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  • Affordable air travel? How dare you!

    December 12, 2006 3:50 PM

    The UK government, which this week doubled air passenger duty to about $20 a flight in a sop to global warming alarmism, wants to go further and impose extra costs on airlines.  So far, British airlines like the flag carrier, British Airways, its rival, Virgin, and the budget champion, Easyjet, had acquiesced, making green-sounding noises about corporate responsibility and so on.  No longer:

    Carriers thought to include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet have walked away from talks on a proposed carbon-offsetting scheme being put together by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)...

    Airline executives are thought to have been concerned that the Government was trying to create a scheme that would treat all businesses in the same way. That, executives feared, could have overburdened airlines, which might find it harder to reduce emissions than companies in other industries. There were fears that the Government would dictate to the industry how the scheme would operate.

    “Everyone felt the Defra plan was a step too far, especially in a week when the Chancellor had increased passenger taxes,” one industry source said.

    A free society is one where non-governmental organizations do not feel threatened by government.  This is an excellent development, revealing that the businesses are prepared to stand up for their and their customers' interests even in the face of sanctimony.

  • More on the Rockefeller-Snowe letter – Rockefeller attacked in home state; he responds

    December 12, 2006 11:47 AM

    The Daily Mail (Charleston, WV) on December 5 carried a strong editorial castigating its junior senator, Jay Rockefeller, for his joint letter to ExxonMobil. The editorial defended open debate about “tough questions” and used some tough language about the senators' letter:

    This is arrogant and intolerant speech. It is out of line, especially from a member of the U.S. Senate.

    Global warming and health care are complex policy issues. Before the nation commits Americans to spending trillions to fix either, they want to be sure policymakers have correctly diagnosed the problems and are suggesting the right solutions.The best answers to tough questions emerge from open debate, and all Americans are entitled to take part in it.

    Now, for the first time (I think) since the brouhaha began, Sen. Rockefeller is trying to defend himself. After all, when you get attacked by your home paper for an “intemperate attempt to squelch debate,” you have to take notice. Here's what the Senator today wrote to the paper in response:

    We didn't "attempt to squelch debate," as the Daily Mail suggested. Rather, our letter was, in fact, an attempt to create and foster greater debate.

    And part of that debate, I believe, requires calling attention to Exxon-Mobil's funding of a pseudoscientific community whose purpose is to prevent us from tackling global climate change.

    Kinda limp, huh? How can veiled threats about funding global warming “deniers” help debate?

  • It's official -- Vietnam to join WTO

    December 12, 2006 11:18 AM

    It's now official — Vietnam notified the World Trade Organization December 12 that it had ratified its WTO membership agreement and will be joining as the 150th member on January 11.
    With its accession to the WTO, Vietnam takes on extensive commitments to open its markets in goods and services.
    On December 9, 2006, the U.S. Senate passed legislation providing for Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Vietnam. In commenting on the vote, Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade Representative, said in a statement:

    With this strong bipartisan vote, U.S. exporters and service providers will gain significant new opportunities in one of the fastest growing markets in the world as Vietnam integrates into the global, rules-based trading system. The vote also demonstrates to our trading partners in East Asia, the United States ' commitment to strengthen and deepen our relationships in that region.

  • Eco-censorship continued

    December 12, 2006 10:49 AM

    Two interesting posts on Roger Pielke Jr's excellent and open-minded Prometheus blog today speak to the subject of my recent New Atlantis essay, "Eco-censorship."  In the first, a Chancellor of a Canadian university is chided for giving "poorly-considered credence to widely discredited extremist opinions such as these."  What discredited extremist opinions?  These:

    And in science there's almost never black and white. We don't know what next week's weather going to be. To say in 50 or 100 years, the temperature is going to do this, is a bit of a stretch for me.

    Her critics included professors from such hard scientific disciplines as nursing and journalism.

    In the second, a  federal scientist expresses outrage that he wasn't allowed to utter the word "Kyoto" in public.  Another example of the Bush Administration shutting down scientific debate?  Well, aside from the fact that Kyoto has very little to do with science, quite possibly not...

    Elkins studies greenhouse gases and has worked at NOAA for more than 20 years. He said he can't remember when the directive was issued, but it was "probably in 2000 or 2001."

    Now who was President in 2000, hmm?

  • Rocky-Snowe Road Winds On

    December 12, 2006 10:29 AM

    As the controversy over the letter by Senators Rockefeller and Snowe chiding ExxonMobil for its funding of global warming skeptics, The Wall Street Journal, which criticized the letter as an effort to silence critics, weighs in again. This past weekend, on "The Wall Street Journal Editorial Report," editorial board members Paul Gigot, Bret Stephens, and Kimberley Strassel pursued the issue further. Strassel noted the inherent imbalance that government officials enjoy over private actors, while Stephens pointed out how unusual it was for the Senators to single out a specific group -- in this case CEI.

    Gigot: Two United States senators have been caught trying to bully ExxonMobil into towing their line on global warming. In a letter to CEO Rex Tillerson, Republican Olympia Snowe, of Maine, and Democrat John D. Rockefeller, of West Virginia, urged the company to, quote, "end its dangerous support of global warming deniers," end quote.

    The senators also write "We are convinced that ExxonMobil's long-standing support of a small cadre of global climate change skeptics and those skeptic's access to, and influence on government policymakers, have made it increasingly difficult for the United States to demonstrate the moral clarity it needs across facets of its diplomacy."

    The letter concludes by urging ExxonMobil to, quote, "publicly acknowledge both the reality of climate change and the role of humans in causing or exacerbating it."

    Kim, I've been in Washington a long time. And I can't remember seeing a letter this blunt and, frankly, threatening.

  • Take That, Liberal Media!

    December 11, 2006 3:40 PM

    In what may be the political understatement of all time, Tom DeLay explains the thinking behind his new blog, in part, with the phrase "not all good ideas come from Washington, D.C." Way to think outside the box, Tom. He goes on to write about how excited he is about the potential of the blogosphere, and that he is "look[ing] forward to working in collaboration, not competition, with all those who already use blogs as a way to fight against - and present an alternative - to the liberal media bias." The liberal media is, even now, doubtless sweating through its socks.

    Just to help disambiguate things, I'm not the same Richard Morrison who ran against DeLay in Texas' 22nd congressional district in 2004. That was another guy.

  • Stern Lectures

    December 11, 2006 3:26 PM

    Sir Nicholas Stern, author of the wildly hyped and widely disparaged Stern Review on the economics of climate change, is leaving Her Majesty's Treasury:

    With embarrassing timing, Sir Nicholas Stern's departure was announced a day after the Chancellor confounded expectations of a big shift towards a new environmental agenda in his Pre-Budget Report.

    Mr Brown's move to raise taxes on flights and motorists' fuel were seen as minimum concessions to calls for tougher environmental action and disappointed green campaigners.

    One well-placed government source told The Times that Mr Brown had to be persuaded within the Treasury even to take the steps he did, such was his lack of enthusiasm for green taxes.

    Sir Nicholas, 60, one of the Chancellor's most senior officials as Second Permanent Secretary to the Treasury, is to leave in March to return to academic life, taking a chair at the London School of Economics in June.

    He was poached in 2003 from the World Bank. But several Whitehall sources told The Times that Mr Brown did not like some of the advice he received from Sir Nicholas, including some “home truths” about long-term trends in the economy, and he never broke into the Chancellor's tight-knit inner circle.

  • So what's stopping them?

    December 11, 2006 2:34 PM

    The incoming leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are keen to use global warming as a stick to beat the Administration with - here's an example.

    So what's stopping them from bringing forward the Kyoto Protocol for ratification? The treaty was indeed signed by President Clinton - as even the New York Times has to admit. There is no constitutional requirement for the President formally to transmit a signed treaty to the Senate. Two thirds of the Senate simply has to "concur" and the Treaty is ratified. if the Senators are so concerned about White House obstructionism, why don't they just perform this end-around run?

    Well, one reason could be that all these Senators are actually opposed to Kyoto. Senators Boxer, Domenici and Lieberman all voted in favor of S.98 in the 105th Congress, which opposed the US signing a Kyoto Treaty that was unfair to US interests. That's exactly what President Clinton signed. So perhaps they're too embarrassed to admit this.

    Another reason might be that, bearing in mind that the Kyoto-lite McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act has gone down to defeat twice, losing votes the last time it was offered, there is little appetite for energy-supressing, tax-raising schemes in the Senate, even the new one.

  • Pricking the pomposity of EU's trade policymaker

    December 11, 2006 2:33 PM

    Letters to the Editor in the Financial Times are usually literate, civil, and informed. Sometimes too they are also passionate. Such is the case with the lead letter today from our friend Jean-Pierre Lehmann, professor at IMD and founder of The Evian Group, who roundly derided Peter Mandelson, the European trade commissioner, for trying to impose EU labor standards in bilateral trade agreements with developing countries.

    Here's what Lehmann wrote:

    What business is it of the EU to try to improve working conditions in the developing world? For 200 years Europe ravaged and exploited the developing world, with abysmal labour practices, as well as brutally mistreating its own labour, but now chooses to prance pompously about with its allegedly superior values that it wishes to impose on others.

    . . .

    As a European I find it extremely embarrassing, and in any case totally counter-productive, to have our political leaders and senior officials so manifestly display their incapacity to abandon colonial mentalities and colonial attitudes.

    The letter points out that much better for the developing world is for the EU and other rich countries to open their markets. Lehmann also attacks the widespread move toward bilateral trade, which “is an unfair Darwinian tactic to marginalise weak countries.” A better task, he wrote, is to “strengthen the multilateral system,” which is inclusive and nondiscriminatory toward small countries.

    Right on, Jean-Pierre!

  • U.S. dairy program at odds with free enterpriser

    December 11, 2006 2:33 PM

    A front-page article in Sunday's Washington Post, titled “Dairy Industry Crushed Innovator Who Bested Price-Control System,” recounts how Arizona dairy farmer Hein Hettinga thought he could operate in the free market outside the bounds of the U.S. dairy program.

    Hettinga was bottling milk and selling it to an increasingly large number of outlets — and at a price about 20 cents below that of his competitors. The diary farmer figured he could operate competitively without being dependent on the federal and state programs that guaranteed the market and guaranteed prices for milk.

    The convoluted diary program is indeed Byzantine. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it consists of federal milk marketing orders, the federal milk price support program, state pricing programs and state-mandated over-order premiums,interstate dairy compacts, direct payments to milk producers, and export programs such as the dairy export incentive program.

    So here was a farmer willing to compete without government handouts and able to offer lower prices. Sounds good. But that was before the dairy industry exercised its considerable clout and got a law passed not allowing dairy farmers to operate outside the system. They said such actions were “damaging to the marketplace.”

    The Post reported Hettinga's reaction: “"I had an awakening. It's not totally free enterprise in the United States."

    And the U.S. farm programs are a clear example of that. (See, for example, CEI's paper on the U.S. sugar program.)


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