Turn off the lights … why?

Led_LightingThis weekend, many environmental activists are urging people worldwide to participate in Earth Hour by turning off their lights from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night. The purpose of this effort is to “use your power to change climate change.” According to the organizers, “Earth Hour aims to encourage an interconnected global community to share the opportunities and challenges of creating a sustainable world.”

If sitting at home in the dark for an hour to show support for theories of radical environmentalists isn’t your idea of fun, then you might choose instead to participate in Human Achievement Hour, an event organized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Participants in Human Achievement Hour will leave their lights on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. to celebrate “the human innovations that have allowed people around the globe to live better, fuller lives, while also defending the basic human right to use energy to improve the quality of life of all people.”

With the lights on, the possibilities are endless. You might create a work of art, read a good book or get to know a neighbor. What will you do Saturday night?

Reusable bags are great, but don’t ban plastic

Blue_reusable_shopping_bagI’m a conservative who loves reusable bags.

When I lived in Austria 20+ years ago, I learned quickly that if you didn’t bring your own bag to the corner grocery store, you’d have to carry your purchases home in your pockets or purse. It was odd for an American who was used to free plastic bags at every store, but really, it was not that hard to adjust.

(What was strange was seeing people use their bags like a shopping basket: putting their items in the bag while shopping, then taking them out at the cash register to have them rung up. To an American, that seemed like a good way to get accused of shoplifting.)

Anyway, when reusable bags started making their way into American culture, it seemed perfectly logical to me. Reusing items that you already own and avoiding waste is certainly conservative.

A ban on plastic bags is not.

Why should government mandate that stores cannot provide free plastic bags? It’s another nanny state law.

In fact, enough petition-signers in California have objected to the statewide plastic-bag ban, which was passed last year, that a referendum will likely be forced on the issue in 2016.

I don’t like seeing plastic bags caught in trees or blowing across the street more than anyone else does, but let’s blame litterbugs, not the bags themselves. Also, plenty of people reuse those “single-use” plastic bags as trash can liners.

Stores can set their own rules: no bags, one free bag, 5-cent rebate for bringing your own bag … let the retailer decide. And people can make their own decisions about their shopping bags. This is not the government’s job.

There’s also been some press about bacterial contamination of reusable bags. That’s a legitimate concern – but germs are on EVERYTHING. Wash your hands, and wash your cloth bags as needed. We should worry less about our (possibly contaminated!) cloth bags and worry more about the basic hygiene we learned as children.

EPA's proposed carbon rule hits most vulnerable hardest

epa-logo_edited-1The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed carbon rule is the latest in a series of regulations that will increase the cost of electricity and natural gas at a time when wages are stagnant and a lot of people are struggling to get by.

According to a recently released study, if this new carbon rule is imposed, the average Utah family’s electric bill will go up by $124 and their gas bill will increase by $266 annually, for a total of $32.50 per month. If you don’t think that’s a meaningful amount, then you’re out of touch with a lot of Utah families that are living paycheck to paycheck and are all too often faced with a choice between heating their houses or buying groceries for their children.

These regulations are a backdoor tax plain and simple, and the most regressive and punishing kind possible. It may not hurt you or me to pay an extra few bucks a month to satisfy an environmental feel-good agenda, the results of which will have absolutely no measurable impact on the global climate. But it does hurt the most vulnerable among us. It forces them to pay a larger percentage of their paycheck for everyday needs like heat and electricity, cutting into what disposable income they may have and harming not just their quality of life but also their ability to live. It’s despicable and the height of hypocrisy for ivory tower do-gooders to inflict real pain and suffering on others so that they can enjoy a clear global warming conscience in the comfort of their beautiful homes and SUVs. Read more

Trouble in the West

Montana's Rocky Mountain Front is seen at the right in this aerial photo. (Photo credit: Bobak Ha'Eri)

Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front is seen at the right in this aerial photo. (Photo credit: Bobak Ha’Eri)

The “green-über-alles” crowd has Utah and our neighbors in its sights. For instance, take this editorial from a Montana newspaper (republished by Utah.Politico.Hub), “Big Trouble in Big Sky Country.”

This “big trouble” – referring to tactics used by radical environmentalists who demonize multiple use of our beautiful Western lands – doesn’t just apply to Montana, but to all the states in the West. From the editorial:

When public support for the [1964] Wilderness Act tanked, enter the manipulation by environmentalists. Greens both inside and outside government have turned to an onslaught of other means to control and/or remove land uses they dislike — through appeals, litigation, administrative fiat, bureaucratic delay, endangered species, conservation easements, even national monument designation under the Antiquities Act.

The strategy is to block land uses in hopes the land users go away.

Click here to read the rest of the editorial at Utah.Politico.Hub.

Listing sage grouse as endangered would be 'the worst thing for it'

Sage grouse in San Juan County.

Sage grouse in San Juan County.

By Carl Graham and Brian Seasholes

Add one more potential victim to the catalog of high-profile species likely to be harmed by the Endangered Species Act.

The sage grouse, a large ground-dwelling bird that inhabits 165 million acres in nine Western states, appears headed for listing under the Act, much to the detriment of both the grouse and those with the greatest stake in preserving it.

Over its 40-year history, the Endangered Species Act has often caused significant harm to the very species it is supposed to protect by unnecessarily creating adversaries of landowners harboring these species and pre-empting state conservation efforts.

The Endangered Species Act’s massive penalties — $100,000 and/or one year in jail for harming a bird, egg, or even habitat — turns species into economic liabilities. Understandably, landowners often respond by ridding their land of potentially regulated species and their habitats; but the tragedy is that most do so very reluctantly. They cherish their land and take pride in being good conservationists.

States, meanwhile, realize what is at stake. Listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act “would be the worst thing for it,” said Greg Sheehan, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “It would all but do away with any of the conservation that is in place.” States have taken the lead in conserving the grouse but are concerned their efforts will be snuffed out by Endangered Species Act mandates if listing occurs. “We can probably do a better job with our local programs and partnerships than Fish and Wildlife can trying to regulate from afar,” according to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Read more

Thanks to Utah leaders for careful approach on climate politics

Click the graphic to watch a live stream of the International Conference on Climate Change.

Click the above graphic to watch a live stream of climate scientists and policy experts at the conference.

In “Herbert Catching Heat for Climate Change Stance,” (July 7, 2014, Utah Policy Daily), Bryan Schott shares the observation that “half of the nation’s Republican governors are climate change deniers, including Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.”

To which an appropriate response would be “Thank you, Gov. Herbert” – with similar expressions of gratitude to the majority of Utah legislators that prudently have not embraced group-think-based proposed responses to purported anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming/change/disruption/etc.

The perspective underlying Mr. Schott’s July 7 post is similar that of his June 9 “Krugman: Anti-Intellectualism Biggest Hurdle to Addressing Climate Change,” wherein he notes,

Economist Paul Krugman says it’s not vested interests that pose the biggest obstacle to addressing climate change, it’s those who don’t trust scientists. Krugman argues that economic ideology and hostility to science is the biggest problem in the climate debate, because it directly challenges the world view of those who deny climate change.

Quoting Krugman, Schott includes,

And the natural reaction is denial – angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

We should be pleased to hear any debate, even a brief one, between anthropogenic global warming (AGW) proponents and those skeptical of that view. Several years ago, while I was collaborating with the governor’s environmental advisor in efforts to plan and organize a public forum/debate that would address the topic of anthropogenic global warming, he and I were frustrated that our efforts came to the disappointing conclusion that no debate would be held. Why? In large measure because, despite earnest and persistent attempts, we could find no AGW advocates of national stature that would be willing to accept our invitation to engage in a public contest of ideas and data on the subject.

*       *       *

Take advantage of the opportunity today and tomorrow (July 8-9) to watch via live streaming as climate scientists and policy experts meet this week to provide updates on current climate research at the Ninth International Conference on Climate Change. Sponsored and hosted by the Heartland Institute, the full conference schedule, including all keynote addresses and 21 break-out panel discussions, can be viewed live and at no cost as the proceedings unfold, and will be available online after the conference. Note that as all times listed are PDT (Pacific Daylight Time), Utah viewers will be watching one hour later than the listed time.

Podcast: the states vs. the feds on public lands

Sutherland-Coalition-Self-Govt-Logo-200Listen to Carl Graham, director of Sutherland’s Coalition for Self-Government in the West, in a podcast about control and use of public lands. Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory, Donald J. Kochan of Chapman University School of Law, and David Garbett of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance also participated in the teleforum, sponsored by The Federalist Society, earlier this week.

Here’s a description of what they tackled during the teleforum:

The state of Utah now has statutory authority to sue the federal government for return of its lands in January, 2015. How sound is the legal case, and what are the economic implications for the Western states – as well as the country in general? What are the environmental policy issues and is state stewardship of these lands best?

Click here for the podcast at The Federalist Society website.

Am I the only one skeptical of projections for 36 years from now?

SuburbanStreetYou may have seen recent news coverage about a report projecting that Utah’s population will double by the year 2050.

On the heels of this reporting, some voices have been calling for “smart growth” policies to preserve quality of life in Utah. Utah’s quality of life is not in any actual danger today from population growth, but presumably that inconvenient fact is not important to the “smart growth” paradigm. Instead, what seems important are things like “embrac[ing] a more urban lifestyle” and funneling population growth into areas near public transit, in order to encourage this preferred lifestyle.

But does the basis for this approach to public policy make any sense?

Try this thought exercise: Can you predict with confidence where you will be in 36 years? Unless you expect to be dead by that time, the rational answer is “no.” Now let’s go a bit larger: Can you predict with confidence where your family members will be in 36 years? In this case, the rational answer is an even more emphatic “no.” One more: Can you predict with confidence where everyone in your neighborhood will be in 36 years? Perhaps the relevant response is: “If I can’t predict where my close loved ones will be by then, how in the world am I supposed to predict where relative strangers will be?” Good question.

Now think about this: The “smart growth” policies being advocated in Utah are founded on the idea that a relatively small group of experts (researchers, government planners, and elected officials) can predict with confidence not just where you, your family, and your neighbors will be in 36 years, but where every person in the state of Utah will be in 36 years. And based on these guesses, they want to plan out how most people should be living their lives and doing business in Utah. And, yes, they do this with a straight face.

Look at it this way. Would you have wanted researchers and government leaders in 1978 – 36 years ago, before smartphones and the Internet even existed – to plan out the lifestyle and standard of living you would enjoy today? I shudder to think where quality of life would be in Utah today if it were dictated by the understanding and knowledge of the late 1970s. Read more

What's the deal with Utah's air quality?

A 2013 survey found that 78 percent of Utahns think our air is worse today than it was 20 years ago. While we certainly do seem to have a lot more bad air days lately, the number of official red air days isn’t because we have worse air, it’s because the government changed its definition of bad air. In 2009 the EPA became much stricter on how much pollution it says is too much. Consequently, we have more red air days even as actual pollution levels are falling. That’s right, Utah’s air quality has drastically improved over the last couple decades. It just doesn’t seem like it because of changing regulations and aggressive public awareness campaigns.

So why do we care what the EPA’s changing regulations say? First, because pollution is harmful and public awareness of its levels and its sources is a good thing. Second, and this may explain the recent rush of government and business proclamations about air quality, if Utah continues to run afoul of federal regulations then we face the prospect of losing all federal transportation funding. There will be no federal money for new freeways or light rail trains, or any other new transportation project we currently rely upon the federal government to fund.

But regardless of funding or artificially inflated red air days, there are real health risks associated with poor air quality. There are numerous studies linking certain particulates in the air to a multitude of breathing and other health problems. So as responsible citizens it behooves us to identify these pollutants and reduce them where possible. However as in most things, identifying problems is fairly simple, while the policy prescriptions are much less so.

First, what’s causing the pollution? Again, surveys show that what many of us believe to be the culprit has less of an impact than we think. When we see pollution we often envision big industry with their huge smokestacks. While the Wasatch Front does have some industry (Kennecott Utah Copper mine, refineries, etc.), these sources only make up about 10 percent of the air pollution.

Read more

I’m OK. You’re … well, I’m OK

WashMonument_WhiteHouse

By Carl Graham

According to census data, six of the 10 highest-income counties in the United States are within commuting distance of Washington, D.C. In fact, 13 of the 30 richest counties in the nation form a continuous circle around the hallowed halls of power there, cutting it off from the real America both physically and metaphorically.

Our center of public service is also tied for second place in the nation in job creation, with all but two counties in the D.C. metro area below the national unemployment rate.

And, not surprisingly, the Beltway is the only area in the nation with a positive economic confidence index. Why not? The rest of us are paying the bills. They’re just picking who gets the spoils, minus a little something to wet their beaks.

Apparently income inequality is bad for thee but not for me if my job is to take care of flyover country.

I’ll take the whole income-inequality crowd’s arguments a lot more seriously when they start insisting that cameramen and ticket takers get a higher percentage of star actors’ and athletes’ checks, and when pay for “public service” is tied to national averages instead of proximity to the royal court.

Meanwhile, the climate is supposedly cooking on all burners as Al Gore makes a fortune consulting for “green energy” companies; the Hollywood and Wall Street elite fill airports at resorts around the world with their private jets; and our current Secretary of State burns about two-thirds of the average American’s yearly carbon footprint on a single trip to Indonesia preaching about … wait for it … global warming. Just for a little perspective, he burned more carbon preaching to Indonesians about the evils of burning carbon than the amount of carbon an average Indonesian burns in over six years.

Apparently burning carbon is bad for thee but not for me if I’m preaching about the evils of global warming.

I’d take them a lot more seriously if those who make the most noise about “climate change” would reduce their own footprints below those of the people whose lives they want to impoverish through higher costs of everything that uses or is made using energy … which is everything.

Of course they are wealthy enough to buy offsets so somebody can plant a tree somewhere that will presumably photosynthesize their carbon sins away. And our Beltway rulers see their good intentions as penance for the pain they inflict on the rest of us, even if they they profit as a result.

I think we need a modern-day Luther to post 95 theses on a few doors.