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OpenMarket: Jonathan Tolman

  • Renewable Energy Not Necessarily Cleaner Than Coal

    April 13, 2009
    One irony of mandating renewable energy is that it isn’t necessarily any cleaner than coal.  One example of this is North Carolina’s mandate for renewable energy derived from chicken litter waste.   Chicken litter waste is composed of wood shavings and of course chicken droppings.  There are plans to build a chicken litter waste plant in North Carolina and one has already been built in Minnesota.

    As it turns out, burning chicken litter waste tends to produce a high level of particulates, high levels of carbon monoxide, high levels of nitrogen oxides, and a high level of arsenic.  The reason the plants produce high levels of particulates and carbon monoxide is because the wood shavings don’t burn as hot as coal and so there is often incomplete combustion.  The high levels of nitrogen oxides come from the fact the chicken waste is high in ammonia and urea.  In fact, chicken waste is...
  • Obama’s Corporate Environmental Income Tax

    February 27, 2009
    Tucked into the EPA budget proposal the Obama administration revealed yesterdays are plans to reinstate the Superfund taxes which expired in 1995 as a way to partially offset the $2.7 billion in increased spending at the EPA.  The administration estimates that the taxes will generate more than $1 billion per year.

    The original Superfund taxes were actually three different taxes, a petroleum tax of 9.7 cents per barrel, a tax on chemical feedstocks, and a so called Corporate Environmental Income Tax of 0.12% on corporate income in excess of $2 million.  Historically 39% percent of the revenue came from the petroleum tax, 18% from the chemical feedstock tax, and 43% from the Corporate Environmental Income Tax.

    Environmentalists like to tout that the Superfund taxes are an example of the “polluter pays” principle. However, the reality of the superfund program is that is supposed to clean...
  • Palaces For The Bureaucrats

    February 3, 2009

    Included in the massive stimulus bill that passed in the House of Representatives are several line items appropriations to renovate federal buildings in Washington.  Included is $150 million to renovate a Smithsonian museum, $500 million for a new National Institutes of Health building, and $400 million for renovating a Social Security Administration building.  For the renovation of the Social Security building, the agency estimates that the renovation will create 400 jobs.  In other words, it will cost $1 million dollars for each job created.

    If you think that is an exorbitant sum for each job, keep in mind that last year the Secretary of Interior renovated the bathroom next too his office on fifth floor of the main Interior Department building.  The total cost -- $235,000, including  a shower, refrigerator, freezer, and monogrammed towels.  Also included in the massive...

  • Renewable Energy Jobs Will Have To Wait

    February 2, 2009
    The porcine stimulus bill passed by the House contains $15 billion in capital investments and loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and new electric transmission lines.  But the billions of dollars targeted toward renewable energy aren’t likely to generate many “green collar” jobs anytime soon.  That’s because the environmental and permitting regulations for these types of projects typically take years.  This is particularly true for new transmission lines.  And without the new transmission lines, new solar or wind power stations won’t bring many benefits.

    For example, the Tehachapi Transmission Project, a 250 mile transmission project to deliver electricity from wind farms in Southern California, took over 10 years to design, permit, and begin construction.  One of the reasons for the long wait is that all of these projects have to go through a lengthy environmental review...
  • Kiss Off to Consumers

    January 27, 2009
    The appropriations portion of the House stimulus bill is not the only legislation with bad ideas.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee has also marked up their portion of the stimulus package.  During the Committee markup, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) inserted a provision that would “decouple” utility rates from the amount of electricity or natural gas that the utilities sell.  According to the “decoupling” provision, states that accept federal energy efficiency grants from the economic stimulus package will have to ensure that utilities recover the revenue lost when consumers use less energy.

    In other words, in states that accept the energy efficiency grants, utilities that use the grants to help consumers lower the energy consumption will be able to raise their rates to compensation for the loss in revenue.  Consumers who participate in the programs may see their energy use go...
  • Green Pork

    January 27, 2009
    In addition to tens of billions of dollars in the House stimulus bill for infrastructure and other projects to create jobs, there are also funding items that appear to do the exact opposite.  For example, the House stimulus bill contains $175 million dollars for Natural Resource Conservation Service to purchase conservation easements in floodplains.  Funding for the program would effectively be spending tax dollars to pay farmers to stop farming.  Not only would such conservation easements not be creating any jobs, they actually would likely be doing the opposite by taking farmland out of production.

    What makes this funding even more egregious is that removing farmland from production tends to increase food prices.  What makes this provision seem even more out of place is the House stimulus bill also includes $200 million in funding for Senior Nutrition Programs, claiming the programs...
  • Regulating Our Way to Recovery

    January 22, 2009

    Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4  Tucked in the massive stimulus bill passed by the House Appropriation Committee is a $4.5 billion appropriation for the Army Corps of Engineers. While the vast majority of the appropriation is for the construction of new water resource projects and for the backlog of maintenance of existing water resource projects, there is also a $25 million appropriation for the Corps of Engineers regulatory program. The Corps regulatory program is the cadre of bureaucrats responsible for processing permits under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, in other words wetlands permits.

    Presumably, the Corps is justifying the increase in their regulatory budget by claiming a backlog in processing permits. But if Congress were serious about...

  • The Not So Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly

    January 21, 2009
    Not all stimulus programs are created equal. If the goal of the latest economic bailout package that Congress is considering is as President Elect Obama has declared, job creation, there is a significant disparity between many of the programs.
  • FEMA -- Fraudulent Emergency Mismanagement Agency

    January 15, 2009
    President Bush has declared an emergency in the District of Columbia for the inauguration of his successor. This unprecedented move will allow FEMA to reimburse state and local governments. In reality the DC government doesn't really view the inaugural as an emergency so much as a reason to throw a giant 5 day party. In December the DC city council passed emergency legislation allowing all bars, restaurants, and nightclubs to serve alcohol until 5 am and to stay open for 24 hours from January 17th through January 20th.

    Given the number of people expected to attend the inaugural this is pretty much a security nightmare for the metropolitan police. Since this is a larger than usual inaugural, the $15 million that Congress has already appropriated to the DC government is already spoken for. Which means the DC government is on the hook for paying the triple overtime for the police,...
  • Even Less to Fear About Plastics

    April 16, 2008
    Following up on Angela's post:

    What is even more egregious about the Post article on Bisphenol A (BPA) is that it fails to put BPA exposure into the proper risk perspective. The principle reason that the National Toxicology Program was reviewing BPA is that its chemical structure is similar to that of estrogen. While this may sound ominous, what the Post article fails to mention is that we are constantly exposed to a variety of other estrogen mimicking compounds in our everyday diet, not from manmade chemicals, but from compounds produced by plants themselves -- so called phytoestrogens. All legumes, for example contain estrogen mimicking compounds with soy products being one of the largest contributors.

    It would have been helpful if the Post had compared the levels of exposure of phytoestrogens to the...
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