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  • The latest on the Conspiracy to Keep the Poor Poor

    January 29, 2007 5:46 PM

    Over at, columnist Mary Katharine Ham comments on the premiere of the documentary Mine Your Own Business (the screening was co-sponsored by CEI). She quotes the World Wide Fund for Nature's Mark Fenn, who in the film makes this gem of an admission:

    "In Madagascar, the indicators of quality of life are not housing. They're not nutrition, specifically. They're not health in a lot of cases. It's not education. A lot of children in Fort Dauphin do not go to school because the parents don't consider that to be important…People are economically disadvantaged, people have no jobs, but if I could put you with a family and you could count how many times in a day that that family smiles…then you tell me who is rich and who is poor..."

    She also includes video footage of filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney facing protesters from Greenpeace who gathered outside the venue. Worth reading and worth watching. Enjoy.

  • The "scientific consensus" is no longer alarming enough for global warming alarmists

    January 29, 2007 4:28 PM

    Some global warming alarmists, including a few scientists, are complaining about the forthcoming Fourth Assessment Report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Apparently, the twenty-odd page Summary for Policymakers isn't alarming enough for them. Thus, after years of establishing the IPCC reports as representing the scientific consensus -- from which there is no appeal and upon which thousands of the world's top scientists work and about which all agree that it's perfect -- now the alarmists are trying out a new song and dance. To wit: The Assessment Reports are the work of the establishment and therefore can only come to very "conservative" conclusions so as not to offend anyone.

    Tell that to Dr. R. K. Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, who announced early in his tenure that the problem with the first three Assessment Reports is that they didn't have enough scary material to promote the Kyoto agenda and promised that the Fourth would be different. That may still be the case since the thousand-or-so page Working Group 1 report won't be published until May or June.

  • It's Hotter Than the White Party: Miami's Big Plans

    January 29, 2007 11:54 AM

    Cuban exiles have long been looking forward to the day when their homeland is no longer goverend by aging revolutionary Fidel Castro, but now the city of Miami (where more than a few ex-cubanos find themselves living) is going beyond wistful daydreams and making concrete plans for Castro Is Dead Day:

    The city of Miami is planning an official celebration at the Orange Bowl whenever Cuban president Fidel Castro dies.Discussions by a committee appointed earlier this month by the city commission to plan the event have even covered issues such as a theme to be printed on T-shirts, what musicians would perform, the cost and how long the celebration would last.

    Such a gathering has long been part of the city's plan for Castro's death, but firming up the specifics has been more urgent since Castro became ill last summer and turned over power to his brother, Raul.

    As much as I'd like to see Castro out of business, isn't there something odd about an official government body deciding how free people will be expected to celebrate the demise of a socialist dictator? I say leave the t-shirt slogans up to the street vendors and limit the government's involvement to discouraging celebratory gunfire into the air. It is Miami, after all.

  • Risky Academic Business

    January 26, 2007 4:13 PM

    The management of risk has long been an area of interest at CEI, so we will be watching with interest the development of a new position at the University of Cambridge: professor of risk.

    What are the odds of being poisoned or marrying the wrong person? How dangerous is it to catch a plane? Is it worth taking a punt on the stock market? Whether it's health or wealth, we're expected to weigh up the risks of everyday living.

    But even though we might be given the statistics, it's not always easy to put such numbers into a meaningful perspective.

    So in an attempt to help people and institutions make sense of statistics, the University of Cambridge is creating a new professorship, the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk.

    Funded by a £3.3m donation, appropriately from a hedge fund manager, the professorship will "play an important role in clarifying the understanding of risk in many fields of human endeavour".

    "The way to confront risk is via mathematics and statistics," says Professor Geoffrey Grimmett, head of the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics.

    And the challenge for the new professor will be to help the public to navigate the numbers thrown at them.

    "People are bombarded with information - but how do they reach a useful mind-frame to guide their decisions?"

  • More fuel on the "food or fuel" issue

    January 26, 2007 3:34 PM

    “If the country is going to meet the ethanol industry's corn needs, we're going to have to cut back on feed, cut back on food.” So said an agricultural economist in another news article today about the soaring price of corn because of the ethanol frenzy.

    Back in September 2006 Dennis Avery was predicting that very dilemma in his CEI monograph, “Biofuels, Food, or Wildlife? The Massive Land Costs of U.S. Ethanol.” Read the whole report for more insights like these:

    There are significant trade-offs, however, involved in the massive expansion of the production of corn and other crops for fuel. Chief among these would be a shift of major amounts of the world's food supply to fuel use when significant elements of the human population remains ill-fed. Even without ethanol, the world is facing a clash between food and forests. Food and feed demands on farmlands will more than double by 2050. Unfortunately, the American public does not yet understand the massive land requirements of U.S. corn ethanol nor the unique conditions that have allowed sugar cane ethanol to make a modest energy contribution in Brazil.

    The United States might well have to clear an additional 50 million acres of forest—or more—to produce economically significant amounts of liquid transport fuels. Despite the legend of past U.S farm surpluses, the only large reservoir of underused cropland in America is about 30 million acres of land—too dry for corn— enrolled in the Conservation Reserve. Ethanol mandates may force the local loss of many wildlife species, and perhaps trigger some species extinctions. Soil erosion will increase radically as large quantities of low-quality land are put into fuel crops on steep slopes and in drought-prone regions.

  • Will Bush repeal ethanol tariff? Don't bet on it.

    January 26, 2007 3:32 PM

    From a free-market perspective, the only redeeming social value in the Bush Administration's biofuels initiative is the proposal to lift the 54-cents-a-gallon tariff and 2.5 percent ad valorem duty on imported ethanol.

    Think about it for a moment. If the goal is to lower gasoline prices and increase the diversity of fuels available to American consumers, then ending the virtual ban on Brazilian ethanol -- which comes from sugarcane and is less expensive than the Iowa-corn-fed variety -- is a no-brainer. Ditto if the goal is to damp the flow of petrodollars to Middle East governments suspected of funding terrorists.

    But Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa takes strong exception to the Administration's proposal. Given Washington's addiction to pork and the prominence of the Iowa Caucuses in the upcoming presidential cycle, I'm putting my money on Grassley.

  • Kyoto = blackouts

    January 26, 2007 3:31 PM

    I recently debated a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) activist on global warming and the future of the U.S. electricity supply. The activist made the "negawatts" argument that conservation should be our leading source of power. Utilities, she said, should not plan to build new capacity until they have exhausted every option to improve their energy efficiency and that of their customers.

    The debate took place in the conference center of a hotel in St. Petersburg Beach, Fla. In the Q&A segment, a representative from the local utility noted that the population in their service area was projected to grow by 1 million people in the next three years. "Efficiency enhancements may help us manage demand in our existing customer base," he said, "but there's no way we can serve a million new customers without new capacity" (or words to that effect). Moreover, he noted, what was needed was new baseload capacity, which would have to be either coal or nuclear.

  • North v South 2.0

    January 26, 2007 3:16 PM

    We often hear that global warming is a global problem that requires a global solution. The developing world, on the other hand, wants none of that:

    At a gathering of 2,400 of the world's most powerful people at Davos, a ski resort in the Swiss Alps, leaders from emerging nations said they wanted the United States, European Union and others in the West to be more accountable for the heat-trapping emissions their cars and factories produce.

    They also asserted their right to stoke their own economies, even if greenhouse gas levels rise as a result.

    While this smacks of having their cake and eating it, the developing countries are right in the latter assertion. They deserve to be able to expand their economies. In doing so, they will make themselves more resilient to the damaging effects of global warming, if there are any. Adaptation in turn, by reducing the costs of global warming, makes the argument for mitigation less compelling. In short, the best repsonse to global warming is not to engage in some meaningless North-South war, but to expand free trade and liberalize developing world economies to make them richer.

  • Dependent on whom?

    January 26, 2007 12:05 PM

    Senator Inhofe makes some very pertinent and often ignored points in his Human Events article today:

    The fact of the matter is that the country is over 70% self-sufficient when we consider total energy (coal, nuclear, hydro, renewables, gas, etc). Although much of that dependence relates to oil, the U.S. does not import nearly as much from the Middle East as some suggest. As energy expert Daniel Yergin recently pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, “[s]ome 81% of oil imports do not come from that region. Thus, only 19% of imports -- and 12% of total petroleum consumption -- originates in the Middle East.” It may surprise many readers that the U.S. imports most of its oil not from Arab Sheiks but from our friends in Canada.

    We must always remember that, if we reduce our and the world's consumption of oil, it will be countries like Canada that will be hit first. The Saudis and their friends can produce oil cheaper than the Canadians and Mexicans. It may be that badly thought out policies actually increase the amount and proportion of oil we import from the Middle East by hurting other suppliers. Unintended consequences of our energy policies abound — tortilla prices in Mexico are going up, for instance, as a direct result of the already existing ethanol mandate. As the ethanol mandate expands, we're going to see higher prices for meat and (gasp!) beer, not to mention higher gas prices coupled with decreased performance from our cars. There are significant externalities to our new energy policies that people have not taken into account.

  • Stern vs Science

    January 26, 2007 12:03 PM

    Some revealing quotations in an excellent BBC Radio investigation into the Stern Report:

    The IPCC is not going to talk about tipping points; it's not going to talk about 5m rises in sea level; it's not going to talk about the next ice age because the Gulf Stream collapses; and it's going to have none of the economics of the Stern Review. It's almost as if a credibility gap has emerged between what the British public thinks and what the international science community think.
    --Mike Hulme, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

    Nick Stern: "We've drawn on the basic science. We have not tried to do new scientific research. We're not scientists."

    Simon Cox (BBC): "I just wonder why your figures are differrent if you've just drawn from the existing literature, why your figures would be different from the IPCC"?

    Nick Stern: "The IPCC is a good process, but it has to depend on consensus. It means that they have to be quite cautious in what they say."

    So Stern has admitted he went beyond the Holy Writ of consensus. It seems it is okay to ignore the scientific consensus as long as you do so from the alarmist and not the skeptical perspective. The fact that Stern has been given a free pass is indicative of the squalid state of the debate. Well done to the BBC for calling him on it.


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