April 29, 2008
Cellulosic ethanol—derived from wood scraps and other forms of inedible plant mass-- may or may not turn out to be a real technological breakthrough. On the one hand, it could reduce the ruinous impacts of grain-based ethanol on food prices. On the other hand, the extensive set of federal mandates and subsidies for cellulosic ethanol is not a good omen—good technologies rarely need federal help, and the existence of federal aid is often a tip-off that a new technology is a loser.
Regarldess of whether you believe it's a crisis or not, it's called Global Warming, not California WarmingNovember 8, 2007California this week sued EPA for failing to grant it a waiver, under the Clean Air Act, that would allow the state to impose its own greenhouse gas emissions rules on new cars. If California succeeds in imposing its own super-stringent emission rules on cars, it will have no measurable effect whatsoever on future temperatures, whether measured globally or statewide. It will, however, have a disastrous impact on California consumers, and perhaps on the rest of the American public.
California also recently sued the auto industry, demanding monetary damages for the fact that its cars emit carbon dioxide. The state lost that case. Hopefully, it will lose this one as well.
September 13, 2007At my temple last night the rabbi's sermon started off beautifully, examining Rosh Hashanah as the birthday of the world. But it quickly turned into a "go green" lecture: global warming, wasteful consumption, the need to conserve energy, etc. etc. As the sermon went on and on, I turned to my daughter and suggested that, in order to actually conserve some energy, we find the light switches for the temple and turn them off. Her response: "And the mike too."
August 15, 2007NASA's recent downgrading of 1998 as the warmest recorded year in the US should automatically overturn the Supreme Court's global warming decision, no? After all, the majority opinion in that bitter 5-4 split expressly noted the view that “1998 was the â€˜warmest year on record.'” So since 1998 now turns out to have been a tiny bit cooler than 1934, that voids the Court's ruling, right?
April 20, 2007Earlier this week Nicole Nason, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the following in describing the allegedly new interest of consumers in vehicle safety:
Ms. Nason was addressing the Society of Automotive Engineers 2007 World Congress.
Ms. Nason needs to get a better grip on her metaphors. Ever since the 1978 Jonestown mass suicide, the primary meaning of the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” has been to blindly take poison at the urging of some leader.
Now it's true...
March 29, 2007Is there a special award for someone who lays out a lengthy argument in support of some law, and then yanks the rug out from under himself at the very end?
Consider this letter in today's Wall St. Journal from Edgar Dworsky, head of Consumer World. Mr. Dworsky, a former Mass. assistant attorney general, defends a state law that requires groceries to mark prices on every individual item they sell. He devotes over 10 column-inches to explaining how convenient individually price-marked items are for shoppers, and how little it costs storekeepers.
Perhaps that's true, perhaps not.
But then Mr. Dworsky concludes with this zinger: "Does it cost money to mark prices on goods? Certainly. The real question is whether consumers are willing to pay that...
March 5, 2007Global warming deniers could perhaps dismiss the breakup of the polar ice caps as a far away phenomenon irrelevant to their daily lives. But now climate change is striking closer and closer to home, causing premature calving of the much-beloved Toronto ice sheet: "Police closed several major Toronto streets Monday after huge slabs of ice started skidding off skyscrapers in the city's downtown core."
February 8, 2007The growth in air travel is one of the culprits behind the alleged global warming crisis. (See, for example, Cheap Air Travel Adding to Global Warming Woes). Yet while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in the forefront of the congressional push to deal with global warming, she's also been pushing for an upgrade in the special military airplane service available exclusively to her.
This sort of resembles the Duke of Wellington's view of railroads when they were introduced in Britain in the 1800s: they would, he sniffed, "only encourage the common people to move about needlessly". The Duke, of course, never had much problem moving about, nor much need to justify it to anyone else.
Whether technologies upset the aristocracy or...
December 7, 2006It's a heart-warming ad, literally. A poverty-striken mother and daughter sit freezing in their unheated home in the dead of winter, trying to warm themselves with a small cooking stove. But then a fuel truck pulls up and a band of smiling deliverymen pile out and fill up the family's oil tank. Now they'll be warm.
The tagline, if I remember it correctly from when I saw the tv spot earlier this week, is “low-cost oil for those in need, brought to you by the good people of Venezuela and Citizens Energy.”
Now there's been quite a bit of controversy over Hugo Chavez's program to distribute discount-priced oil to the needy in this country. But I've got a question about...
November 30, 2006One comment from yesterday's Supreme Court hearing that's getting a lot of press is Justice Scalia's question to the attorney for the petitioning states about the imminence of harm to the states: "I mean, when is the predicted cataclysm?"
The attorney answered: "The harm does not suddenly spring up in the year 2100; it plays out continuously over time."
I suspect that this exchange will be portrayed, by some, as illustrating the gap between the scientifically uneducated and the scientifically erudite. After all, Justice Scalia himself later noted that he's "not a scientist", whereas counsel for the petitioning states was probably quite familiar with the underlying science.
But later in the argument that attorney said: "... our harm is imminent in the sense that lighting a fuse on a bomb is imminent harm ...."
That sounds pretty cataclysmic to me. If you're delving...