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OpenMarket: January 2016

  • Revisiting Gore’s Katrina Innuendo

    January 29, 2016

    In An Inconvenient Truth (pp. 94-95), Al Gore blamed global warming for Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans. Not in so many words but through heavy-handed insinuation no movie goer could miss.

    It seemed plausible because Gore invoked an “emerging consensus linking global warming to the increasing destructive power of hurricanes . . . based in part on research showing a significant increase in the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes.”

    The research to which Gore alluded was Webster et al. (2005), a study which found a significant increase in the number and percentage of category 4 and 5 hurricanes during 1970-2004. The study was hotly debated at the time. For example, on the same day Science magazine published the Webster...

  • Twenty-Six States Appeal to Supreme Court To Stay EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Rule for New Power Plants

    January 29, 2016

    West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on 26th January filed on behalf of twenty-six States an appeal of the DC Circuit Court’s refusal to grant an immediate stay of the EPA’s final greenhouse gas rule for new power plants. The U. S. Chamber, National Association of Manufacturers, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, National Federation of Independent Business, and twelve other industry associations filed a similar appeal on 27th January. Murray Energy announced last week that they would also file an appeal.

    The AGs’ ...

  • Lyft Drivers Remain Independent Contractors

    January 28, 2016

    A California class-action lawsuit against ridesharing company Lyft has been settled without trial. In the settlement, Lyft agreed to pay its drivers, their lawyers, and government a total of $12.25 million, and to adjust some of its terms and conditions as well as adding some features to its app (such as a “favorite driver” feature to enable repeat reservations). The settlement also means that Lyft drivers will remain classified as independent contractors rather than employees.

    This was an important test case for the sharing economy. Platform apps create two-sided markets whereby independent contractors can find customers more easily. They also provide a trust system for contractors and customers, and a payment conduit. I discuss these roles in more detail ...

  • In FERC Ruling, Supreme Court Announces Dangerous New "No Man's Land" Principle

    January 28, 2016

    On January 26, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the federal government in a high profile case, FERC v. Electric Power Supply Association. Media reports have focused on how the Court’s ruling boosts federal efforts to advance a policy known as “demand-side management,” whereby grid operators “manage” ratepayer demand by paying retail consumers to not use electricity during periods of peak demand. In fact, demand-side management is a stupid idea because the alternative—lifting electric socialism and allowing the price mechanism to regulate demand—is so much more efficient.

    However, for this post, the policy implications of the Court’s decision are merely an unpleasant aside....

  • Doomsday Clockamamie

    January 28, 2016

    “It is still three minutes to midnight,” proclaims The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in their latest “Doomsday Clock” report. The Atomic Scientists welcome the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement as “incremental moves” towards a more “sustainable” planet. Nonetheless, they warn, “the hands of the Doomsday Clock must remain at three minutes to midnight, the closest they've been to catastrophe since the early days of above-ground hydrogen bomb testing.”

    The notion that men in white lab coats can calculate the imminence or likelihood of global apocalypse is almost too ludicrous to entertain. Nonetheless, let us proceed as if the Atomic Scientists were engaged in legitimate research rather a propaganda exercise.

    Way back in ...

  • War on Logging Claims another Casualty

    January 28, 2016

    Sierra Pacific Industries is permanently closing its Arcata, California, sawmill, a third-generation family-owned forest products company and one of largest landowners in the United States. First built by Red Emmerson’s father in 1951, it was out on the Samoa Peninsula in Arcata, on the northern California coast.

    The main reason for the closing is that the company couldn’t harvest suitably sized logs from the forests—in addition to all the other growing regulatory burdens and the prolonged recession and slow housing market. Sierra Pacific tried to truck in logs from California’s interior and ship them from Washington State and British Columbia, but it proved way too expensive.

    Now Canadian firms are shipping in the logs and timber that American...

  • State Attorney General Climate Change Investigations Are Unconstitutional

    January 27, 2016

    Should government officials be able to cut off donations to groups because they employ people disparaged as “climate change deniers,” even if the group in question is a think tank that studies a wide range of topics, only a few of which relate to climate change at all, and the “denial” in question includes telling politically inconvenient truths about the cost of proposed climate change legislation? Only a single-issue zealot with ideological blinders and a contempt for the First Amendment would think so. 

    But that hasn’t stopped New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and California Attorney General Kamala Harris investigating Exxon, partly...

  • Is Any Component of Obama's Energy Policy Not Shrouded in Obfuscation?

    January 26, 2016

    ​Last week, Bloomberg News’s Toluse Olorunnipa tweeted from a Detroit auto show that President Obama “slammed” Republicans for having predicted high gas prices during his administration. According to Olorunnipa, the president said, “I don't know what y'all paying right now, but it ain't no $6.50.”

    Only one year before, in a virtually identical context, President Obama was singing the exact opposite tune. Then, as now, gas prices were low. Then, as now, Americans were flocking to SUVs and light trucks, resulting in record sales for domestic car manufacturers. Then—last January, in an exclusive interview with The Detroit News—the president warned that it would be...

  • RealClear Radio Hour: Endangered Fishermen & Hudson Valley Extinction

    January 26, 2016

    This week’s RealClear Radio Hour brings a blizzard of content directly to your listening device. As those on the east coast recover from the dizzying storm, we think it’s vital to get right back into the policy swing with two very important guests.

    First up this week is David Goethel, New England groundfisherman and board member of the Center for Sustainable Fisheries. David describes new regulations that even the government expects will bankrupt more than half the industry. Goethel and fellow East Coast fishermen are suing the Department of Commerce over the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) recent decision to make fishermen pay for private contractors who will serve as regulatory at-sea monitors.

    ...
  • NLRB's Joint Employer Ruling Challenged in Court

    January 25, 2016

    CEI applauds Browning-Ferris’ stand against the National Labor Relations Board's upending of employment liability and flexibility, otherwise known as the new joint employment standard. 

    The NLRB regulators last year unilaterally changed the definition of who is a joint employer in a way that could expose tens of thousands of businesses nationwide to increased costs and liability by making one employer responsible for another’s actions. The NLRB’s action will block a path toward entrepreneurship, reduce job creation,...

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