmarked to reimburse state agencies for a similar public use.]

However, this wouldn’t be a per-gallon tax or a sales tax on gasoline, the methods by which most of us pay our automotive toll to the state. Instead, it appears (according to published reports here and here) that the toll would be paid at the wholesale level, which has led that industry to oppose the new tax. If it were adopted, though, they have suggested some improvements. Otherwise, much like RGGI member state utilities are saddled with the additional cost and red tape of compliance, the petroleum industry will become the new whipping boy for Radical Green.

This is just another case of passing the buck. And as Forbes contributor David Blackmon opines, “we see states like these twelve spending tens of millions of dollars and years upon years studying and developing deceptive approaches like this in order to give governors and other politicians the political cover they need to still be re-elected after voting the new, hidden tax into law.” Now in states like Maryland and (unfortunately) Delaware, there are enough people who have been fooled to keep voting in these people regardless of what they do or “accomplish” in office on so-called climate change. But the concept could fall apart if enough states balk at the idea, and public comment has been surprisingly fierce against the idea once people are made aware of it. (Apparently people in Maine are since that small state provides the majority of public comments.)

If people wish to purchase electric cars, part of the consideration has to be the infrastructure (or lack thereof) for refueling as well as other needs. Setting aside the environmental impact that these expanded batteries create and the subsidies required to make the industry successful – never mind this proposed carveout – the other issue is that an electric car simply replaces a conventional car on roads which must be maintained on a system of highways desperately needing expansion and streamlining in some places. Here in Sussex County that covers everything from local needs like a bridge crossing of the Nanticoke River between Sharptown and Seaford to replace the old and unreliable Woodland Ferry and a combined U.S. 113/State Route 24 Millsboro bypass to regional concerns like the extension of an interstate-grade highway from south of Dover to Salisbury along the U.S. 13 corridor. (Since it wouldn’t be a loop highway, call it I-195.)

One advantage of a gas tax is that, when it’s properly allocated toward highway maintenance and expansion – and not toward bike paths, mass transit subsidies, or the yawning chasm of a state’s general fund – it serves as a user fee not unlike that of crossing the Bay Bridge or a toll road. You pay your fee, you get your service whether it’s traversing Chesapeake Bay or avoiding umpteen traffic lights and speed limit changes between Dover and Wilmington. Unfortunately, too many governmental entitles see these taxes as revenue they can spend as they please whether it’s in the spirit in which the tax is collected or not. Moreover, undefined revenue becomes yet another method of patching holes in the budget, and yes I’m looking at you Martin O’Malley.

So it’s prudent to be skeptical at best about the collection and usage of this tax, especially since the participants misunderstand the problem and try to avoid dealing with the real issues. If you want to raise the gas tax, be honest about it and use it to fix roads, not address an issue the world can’t solve.

Dealing with facts in Senate District 38 (last of four parts)

Late edit: Need to get up to speed? Here are parts one, two, and three.

In this final installment comparing the differences between District 38 State Senator Jim Mathias and his challenger, District 38C Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, we have the second-smallest number of voting differences between them for this term. But as I wrote in my wrapup of the legislative year for the monoblogue Accountability Project (mAP):

Turning to this year’s session, one conclusion is inescapable: the last four years have been a steadier and steadier test of wills between a governor who is trying to promote a particular agenda and a state majority party that had its apple cart upset and is being begged by the special interests that control it to put those apples back and bring back the regular order of things where everyone was fat and happy except the private-sector working families and taxpayers. We’re at the point now where political victories are more important than improving the citizens’ lot, on both sides of the aisle.

In 2018, Mary Beth got just 12 votes correct out of 25, although she stumbled into the twelfth by changing her incorrect vote on HB1302, the “red flag” gun bill. Jim Mathias may have always intended to vote the correct way, but the 22-day hiatus between Mary Beth’s vote and Jim’s tally was punctuated with a loud outcry from the 2A community that Mathias had to hear. [However, despite the NRA support Mathias joined Carozza on a vaguely-written ban (HB888/SB707) of so-called “bump stocks.”] Jim’s only other instance of getting a vote correct (a term-low 2 correct out of 25 votes) was sustaining the veto for HB694 – but that was the “ban the box” bill he originally voted for!

Is it any wonder that people like me can be cynical about Jim’s record?

A major bill that the pair parted ways on will also be decided in this election – same-day voter registration is already in place during early voting, but HB532 established a referendum for this year that mandates its inclusion on Election Day, presumably beginning in 2020. Jim Mathias may not mind this extra work for poll workers and increased risk of voter fraud, but Mary Beth stood against it.

That government we elected last time around kept trying to usurp power from the executive branch, and they succeeded with a pair of measures that Carozza and Mathias voted opposite ways on: Mary Beth was correct in attempting to stop HB230/SB290 (a bill requiring legislative approval to pull out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative scam) and the sour grapes represented by SB687, laughingly referred to as “state vacancy reform.” Unfortunately, Jim Mathias backed an effort that succeeded in creating an unelected board to distribute school capital funding, removing the duty from the partially-elected (2 of 3 members) Board of Public Works – a slap at Democrat Comptroller Peter Franchot, who apparently votes too often with the Republican governor. (To his credit, Mathias voted for a floor amendment to restore the BPW to its place, but its failure was not enough to either dissuade him from voting for final passage or overriding the veto.)

The Big Labor interests that have supported Jim Mathias to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars over the last twelve years got their money’s worth this term – bills that dealt with making new hires opt out of being harassed to join the union rather than having to opt in (HB1017/SB677), another allowing disgruntled employees disputing prevailing wage decisions being allowed to take their suit directly to court (rather than to a state arbitrator, part of HB1243/SB572), and a huge gift as the precedent was set (with Jim’s support) for paid parental leave in SB859. This was on top of getting the veto override of HB1 from 2017, in part thanks to Mathias.

Mary Beth stood with providers by opposing a bill written by the insurance companies (HB1782) establishing a re-insurance program through a renewed assessment (formerly on a federal level, but being shifted to a state one) on those same insurers. Jim Mathias obviously isn’t into fee relief.

Finally on the environmental front, Mary Beth was on the right side of a proposal (HB1350/SB1006) that mandates certain state-funded construction projects be adapted to conform with weather conditions brought on by supposed global climate change. It may be prudent in some instances, but will certainly bust the budget elsewhere.

Because District 38 is my home district, I have been paying particular attention to the race. But it’s worth noting that a similar race exists in Senate District 8 which pits Senator Katherine Klausmeyer against Delegate Christian Miele.

While the differences aren’t as stark between those two as they’ve been between Carozza and Mathias, they are still there: over the last four years where they have served together, Klausmeyer has racked up annual mAP scores of 32, 2, 24, and 4 for an average of 15.5, while Miele has scored 58, 44, 60, and 26 for an average of 47. On the average, then, Miele would get 7 to 8 more mAP votes correct than Klausmeyer each term, which can mean more money in your pocket and more opportunity for businesses to thrive and create good-paying jobs. The records are there for inspection on the sidebar.

One final word. We can talk about voting records all day, but there are those who swear by Jim Mathias because he “works hard for the district” or some variation of that remark. As proof they can point to social media, where Jim is often going live at some event or gathering – even if it’s walking in a parade 100 miles outside his district. Look, I’m into hometown pride as much as anyone given my affinity for particular sports teams and number of my friends still hailing from mine, but the whole “look at me” attitude seems a little artificial and contrived after awhile.

Over this campaign I’ve pointed out the perceived flaws in Jim’s record in both the votes and money he takes for and from special interests, groups that seemingly are more concerned with combating the good things Governor Hogan does (yes, there are a few) and keeping the state as the East Coast’s answer to California and Chicago than they are with the needs of our diverse district. It’s telling that the latest charge by the Annapolis Democrats against Mary Beth is that she’s a “Washington insider” because she’s worked for several members of Congress and in the George W. Bush administration. If the party roles were reversed, they would call that “a career of public service.”

I noted four years ago that many of Mary Beth’s former cohorts provided the seed money for her campaign, but in this round it’s become far more local as she has gained the confidence of those who donated to her. Mary Beth wasn’t someone I knew well prior to her 2014 campaign: I met her years ago when she worked for the Ehrlich administration, but it’s not like our paths crossed a lot.

One thing I’ve noticed as she’s run her two campaigns, though: that woman is everywhere. But she isn’t one to plaster it all over social media, opting to be more of the work horse than the show horse. Maybe that costs her a few votes among those who like glamour and popularity, but the thoughtful voters notice.

I saw Jim on Sunday at the Autumn Wine Festival, just as Kim and I were leaving. While he probably shook more than a few hands while he was there, the reason he came was to sing with the band that was playing to close out the event – more on that band in a future post. It’s nothing new, as Jim has sung with On The Edge before at the AWF and, in general, has been around the local music scene as long as I’ve been aware of it. Obviously that’s something he enjoys doing, and I don’t see a thing wrong with that – in fact, I wouldn’t mind him having more time to sing after this November.

In short, the reason I’ve been on this race so much and for so long is that I think Jim’s a fine enough and likable fellow, but is also a political mismatch as a representative of this district – he seems to be much more suited for a district across the bridge, a place from where a significant portion of his financial support comes. Here we have a district that is much more right of center than he is.

So while she’s not as far to the right as I would prefer, I think that in order to make a better team for local success throughout District 38 we need to promote Mary Beth Carozza to be our next State Senator. I urge you to vote accordingly, whether at early voting beginning tomorrow and running through next Thursday or on the traditional November 6 date.

Maryland: contrarian again

It’s been awhile since I looked at the energy industry, what with legislation, riots, and other general mayhem. Fortunately for me, I have several sources in that industry to return me to speed and one is writer Marita Noon, whose piece on NetRightDaily today detailed the efforts of forward-thinking states to repeal their renewable energy mandates – some by whopping margins in their legislature. In those states, the market-bending allocations to renewable energy are coming to an end, leveling the playing field and perhaps saving their taxpayers millions of dollars.

Unfortunately, Maryland isn’t one of those states rolling back its mandates; in fact, the only piece of legislation dealing with the renewable portfolio was a liberal Democrat-backed scheme to expand it some more. House Bill 377 and Senate Bill 373 both were aimed at significantly increasing the percentage of renewables up to 40% by 2025 – current law peaks renewables’ share at 20% by 2022. (Both these figures are a pipe dream.) The Senate version lost in the Finance Committee by an 8-3 vote, and the House version was withdrawn before it was voted upon.

It was good that a bad bill was thwarted, but it was unfortunate that no bill was introduced to repeal these mandates. Maryland would be in far better shape energy-wise, eventually with lower utility rates, if true reform was achieved: repeal of the renewable energy portfolio, the withdrawal of the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, repealing the subsidy for offshore wind, and encouraging energy production from hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling.

Over the course of the O’Malley administration, energy companies took the brunt of new regulations and changes in the market; in particular, their cost of doing business was affected by the renewable energy portfolio and the RGGI. If you assume the goal of the utility is to provide energy as cheaply as possible to make a profit – while keeping prices low enough to maintain and grow a customer base – having the dead expenses of the “alternative compliance payment” made necessary by falling short of renewable goals and the CO2 allowances auctioned off by RGGI as a sweet redistribution scheme aren’t helping the cause. Meanwhile, more exploration and investment in energy infrastructure could bring Maryland closer to being at least even as opposed to a net energy importer.

I wouldn’t expect any repeal of these bills to pass on the scale that they’ve moved through some state legislatures, but 71-70 and 24-23 are perfectly fine margins to me. It would also likely require getting around the committee process and bringing the package directly to the floor. (The portfolio repeal, RGGI withdrawal, and repeal of the offshore wind subsidy could be one bill: call it the Maryland Energy Reform Act of 2016.)

The trick is getting the right people to advocate for the changes by showing how much can be saved by consumers. That portion seems like a job for a group like the Maryland Public Policy Institute, while the lobbying on the part of the energy providers should include a pledge of reducing rates. Shaving 2 cents a kilowatt hour off the bill may not sound like much, but it translates to about $216 a year based on average residential usage of about 900 kWh a month. I don’t know about you, but an extra $18 a month would be nice for me. Just think of the economic benefits we received last year when gasoline skidded to $2 a gallon – benefits being lost now as prices have edged back up over $2.50 a gallon.

To help in prosperity, Maryland needs cheap energy. As it stands now, we don’t have it but I think we can get it if the political will is there.

In defense of Haddaway-Riccio

On Thursday Red Maryland noted that David Craig’s LG candidate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted five years ago for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009. Although it’s a bit of a stretch to say she “put the VMT tax on the table,” she was one of a handful of Republicans who voted for the measure.

And even though Red Maryland has already expressed its support for Craig’s opponent Larry Hogan, the Craig campaign felt compelled to put out talking points rebutting the piece by Mark Newgent. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to defend this law within these quarters.

#1 – The VMT tax was proposed by the O’Malley Administration and was the result of an O’Malley Executive Order, not legislation.

Indeed, we have not seen a VMT tax come to fruition as legislation, although we have had, over the last two sessions, a bill to prohibit collection of such a tax introduced and heard in the General Assembly.

#2 – The legislation Delegate Jeannie Haddaway voted in favor of (as did other Republicans) ensured that other states do their fair share to improve air quality standards so that Maryland citizens – and Maryland utility companies – do not bear the full burden in the effort to clean the air (especially since our airshed goes all the way out to Ohio). Air pollution costs MD millions of dollars each year (it accounts for one-third of the acid deposition in the bay, crop damage, health care, etc).

Maryland was actually ranked highest in the country for deaths related to air pollution.

In reading the bill, I see no assurances of the kind. Much of it was based on future legislation. Moreover, we can’t guarantee any other state does its “fair share” just as they can’t guarantee we do things for them. This legislation wasn’t part of a compact, so Ohio can do as it wishes in their part of the “airshed.”

#3 – This was good legislation for Maryland taxpayers. The legislation resulted in tens of millions of dollars in ratepayer relief for ratepayers that would be reflected on their utility bills until the O’Malley/Brown administration took the money and put it in the General Fund.

But we don’t know that, as such reductions were not explicitly spelled out in the bill or the fiscal note. It did mandate that changes not adversely affect certain electric ratepayers (or manufacturing) but that was something the state would judge, not those affected.

#4 – Who are democrats and independents that care about the environment and the economy going to vote for in the General Election? A team that can balance the environment with our economic needs or a real estate developer that has developed 35,000 acres and doesn’t care about the environment?

You’re talking to the wrong person if you want to go on an anti-development screed, because there’s nothing wrong with development. If a state or region doesn’t grow economically, it dies. However, while it’s possible Hogan does care about the environment, his agenda has never been formally spelled out. In a subsequent conversation Newgent stated Hogan wanted to address the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam, which will assist in restoring the Bay’s water quality, but we still don’t know where he stands on other aspects of environmental policy such as pulling out of RGGI, or what Chesapeake Bay measures he would cease or continue. Actually, I hope Craig revisits some of the legislation that’s already passed as he said he would.

#5 – Maryland’s economy depends on clean air and water. Farmers and watermen depend on a clean environment, our tourism industry depends on a clean environment. Delegate Haddaway has successfully balanced jobs and the environment; she has consistently earned high scores for her environmental record while still maintaining a 100% business rating (MBRG).

I don’t doubt that because where Jeannie usually falls short on the monoblogue Accountability Project is in the realm of environmental votes like the vote being discussed here. It’s why her lifetime rating is only in the 70s. Government tends to forget the earth does a very good job of healing itself.

So I really don’t buy the talking points. But I also have to consider the source of this slam on Haddaway, and remember: the assertion was that Haddaway’s vote “put the VMT tax on the table.” That cause-and-effect doesn’t compute, because in this term no bill has been introduced to enact a VMT levy. nor did Haddaway write the state’s master transportation plan. Unfortunately, neither VMT prohibition bill ever got past the hearing stage so we don’t have a recorded vote (although she was not a co-sponsor.) Even without the legislation or the master plan, though, it’s likely the greedy Maryland tax collectors would be among the first to seek a VMT whether the GGRA was passed or not. By this token, Haddaway should be given credit for voting against the “rain tax” that some Republicans backed.

Yet this post of mine may never have happened without a patented parting shot from the guys at Red Maryland:

Now this brings us to our friend Michael Swartz, who, in his endorsement of David Craig, wrote that picking Haddaway-Riccio “sealed it” and made “the difference” in his endorsement.

This is curious given Swartz is such a critic (and rightfully so) of the very policies Haddwway-Riccio  not only voted for, but sponsored.

It’s true that I disagreed with the vote, but when I weighed all the evidence I still came out with the Craig team on top. This would be true of any legislator, and had I been here in the initial days of the Ehrlich administration I may not have agreed with all of Larry Hogan’s appointments. As I’ve noted on my Facebook page, Larry was praised by Red Maryland for selecting “the most bipartisan, most inclusive, and most diverse administration in Maryland history.” As I asked there, what about conservative? Being “bipartisan” only seems to work one way in this state.

And unfortunately there was a lack of context in what Newgent quoted, since the reason Haddaway sealed it and made the difference was that Ron George picked a weaker LG candidate. At that point Hogan/Rutherford wasn’t even in the running.

But a particular reason I selected Craig/Haddaway over Larry Hogan was the vague platform Larry’s put out thus far. And the Red Maryland bloggers aren’t helping in that cause – instead, they seem to focus on attacking everyone else in the race. In many cases, it’s legitimate criticism of the others, but they seem to turn a blind eye to actually educating voters on the merits of the candidate they support through discussion of his proposed policies. “Jobs, middle class families, and restoring our economy” are nice catchphrases, but how will you get there?

I did a little reading through Red Maryland just to see what light they have shed on Hogan. Since January they’ve done a total of 17 posts on Larry, ones I found by typing “Larry Hogan” in the search box. A number of those posts were radio show promos, but here’s what else came up:

  • May 21 and 22 posts about the “coordinated effort,” as Ron George and David Craig questioned the connection between Change Maryland and Hogan’s campaign, a legitimate query which RM called “desperate times” from George and Craig.
  • A series of posts May 12 concerning a poll that the authors claimed was evidence Larry could “compete if not win on November 4.”
  • A May 5 article claiming that, “Most candidates have talked solely about reducing taxes, though Larry Hogan…has also focused on the need to reduce spending.” Yet David Craig notes under “Taxes and Fiscal Responsibility” that he will “use this (budgeting) authority (as Governor) to make actual cuts to the budget.” Ron George is a little more vague, but points out he would be “cutting any waste found by these (independent) audits” and would level funding “whenever the economy slows.” The assertion is only correct about Charles Lollar. On May 1, they also promoted Hogan’s “reduce-spending first strategy” as a discussion topic for their radio show.
  • Other articles dealt with milestones like Hogan’s fundraising, first television ad, and initial web advertisement. Hogan was also peripherally mentioned in the Media Matters and Baltimore Sun controversies.

And what did we learn about the others? In 13 posts about David Craig and/or Jeannie Haddaway, they noted the aforementioned VMT tax, her wobbly stance on bond bills, her support of film tax credits which helped her district, and property tax rates in Harford County under Craig. Most of the 13 could be construed as negative. They grudgingly praised Craig’s idea to eliminate the income tax, although the focus of that piece was to hammer Charles Lollar (more on him in a bit.)

Ron George merited just six posts, with just a couple being negative – mainly he was a peripheral mention in a larger Hogan context, although in the controversy over film tax credits Ron got a much larger role when the RM crew railed against fellow blogger Joe Steffen. They did give Ron the chance to clarify his position on the film tax credit issue, but did not on the “desperate times” posts.

And while Hogan had 17 posts, Charles Lollar rated 15, with nearly all of them severely negative towards him. Indeed, Charles was caught in a number of contradictions (as I also noted in my endorsement post) but the venom toward Lollar was palpable. You’d have thought Charles was Anthony Brown, who received 18 posts in the same time frame – in that case, the negativity was more justified.

In all, Red Maryland has done 235 posts (as of this writing) in 2014. As I noted, just 17 promoted Larry Hogan in some way, with 22 others (by my count) talking about other gubernatorial candidates. I will grant I rarely listen to the RM radio network so I don’t know what conversation has come up there, yet it seems that the majority of Red Maryland‘s time is spent painting their non-endorsed candidates in a negative light. And that’s fine because politics ain’t beanbag.

Yet one has to ask: does that help the overall cause for Republicans in Maryland? I’m not saying by any means we should just parrot the talking points, because each candidate has areas which need improvement. When people ask me, I can honestly tell them good things about the four Republican gubernatorial candidates as well as places where we may disagree. Perhaps the RM crew can do the same, but their stance on Hogan seems to be one of “trust us, you’ll like him and we need the change.” I don’t dislike Larry but I do dislike trying someone unproven, and even many who endorse him don’t know all Hogan stands for. They just equate leadership of a development company and a popular social media group – which has brought a number of good issues to the forefront – with being able to run the state. I don’t.

And look what Red Maryland has reaped from this approach, which makes this post seem prophetic. Obviously their promotional appeal fell on deaf ears: there are no candidates advertising on their website or radio network, which only attracts a few hundred listeners a week as shows have dropped off for other outlets or simply faded away over the last several months.

Just as a contrast, this post will be number 191 on the year for me, so the comparison is relatively apples-to-apples. By my count, I have written about Larry Hogan the most (59 posts), with Ron George meriting 45, David Craig 44, and Charles Lollar 36. (Obviously many posts feature more than one candidate.) Many have been critical, but my goal has been to enlighten voters and let them decide. It also helped me out because I was truly undecided on the governor’s race right about up to the time I wrote my endorsement. While I don’t have a radio show (nor any plans to begin one) I do have a solid cadre of local candidates who wanted to advertise here.

If you assume the polls are correct and Larry Hogan wins the primary, I’m assuring you he’ll get my vote in November. It’s the baseline level of support any Republican should give a GOP candidate. But the question is how much support will those who backed other candidates give to Hogan? In some respects, Red Maryland has burned quite a few bridges in the last few months by dropping any pretense of objectivity and becoming Larry Hogan’s attack dog, and that could spill over to other races they involved themselves in, such as the Hough-Brinkley race in Senate District 4 or the free-for-all in House District 31B.

These tactics could shift those races. Already I hear a number of people who say they’ll sit out November if Hogan wins, and that’s not good for any of us. I encourage those people to reconsider, or at the very least find some local races to get involved in.

I probably don’t speak for everyone, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say Red Maryland has let us all down as “Maryland’s premier conservative source.” Endorsing Larry Hogan before he even formally announced was their right, but their actions since haven’t endeared them to many conservatives around the state.

“Thanks for everything you guys have been doing…you’ve been doing a terrific job.” – Larry Hogan on Red Maryland Radio, June 13, 2014.

Has RGGI lived up to its purpose?

Editor’s note, November 2019: This article was originally intended for the Watchdog Wire – Maryland site but since that page no longer exists except in archive form I brought it home.

In the wake of President Obama’s unilateral decision to do something – anything, as long as it doesn’t need approval from Congress – about the perception that climate change is anthropogenic and the United States must take a lead role in changing our planet’s temperature, this may be a good time to review the effects of an earlier attempt at combating global warming known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Nine Northeastern states, including Maryland, are members of this group – the others are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Delaware. New Jersey was also an original member of the cabal but left in 2012 at the behest of their governor, Chris Christie, who called the RGGI effort “gimmicky” and “a failure.” The group, and its associated non-profit corporation, describe themselves as such:

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory market-based regulatory program in the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the power sector.

RGGI, Inc. is a non-profit corporation created to provide technical and administrative services to the states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

While the idea was supposedly one of making utilities pay for the messes they create by using carbon-based fuels to create the electricity we all need, the reality is that RGGI, at least in Maryland, mainly has served as yet another method of redistributing wealth.

In the legislation which codified state participation in RGGI, much of Maryland’s share of the proceeds was assigned to providing direct utility bill assistance to low-income residents as well as energy efficiency programs primarily targeted at low- and moderate-income households. Only about a quarter of the proceeds were targeted for overall rate relief, while just over 10 percent of the auction proceeds were earmarked for renewable energy “public education and outreach.”

This original financial agreement on RGGI proceeds was not without its share of haggling; however, because there’s a lot of money at stake. Out of the nine remaining RGGI states, Maryland ranks second only to New York in total take, with over $276 million raised over the period, including $30.7 million at the latest auction. That’s a lot of weatherstripping, although the MEEHA program spent over $5.9 million last year retrofitting 27 multifamily complexes in its final year, with financial assistance from the federal government’s 2009 stimulus program. Once that assistance ran out the MEEHA program was discontinued, although a new program with direct utility assessments has replaced it and no longer depends on funding from RGGI proceeds.

Yet little is known about the inner workings of RGGI. Through them, we can determine that there have been 20 auctions, which are now scheduled about once a quarter, since the first one in 2007. They release a list of “potential” bidders and various financial data about the auction, but don’t tell who won. One interesting note is that the ratio of allowances awarded to “compliance entities” – utilities – sharply declined in the last two auctions to less than 70 percent after being at or near 100 percent for several previous auctions. It is unclear if this is speculative buying by non-compliance entities hoping to profit on the secondary market or a lack of bidding by compliance entities who have unused allowances remaining after the first control period, which ended March 1, 2012. (This was established by the original Memorandum of Understanding between the original signatory states in 2005. Maryland was the last state to be added to RGGI once Martin O’Malley was elected as governor in 2007.)

But RGGI’s penchant for avoiding transparency in the name of maintaining trade secrets has frustrated those interested in good government. This New Jersey Watchdog story also points out that speculators can drive up the price for allowances, resulting in higher expense for energy providers. It may be a possible explanation why allowance prices – which bottomed out under $2 for several auctions in a row beginning in mid-2010 – have suddenly surged back to $2.80 in March and $3.21 earlier this month, as speculators have picked up over 30% of the available allowances in the last two auctions. Unfortunately, we don’t know the price utilities paid for their allowances as compared to the speculators, as RGGI does not make that information public.

And despite the cheerleaders in the media who believe RGGI is the best thing since sliced bread, others who look at things more skeptically as a “government boondoggle” point out the real aim of the initiative:

At the start of the RGGI process there was a tacit understanding amongst the participants that the real goal of RGGI was to develop the framework for a CO2 cap and trade program that could be used as a model for a national program. After all, the unstated reality is that it could never hope to actually have any impact on global warming.

The full-court RGGI charm offensive, though, has always been strongest in the leftist community, which considers the program a success because:

The market-based carbon-reduction system in RGGI works because proceeds from allowance auctions provide a much-needed revenue source to jumpstart public and private investment in the clean energy economy.

Nothing like creating a market where none would otherwise exist. But criticism like that is dismissed as propaganda from oil company shills, with the Koch brothers a frequent target. Ironically, a Koch affiliate has bid on RGGI allowances in several auctions.

Since the state wasn’t an original signatory, one may ask why Maryland joined RGGI.

As I noted up top, President Obama made the unilateral decision to address global climate change by executive fiat. In Maryland Martin O’Malley also made a similar decision to sign on to RGGI. But while electrical rates continue to climb, the carbon emissions leveled off anyway due to the poor economy. In order to address this seeming contradiction, RGGI allies commissioned a study extolling the benefits of the program.

But when the Analysis Group study assumptions were debunked by the Institute for Energy Research, and it was learned the general idea of trading carbon credits is full of holes for exploitation, it became more apparent that the goal of establishing RGGI was that of finding a roundabout way to establish the carbon tax environmentalists have dreamed of for decades without inciting the wrath of voters by doing so directly from them. It’s easy to establish utilities which regularly make news for asking for rate increases as the bad guys having plenty of money to spare, despite the fact they need consumer purchases at a rate which covers their expenses to survive.

Over twenty auctions the toll, much of which was eventually passed along to ratepayers by the utilities whose free capital was tied up by having to comply with this government mandate, is $1.35 billion shared among the ten participating states. Although some participants have diverted funds from their appointed purpose, states have generally used the money to promote energy efficiency in some manner. In a simple economic sense, utilities are deducting from their bottom line by promoting a reduction in the use of energy.

But the overall question remains, particularly in Maryland: if utilities are willing to cut their own financial throats (and enrich well-connected investors such as Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada, and a slew of energy marketing firms), why is the government needed at all? Our state government has placed itself in a familiar position: writing mandates for energy firms to follow and distributing the proceeds from these regulations to favored special interests in the name of the “public good.” All the while they perpetuate the flawed notion that they’re doing something to reverse an imagined climate change.

Yet until the political climate changes in Annapolis we will be saddled with this redistribution scheme, one which eventually will have a significant impact on utility bills. Future regulations will clamp down on the allowable short tonnage of carbon utilities are allowed to emit from 165 million tons to 91 million tons, meaning that the auction price is sure to increase for the tightened supply and the vicious cycle of increased costs to consumers will accelerate.

While summers will still be hot and humid like always, the only climate change one of chilling the Maryland business climate with higher utility rates.

Christie appears courageous while O’Malley is oblivious

I wouldn’t have expected New Jersey to take the lead on this, but under Chris Christie’s leadership they’re renouncing their membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – this according to Tim Wheeler at a Baltimore Sun blog. I hope this is the start of a trend, with Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Maine racing to see who’s next to pull out of an organization which is unecessarily increasing electric rates in the name of combatting so-called global warming.

It’s interesting as well how Wheeler couches the $162 million Maryland has “raised” (read: extorted out of utility companies and job creators) from the series of auctions held over the last couple years. In truth, our state has helped to create yet another vast wealth redistribution scheme, with dollars flowing from “rich” companies to poor home occupants who need help paying their bills, which are increasing thanks to the state’s mandate. These increases aren’t helping the utilities’ bottom lines.

Yet before I praise Governor Christie for his decision to withdraw, it’s clear that he only believes the organization is “a failure” because his state has passed laws which more directly address the issue. Unfortunately he’s still swilling from the green Kool-Aid, and those who believe he could be the savior of the Republican Party’s 2012 chances had better know where he stands on this issue – it looks pretty well left of center to me.

Certainly Maryland can claim a similar set of regulations in addition to the RGGI statutes, but Governor O’Malley still believes that combatting so-called manmade global warming is “a fight for our children’s future.” At the rate Martin’s driving jobs out of Maryland, our childrens’ future will be spent in states like Texas, Virginia, or Florida anyway.

Besides, any decrease in carbon emissions may well be traced to the economic slowdown rather than any impact RGGI has created. There was a reason cap-and-trade died in Congress last year, and it was because the issue was properly couched as a job-killer and wealth redistribution scheme designed to favor particular “green” businesses at the expense of more tradtional, proven energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas.

And notice what Christie has to say about coal in New Jersey: “(f)rom this day forward any plans that anyone has regarding any type of coal-based generation of energy in New Jersey is over.” Never mind that coal’s cheap, effective, and with proper management not all that polluting – Governor Christie is foolishly taking it off the table in order to be a “leader” in unreliable wind and solar energy. Perhaps there’s more hot air eminating out of Trenton than Annapolis, but the results of wind and solar power for New Jersey will likely be similar to those in Maryland.

In essence, those who are skeptics like me welcome Christie’s decision to pull out of RGGI but believe his reasoning is flawed. For us to expose these hucksters covering a wealth-redistribution scheme in green fig leaves, we need more bold leadership than Christie is exhibiting here.

And while O’Malley is critical of Christie, but for reasons way off base. The proper move is to scrap the mandates along with the membership, and hopefully some other state will lead the way on debunking the cap-and-trade scam once and for all.

Feelgood legislation is one thing, but securing a real, solid-paying job really makes one feel good. Stop listening to the scammers and start reverting to common sense.

Update: Isn’t it interesting how this AP story by Dina Cappiello highlights Christie as a 2012 GOP Presidential example, even though he’s not in the race? Yet it doesn’t bring up the points I make about the remainder of his comments last week and how environmentally friendly they were – must not be in the template.

Odds and ends number 28

Have you ever wondered where the phrase ‘odds and ends’ comes from? Me neither, but I use it to describe posts where I have a number of little items which only need a paragraph or two.

Last week I told you about the drive to send SB167 (in-state tuition for illegal immigrants) to referendum. Well, the battle has another supporter in Delegate Justin Ready, a fellow freshman Republican to Delegate Neil Parrott. In an e-mail to supporters, Ready reminded us that:

Perhaps the worst piece of legislation that passed the General Assembly in the just-concluded session was SB 167: The Dream Act, which gives in-state tuition rates (taxpayer funded benefits) to illegal immigrants. It allows them to attend community colleges and the University System at the in-county and in-state rates.

(snip)

We do have an alternative! The Maryland constitution provides for citizens to petition a passed bill to referendum by obtaining signatures. Several of us in the General Assembly have gotten together, led by Del. Neil Parrott from Washington County, to form a petition drive with dozens of pro-rule of law activists around Maryland. In order to put this measure on the ballot in the 2012 election, we must obtain 55,000 signatures from Maryland registered voters by the end of July. We have to obtain about 20,000 by May 31st. However, these petition drives are extremely tricky because the State Board of Elections looks for any excuse to void or disqualify a signature so we estimate that we’ll need about 35,000 by May 31st and probably closer to 100,000 overall.

I think Ready is right on the money insofar as signatures go, but even if they are received the uphill battle really begins as liberals dig out all the so-called “victims” of this heartless TEA Party initiative. Of course, that can be countered by considering who could be aced out of a spot – perhaps a poor minority youth trying to escape poverty? That angle can play well in PG County and Baltimore City.

Speaking of poor legislation, Maryland continues to play Don Quixote tilting at windmills (well, they’re actually turbines) to be built just a few miles off Ocean City. (Oil platforms will spoil the view, but wind turbines won’t? Get real.) In part, this legislation stemmed from a drive to combat so-called global warming just as another push to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative did.

Well, New Jersey may be rethinking its position on RGGI, and a key Senator in that state made it a bipartisan push. Americans for Prosperity shared this news:

When the original legislation paving the way for New Jersey’s entry into RGGI was passed in 2008, it was done so on a bi-partisan basis. Likewise, dismantling RGGI will require support from members of both political parties.

By joining the movement to repeal RGGI, Senator (Paul) Sarlo became the first Democrat to back the effort to kill this Cap & Trade tax and opened the door for more of his Democrat colleagues in the Legislature to do the same. In fact, at (Thursday’s) press conference Senator Sarlo urged his fellow Democrats today to do just that.

Senator Sarlo did not arrive at this decision lightly. But when presented with the indisputable facts about the RGGI scheme — including its lack of transparency, exploitation by “insiders” looking to speculate and profit
on the backs of ratepayers, as well as the devastating consequences for New Jersey’s economy and jobs — the senator made the call to stand up for New Jersey’s economic future.

Now, I’m not sure if New Jersey leaving RGGI would lead to any other states rethinking their position, although one would suspect newly-installed GOP governors and legislators in Pennsylvania and Maine may be most likely to do so. Unfortunately, Maryland has neither a GOP governor or legislature so utility ratepayers will continue to take it in the shorts for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of Maryland politics, we are now less than a year away from the 2012 primary. (At least we will be when this takes effect.) Hopefully they change the 2014 date to the last week in July because late June is too damn early to me. I like the date as it is in September but federal law changes make that impossible. Nothing like Fedzilla sticking its nose into state’s affairs.

Anyway, I got an e-mail from one of the early U.S. Senate candidates on the GOP side (to face presumptive Democratic nominee, Senator Ben Cardin) offering to do a blog interview with me. So I asked the other two candidates that I’m aware of to match that offer – one is already on the ballot while the other will announce around the first of May.

This doesn’t include Eric Wargotz yet, although my suspicion is that he’ll jump into the race before summer. Hey, I’ll interview him too. He knows I always have plenty of questions.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m giving short shrift to two Democratic hopefuls. But the contest for both Raymond Levi Blagmon and perennial candidate Lih Young will be to manage to get one percent of the vote.

I think that’s enough grist for the mill. I bet you all thought I was taking another long weekend off from the political but you have to admit we’re in the silly season now. The only real big news seems to be the growing GOP Presidental field but no one is really going to be paying much attention to that until at least the Ames Straw Poll and more likely after Labor Day when things start getting serious. By then we’ll have a decent idea of the contenders and the pretenders.

A scam raising your bills

It’s been about two years since Maryland utilities were forced to participate in the scam better known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It’s a scheme which has transferred over $139 million away from the utilities and, to some extent, into state coffers for redistribution to low-income Marylanders.

But, as an investigation by Mark Langerkvist at the New Jersey Watchdog website reveals, while progress has been made toward the stated goal of reducing carbon emissions the auction and carbon market has had little to do with it! Instead, their internal probe revealed that the carbon cap is much higher than actual usage; thus, it’s projected that the per-ton price will be far less than thought and has already plummeted to half its 2009 peak.

So why is the carbon market in a tizzy? For one thing, utilities have been relying more and more on natural gas to generate electricity. Not only did the price for natural gas become much more favorable, but natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal as well – thus, lower emissions. Moreover, general demand for electricity has dropped 7% since the calculations were made. The market demanded more efficiency and businesses made do with less as a cost-saving measure.

All this seems to come as a shock to everyone except those of us with common sense. Yet I don’t see the state of Maryland saying to the utilities and other carbon allowance purchasers, “oops, sorry, you’re reaching these (artifically based) goals without our help so here’s your $139,117,061.91 back.” Instead they’re saying, “suckers!”

And since the Democrats were handily re-elected earlier this month, even that realization won’t end the open season on utilities and their ratepayers. They’ll still insist that we as a state would be better off depending on more expensive (and less reliable) ‘alternative’ sources like wind and solar power – both great ideas except the sun only shines an average of 12 hours a day (when it’s not obscured by clouds) and those days you really want to crank up the air conditioning in the summer tend to be those days where the wind’s not blowing!

(Nor need I mention that the infrastructure to move that juice around isn’t exactly handy, and we’re already staring at an issue with that over the next few years on land, not to mention underwater.)

There has been talk in the past (particularly from New Jersey) about dropping out of RGGI, and Chris Christie would likely be the only governor of the ten involved with the cajones to do so – assuming such legislation could pass since his state likes the cash just as Maryland does. (Maine and Pennsylvania have both elected Republican governors and legislatures, so they could follow suit.)

In a saner legislature, Maryland would follow suit and withdraw from this group which only seems to be effective at wealth transfer and worsening an already poor business climate. Instead, conservatives have far too few seats in the General Assembly so we know the fate of such a bill before it’s even written.

However, that doesn’t mean Maryland Republicans shouldn’t try to overturn legislation which was based on the faulty premise of so-called ‘global warming’ to begin with and which amounts to a hidden tax on utility ratepayers – even if the committee chairs lock the bill in their desk drawers. (Just get a hearing and committee vote out of it, or better yet make withdrawal a floor amendment the next time there’s an energy-related bill. Putting the Democrats on record is what counts here.)

It’s part of the truly needed reforms the state has to undertake to make it a job-friendly zone, and right now the top three issues are jobs, jobs, and jobs. Perhaps the state won’t ever cash in on the possibility of offshore oil or the natural gas that’s likely sitting below its western panhandle, but it can reverse its most egregious laws and make life a little easier for working families.

Postscript: This American Thinker piece by Jeffrey Folks is well worth the read. It nationalizes what we have done as a state.