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OpenMarket: Risk and Consumer Freedom

  • Bear-faced Opportunism

    December 28, 2006
    With the bald eagle poised to come off the endangered species list (huzzah!), another species of charismatic megafauna is needed to replace it as the Endangered Species Act's totem.  Step forward, the polar bear:
    The Bush administration has decided to propose listing the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, putting the U.S. government on record as saying that global warming could drive one of the world's most recognizable animals out of existence. The proposal--described by an Interior Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity--stems from the fact that rising temperatures in the Arctic are shrinking the sea ice that...
  • Subsidies don't work

    December 22, 2006
    A good story in the New York Times about how subsidies to domestic oil and gas producers are a waste of taxpayer dollars:
    Analysts said the meager impact of royalty incentives was not surprising: for oil and gas companies deciding whether to drill in deep water, the potential money involved in royalty incentives is small compared with the money at stake in changes of market prices. Eliminating royalties on oil or gas will save a company 12 to 16 percent on some of its production. But those savings are minuscule compared with the nearly fourfold increase in oil prices from $15 a barrel in 1999 to more than $70 this summer.
    CEI has long opposed federal subsidies to oil and gas companies. As it's Christmas...
  • TSA -- Unsafe at Any Altitude

    December 21, 2006
    If you're flying this holiday season, once you're on board the plane — after getting through with the stripping of belt and shoes, the unfolding of laptops, the confiscation of liquids, and possible patdowns — you may want to whip out a book the Transportation Security Administration doesn't want you to read. The new book that lays bare the TSA's sorry record at flight security is called Unsafe at Any Altitude. Don't let the sensational title fool you. Being the author of Eco-Freaks: Environmentalism Is Hazardous to Your Health...
  • The tension between science and alarmism

    December 21, 2006
    Early last month, at about the time of the publication of the Stern Review with its inclusion of "catastrophe" in its analysis of the risks of global warming, Mike Hulme, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, warned that things were getting out of hand:
    I have found myself increasingly chastised by climate change campaigners when my public statements and lectures on climate change have not satisfied their thirst for environmental drama and exaggerated rhetoric. It seems that it is we, the professional climate scientists, who are now the (catastrophe) sceptics. How the wheel turns.
    He concluded:
    I believe climate change is real, must be faced and action taken. But the discourse of catastrophe is in danger of tipping society onto a negative, depressive and...
  • What do economists really think about global warming

    December 20, 2006
    Robert Whaples of Wake Forest University has the answer. He polled American economists and found:
    The results show that most economists are not alarmed by the likelihood of continued carbon dioxide emissions. The Great Depression of 1929 to 1933 caused inflation-adjusted GDP to fall a numbing 27%. Few economists think that rising GHGs will have anywhere near this impact - only one in eight predict that GDP will fall by more than 10 percent. Almost twice as many believe that rising greenhouse gas levels will cause the economy to grow. The most popular response is that rising greenhouse gas levels will have virtually no impact on income per person (less than 1 percent lower or higher). The vast majority (73.2%) predict that the impact will be less than 5 percent one way or the other. (Here are the...
  • This, however, is not satire

    December 19, 2006
    Last year, a British MP calculated that Santa Claus' annual trip round the world was environmentally damaging:
    It has been calculated that Santa's team of nine reindeer would emit methane with a global warming impact equivalent to more than 40,600 tonnes of greenhouse gases on the 122 million mile Christmas Eve dash to deliver presents around the world. That would make his marathon sleigh ride almost as environmentally damaging as an aircraft, which would produce approximately 41,500 tonnes of on the Christmas Eve trip.
    The MP of course had some sanctimonious advice for Father Christmas:
    The methane calculations were made by Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Tom Brake. He said the best Christmas present for the environment would be if Santa took the bus, which would keep his total...
  • Government leavin' the yout' on the shelf

    December 19, 2006
    When I was a young lad in northern England, there was much distress as the Thatcher government swallowed the bitter pill and proceeded to shut down or privatize loss-generating nationalized industries that existed primarily as "make work" programs.  The Specials' 1981 hit "Ghost Town" was an early cry of outrage.  The lines "No job to be found in this country" and "People gettin' angry" sum up the reaction of many thousands, an attitude that survives to this day in the North of England. Today, economist Don Boudreaux explains just why scarcity of jobs is never a problem and why government attempts to make work are misguided shots at the wrong target.
  • Model article

    December 19, 2006
    Excellent article from Ryan Meyer of the Center for Science, Policy and Outcomes at the University of Arizona on the inadequacies of models that purport to assess the damages of global warming.  Read the whole thing, but two specific points are well worth excerpting:
    The a priori assumption that global climate change is the only global change problem we need to deal with is misguided. Starting with climate change as the central problem, and then building a model around variables that plausibly can be linked to climate change, will of course yield a picture of the future in which climate change is the dominant problem. If one insists on framing problems in global terms, climate should be just one of many changes important to the future of humans on Earth. The...
  • DDT and Malaria: The Misanthropes Strike Back!

    December 19, 2006
    The recent decision by the World Health Organization to recommend selective indoor spraying to control malaria seemed to signal a recognition on the part of environmentalists that “small” environmental risks could be accepted when the human gains were great. Sigh — it appears that this is not to be. The internet is abuzz with attacks on the WHO reforms, arguing that bed nets are a superior solution, a solution not requiring rethinking the relative risks of DDT. They raise the issue of mosquitoes becoming resistant to DDT — less of a problem than they think since the major impact of DDT is to deter mosquitoes from residing in the sprayed room, not killing them. Not sure how resistant builds up in these cases. Also, bed nets require significant behavioral changes. People must arrange their lives to sleep enclosed, the nets must be cared for (torn nets don't protest), and...
  • They Call It Conservation

    December 18, 2006
    You know all of those enviro activists who are constantly hectoring us about the amount of energy we use (and allegedly waste) here in the profligate United States of America? Well their dreams seem to have come true in western Washington state recently, where hundreds of thousands of residents have been conserving 100% of their usual electricity usage, as their power has been out due to storm damage. This outage, in turn, has caused many residents to turn to unreliable, unsafe alternatives to keep themselves and their families from freezing at night. Those emergency alternatives, including indoor generators and charcoal grills, have been responsible for up to 100 deaths due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. There...


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