Publication Archives: Blog

StateWatch

PETA’s “Sea Kitten” Campaign

The folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have launched a new campaign to rename fish.  Instead, they argue, we should call them “sea kittens.”  Giving fish a more cuddly name will, I guess, save more fish.  Maybe?  I don’t know, I don’t understand.

You can try it out at PETA’s website (I’m not linking them here).  Here is the sea kitten I created:

Cow Tax

The EPA, last year, published its Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) for regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act.  One of the suggestions the EPA made to regulate GHG is to levy a tax on livestock.

“The tax for dairy cows could be $175 per cow, and $87.50 per head of beef cattle. The tax on hogs would upwards of $20 per hog,” the release said. “Any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs would have to obtain permits.”

Analysts predict that it would raise the cost to produce a gallon of milk by about $0.08.  It would also drive up the production cost of beef and pork.  These costs will be passed on to the consumer.

Prominent politicians on both sides of the aisle can be pretty out of touch with cost of staple foods (John Edwards and Rudy Guliani are examples), so maybe the suggestion of a mere 8 cent raise in milk prices isn’t a big deal.  But to the average American family it sure is.  To the family that has seen the cost of milk, bread and eggs nearly double (in the case of eggs, it more than doubled), in the past few years, additional spikes in food costs are hard to swallow.

Regulating GHG emissions by taxing everyday food items is a bad idea as it hurts people who buy food (which, if my calculations are correct, is a lot of people!). It will also hurt small farmers especially, as the profit margin for small farmers is already pretty small and the additional transaction costs associated with applying for permits and paying a new tax will only hurt

11,391 More “Bridges to Nowhere”

Robert Poole, director of transportation at the Reason Foundation, had an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal on December 10.

In short, this country’s mayors have gotten together and asked Congress for money.  Surprised?  Probably not.  In all, 427 cities offered up a total of 11,391 “infrastructure” projects for the low price of $73,163,299,303, which would create 847,641 jobs.

Some of the projects include:

  • Euless, Texas, wants $15 million for the Midway Park Family Life Center, which, you’ll be glad to note, includes both a senior center and aquatic facility.
  • Natchez, Miss., “needs” a new $9.5 million sports complex “which would allow our city to host major regional and national sports tournaments.”
  • Hercules, Calif., wants $2.5 million in hard-earned taxpayer money for a “Waterfront Duck Pond Park,” and another $200,000 for a dog park.

Poole points out that our nation’s roads and bridges are in terrible shape.  Every few months a bridge seems to collapse.  But collapsing bridges surely aren’t as important as dog parks and tennis courts, right?

EPA Rolls Out Most Wanted List

The EPA has rolled out a Most Wanted List fugitives who committed environmental crimes.

I just have one question.

Why in the world aren’t Greenpeace, or any of the eco-terrorist groups like Animal Liberation Front, Earth First!, and the arsonists at Earth Liberation Front, on that list?

Detroit: The Blue-Green Bailout

Timothy Carney had an excellent post in yesterday’s DC Examiner regarding the possible bailout of the Big Three automakers.  Carney points out that a bailout of the car companies will allow the federal government to force all kinds of environmental restrictions on automobiles.  Greater fuel efficiency, alternative fuels, punishment for gas guzzling, etc., are just a few of the possibilities.  Forcing these changes immediately will be prohibitively expensive for an industry that is claiming that it just needs help getting back on its feet.  This won’t help.

Add to the green portion of the bailout that the federal government won’t go after the resource draining unions.  According to CNSNews, the average auto worker could cost the company about $133,000 year in total employment costs (this is not just the worker’s pay):

One reason why, they say, is the ultra-high labor costs for union workers employed by the Big Three. It costs over $73 per hour on average to employ a union auto worker, according to University of Michigan at Flint economist Mark J. Perry.

He explained that in 2006, widely available industry and Labor Department statistics placed the average labor cost for UAW-represented workers at the former DaimlerChrysler at $75.86 per hour. For Ford it was $70.51, he said, and for General Motors it was $73.26.

“That includes the hourly pay, plus the benefits they’re receiving and all the other costs to General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, including legacy costs – retirement costs, pensions, and so on – so it’s looking at the total labor costs per hour worked for workers,” Perry said.

For U.S. workers at Toyota, however, the per hour labor cost is around $47.60, around $43 for Honda and around $42 for Nissan, Perry added, for an average of around $44.

“So we’re looking at somewhere around a $29 per hour pay gap between the Big Three and the foreign transplants that are producing cars in the United States,” Perry, chairman of the economics department, told CNSNews.com.

The average union worker at Chrysler, meanwhile, received 150 percent more in compensation than U.S. workers generally.

“Using Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, the average compensation for manufacturing workers is around $31.50, and the average hourly compensation, including benefits, for the average worker in the U.S. economy is around $28.50,” Perry told CNSNews.com.

If you annualize Chrysler’s labor cost of $75.86 an hour per worker over a 35-hour week, for 50-weeks a year, the yearly compensation comes in at almost $133,000 per worker per year.

So the federal government’s plan is to force automakers to take on hugely expensive “green” initiatives while offering federal protection to the excessive cost of union labor.  Apparently, two wrongs will somehow make a right?

National Security Trumps the NRDC

The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 in favor of the Navy being allowed to use high intensity sonar in war games.  Earlier this year, the NRDC sued the Navy to block this practice, arguing that the sonar was dangerous for whales and dolphins.  The Navy argued that this was a matter of national security and that the war games should be allowed to continue unhindered.

You can read more about the story in an earlier blog post, available here.

Obama’s First Economic Stimulus Package?

While it won’t be officially announced by president-elect Obama, his first economic stimulus package appears to be on its way.

People are lining up in droves to spend exorbitant amounts of money to purchase tickets and a place to stay in the DC area during Inauguration week.  Tickets are free to the lucky few that can get them, but a market has popped up for the rest of us.  Inauguration tickets are selling on Craigslist for anywhere between $800 to $10,000 for a pair! (Caveat: I do not recommend these listings for purchasing tickets, I’m just pointing out what people are listing them for)

Accommodations make tickets look cheap.  Craigslist has loads of people generously offering a spare bedroom or an apartment for the week.  Prices start around $3,000/week! (Same caveat: not recommened)  That’s just to start.  The Fairmont Hotel in Foggy Bottom is offering their ultra-exclusive “Eco-Inaugural” package (that is a whole other issue).  The four-night extravaganza includes the exclusive use of a Lexus hybrid vehicle, with a driver, his and her organic spa treatments with a massage and manicures.  This one clocks in at $40,000 total.

If you’re doing the math at home, the high-end package, with tickets, might run you a cool $50,000.  Even for an Inaugural ceremony this historic, that seems like a lot of money.

If the purpose of an economic stimulus package is to get people spending their money, then it looks like its working.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to post an ad on Craigslist.

The Answer Could Be Nuclear Power

Hyperion Power Generation, a New Mexico based power company, claims that it has developed a mini-nuclear power generator.  It is roughly the size of a hot tub and can produce about 25 megawatts of electricty, which is enough to power 20,000 average sized homes or a major industrial park.  They will cost $25 million each and Hyperion says production can begin within 5 years.

The potential of a project like this one cannot be understated.  These mini-nuclear power generators come relatively cheaply considering that one can give remote and isolated communities access to a plentiful supply of cheap energy.  Considering one of the greatest challenges that developing countries face is cheap energy, this is a major innovation.  Water purification systems, reliable medical care, refrigeration, and basic industry are among the almost endless possibilities.

Hyperion promises that this nuclear power is safe and highly unlikely to be able to be converted to weapons grade nuclear material except by the most sophisticated of countries.  But those countries have the capabilities already, so the risk is negligible.

Finally, nuclear energy is clean.  Even environmentalists are starting to agree.  Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, agrees that nuclear power holds a lot of promise.  Unsuprisingly, nuclear power got a bad rap after major problems at Three Mile Island and the meltdown at Chernobyl.  Doomsayers ignore the fact that technology has come a long ways in 30 years and is considerably safer than any other viable form of energy.  That’s right, nuclear power is safe.

Safe, cheap, and accessible.  Go nuclear!

Economic Freedom and Environmental Regulation

The Pacific Research Institute recently released its “U.S. Economic Freedom Index: 2008 Report” and the results are pretty interesting.

PRI defines economic freedom as “the right of individuals to pursue their interests through voluntary exchange of private property under rule of law.”  Thus, the more easily two individuals can freely exchange goods, property, services, etc., the more economic freedom he or she has.  Thus, a state with greater economic freedom is simply a state in which its citizens enjoy greater economic freedom.

There is a lot of very interesting information in the report, but I want to focus specifically on the correlation between a state’s economic freedom score and that state’s environmental regulations.  Consider the five least economically free states on PRI’s report:

46.  Pennsylvania

47.  California

48.  New Jersey

49.  Rhode Island

50.  New York

If one were listing the five states with the most restrictive environmental regulations, the list would include at least a couple of these states.  It is probably not coincidental that states with more environmental regulations tend to come in lower on the economic freedom index.  There are at least two reasons for this.

First, there tends to be a more pro-big government mentality in many of these states.  State governments already have significant control over the state and it is difficult, if not impossible, for government to scale back its own size.  Not that it can’t happen, but it doesn’t tend to happen.

Second, these states harbor some of the largest and most powerful environmentalist groups in the country.  While most of the larger organizations are nationwide, these organizations have a particularly strong hold over states at the bottom of the economic freedom index.  As long as environmentalist groups make up a very powerful lobby, it will be difficult for some of these states to reform their economically crippling environmental regulations.

Note that I am only pointing out a strong correlation between more environmental regulation and less economic freedom.  I am not claiming that an increase in environmental regulation causes significant losses of economic freedom, although the potential is there.  It is simply worth nothing that, whether coincidentally or not, people should be aware that environmental legislation and regulation can be very economically harmful.

King Bloomberg of Manhattan Wants to Tax Grocery Bags

From the Petty Green Tyranny Department, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to nickel and dime consumers by slapping a 5-cent tax on plastic grocery bags.