Environment


By: Brian Sikma

A well-meaning arrogance dominates, drives, and defines the modern political left. Throughout the West, liberals consistently advocate for policies that leave government, generally unelected experts and commissions, with more power and average citizens, entrepreneurs and families with fewer choices and less freedom. Europe is quite a bit closer to the consequences of such policymaking, but the Obama Administration is working hard to drive our country down that same path of soft socialism.

Conservatives believe that many choices are best left up to the individual, and to individuals working collectively through free-market based economic systems. Government, no matter who it is run by or how big it may be, cannot determine the specific needs of every individual and develop a targeted solution for every individual’s private problem. This is not to say that government should not limit choice in some areas. Moral issues are matters of absolute right and wrong, and failure to enforce a prohibition on making choices that violate morality is an open invitation to anarchy, and freedom cannot function when every man is a law unto himself.

Radical environmentalism, and the alarmist rhetoric and shoddy science resulting from it, provide an excellent case-study on the arrogance of liberalism. As the oil continues to spew at a rate of about 210,000 gallons per day out of the broken BP/Deepwater Horizon deep-sea oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, the left is up in arms over the extent of the damage being done to the environment of the Gulf of Mexico and southern coastal states. There is significant immediate and mid-term damage being done as the oil washes up on the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and drifts out on the currents threatening the coastal beaches of Florida.

After broadly denouncing corporations (that employ millions of Americans and pay billions in taxes), the private sector, and Republicans, President Obama’s most ambitious step towards solving the immediate crisis has been to order a freeze of all deep-sea drilling. Besides costing the nation part of its vital intake of domestic oil, and putting thousands of much-needed jobs on the line, the freeze does very little to prevent a repeat of the Deepwater well disaster. It does look good on the surface, however, as do the photo-op commission announcements and meetings with various academic and bureaucratic experts.

The one sector that the president has most heavily criticized throughout all of this is, ironically, the one entity that is doing the most to cap the gushing well and solve the problem. The oil industry, and particularly BP, has engaged in round-the-clock efforts to staunch the hemorrhaging of oil and thereby reduce the likelihood of greater environmental and economic damage. What, exactly, is the usefulness of Attorney General Eric Holder’s criminal investigation into the situation remains to be seen. It is doubtful that its value will measure up to what is being done with robotic equipment thousands of feet below the surface of the Gulf.

Broadly freezing all deep-water drilling, and announcing criminal investigations into the situation, are overkill responses to what is happening. Ultimately, once the oil leak is stopped and the clean up takes place, the environment of the Gulf and the coastal areas bordering it will recover. The oil that is causing the problem is a natural substance. In time, the affected areas will recover, and human efforts will only speed that recovery. The left worships the concept of “Mother Earth” and laments the tragic impact that human beings have on the environment. But liberals view themselves as the ultimate protectors of the earth and go about their do-good work with the attitude that without their loving and expert care, the earth would simply commit suicide and kill itself, human beings or no human beings.

Instead of blaming Republicans, the President should set aside the pretentious photo-ops and get to work helping state governments and private organizations that are better equipped to deal with the disaster. The American people in their haste should not be quick to blame the President, Washington, or either political party for the event that led to this problem (though an interesting case can be made for how environmental regulations forced the development of higher-risk deep-water wells when shallow coastal wells were available). But though the President may not be responsible for the problem, or for how large it grows, he is responsible for how he responds to the problem, and that is something the voters should begin to pass judgment on this November.

By: Brian Sikma

As Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) works to move cap and trade legislation through his House Energy and Commerce Committee, he’s finding it a bit hard to sell the whole idea to members of Congress who come from districts that would be hit hard by carbon taxes. States with heavy industry or states that rely extensively on existing energy sources as part of their economy would be hardest hit with job losses, price increases, and taxes should the legislation pass.

In an effort to secure much needed support, Waxman has started talking to individual members about providing credits to various industries that are a big part of their local economies. While the cap and trade bill would apply across the board to many industries and businesses, specific exemptions for coal fired power plants, for example, would allow them to feel less pain from a new tax and regulatory structure.

What this kind of behind the scenes maneuvering seems to boil down to is green earmarking. If a member of Congress wishes to show his dedication to the folks back home he or she can do so by securing an earmark for this project or that project, a bridge, a dam, or some other public works initiative that would generate jobs and goodwill for the incumbent member. With the high economic costs of cap and trade standing tall against any future plans by businesses and industries to expand and grow, affected communities and businesses would benefit by exemptions and built in carbon credits that give them a pass from the otherwise broad regulations.

Green earmarking will allow members of Congress to appear to be concerned about the environment and be on the politically correct side of the climate change discussion while at the same time giving them a tool to make sure that nothing they do is going to really harm their districts. If we thought that earmarks were a bad part of the process now, let’s imagine what they will be like when a new program designed to raise hundreds of billions of dollars becomes open to special amendment by individual members of Congress.

By: Brian Sikma

President Obama and House and Senate Democrats have joined forces with the environmental lobby to promote a “cap and trade” plan for dealing with global climate change. Under a cap and trade plan the government would sell carbon credits to businesses and the money raised by those sales (where the customer has no other option to turn towards outside of simply closing up shop) goes towards carbon reducing programs and policies. Companies that cannot buy enough credits will-if they intend to keep up production-need to invest in expensive new technology designed to reduce carbon emissions.

The creation and implementation of these carbon reducing measures is not just about saving the environment but is, according to Democrats, about jobs. Indeed, this plan is about jobs. I will cost the American economy jobs, increase unemployment, and drive up the cost of products and services that Americans use every single day. With cap and trade, while the net amount of carbon emissions will decrease, so will the number of good American jobs. Without a specific tie between carbon emissions and global warming being scientifically proven and without a meaningful cost/benefit analysis showing that it is better to impose an entire new class of taxes than to allow the current situation to exist, cap and trade legislation is not a good idea.

The problem of cap and trade was addressed by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) earlier this week on the House floor. In the key line he declared “The Democrat plan actually caps growth and trades jobs. The truth is, this cap and trade legislation is essentially an economic declaration of war on the Midwest by liberals in Washington, D.C., and it must be opposed.”

See the video below for Rep. Pence’s entire remarks:

By: Brian Sikma

In the wake of November’s disastrous election results, Republicans and conservatives have been pondering their future. Pundits with solutions abound. Going forward, it has been rightly noted, the future of conservatism is not tied to the future of the Republican party. In this time of analysis and internal discussion, the GOP is more in need of rejuvenation than the conservative movement, though work must be done in both camps.

In the conservative movement there are some who are advocating for a new conservatism, one that apparently accepts some of the premises advanced by left-leaning cultural institutions. Some observers argue that conservatives need to move beyond issues like abortion and replace them with issue planks dealing with the need for a green energy future and policies to reduce global warming. It is posited that we must set aside our views on some issues in favor of new causes that supposedly have attracted the public’s attention in ways that now surpass its prior fascination with the issues we have traditionally debated.

Do we really need to accept the underlying left-leaning premises of certain fashionable issues in order to be a relevant philosophy and movement of political, social, and economic thought? In other words, with respect to global warming must we accept the belief that man-generated activity is causing global warming? Must we really accept the “fact” that global warming is occurring beyond the very normal cyclical heating and cooling of the earth as a result of human activity? If conservatism is going to be relevant, it does not mean that we must follow the line of thinking suggested by some writers and confuse expanding our appeal with accepting dubious “facts” promoted by the left.

Do not misunderstand the point in all of this. Conservatives should indeed have views on environmental policy. But just as our position on the environment should not be one of simply dismissing the matter, our position should not be one that accepts fallacies that are untrue and make a genuinely conservative approach to this issue very hard. We cannot risk becoming irrelevant by failing to advocate for conservative, common-sense approaches to new issues, but doing that does not mean that we must accept unfounded claims no matter how popular they may be in some quarters.

But what of those issues that conservatives have long cared about but we are now told do not matter? The sanctity of human life, a debate that has taken on new proportions as the dimensions of science have expanded, and the importance of traditional marriage in a stable and vibrant society are two issues that appear to be “on the ropes” right now. Some contend that the matter of abortion is now too gruesome a subject to talk about. It is an old issue that has been hashed and rehashed and since it is no longer as relevant as other issues (so the argument goes), it should be at best minimized and at worst simply discarded. The same argument is applied to the gay-marriage versus traditional-marriage debate. Can’t we just move beyond these prickly issues that involve important relationship decisions between individuals in their private lives? The dangers inherent in following this wisdom should not be underestimated.

As we look for ways to revive our movement we should not cast aside those moral and social issues that helped lead to the birth of our movement in the first place. For fiscal conservatives and those of libertarian leanings, you should not forget the abortion issue or disregard those who are battling to preserve the definition of traditional marriage. For social conservatives, you should not let your deep commitment to demanding that government respect certain fundamental and basic human rights and institutions carry you to the point of ignoring those who work hard to control the size of government and defend economic freedom.

As a movement, we must broaden our appeal without becoming shallow in our thinking.

If you’ve kept an eye on the U.S. Senate this week you know they’ve been debating the merits of the largest tax increase in human history.  Only in the Senate would the merits of a tax increase running into the trillions of dollars be given serious consideration.  

Of course, supporters of the tax increase don’t call it a tax increase.  The call it a ”cap-and-trade” policy that will help the country fight global warming.  What they don’t like to talk about, and what has taken the Heritage Foundation, among others, to figure out, is that the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill contains mandates for a new government bureaucracy (actually one of 45 new bureaucracies) that will oversee the operation of 85% of the American economy.  The last time a large country practiced top-down management of an economy millions of people suffered and, ultimately, the economy collapsed on a massive scale.

As of today, the Senate failed to end debate on Lieberman-Warner (a bill, by the way, who’s basic policy concept is endorsed by John McCain) and so it is highly unlikely that the Senate will continue to debate this bill.  It takes 60 votes to end debate on a particular matter and only 48 Senators voted to end debateand move to the next phase, which would be an up or down vote on the entire bill.  Unfortunately, Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) voted to end debate and keep the measure moving forward. 

Read more below the fold.

Over the past few days the Heritage Foundation has been posting on its blog a state-of-the-day analysis on the impact of Lieberman-Warner on a particular state’s economy.  Yesterday the state they focused on was Indiana.  According to their research, Indiana would lose 11,917 jobs in the year 2025 alone as a result of “cap-and-trade” policies to combat “global warming”.

Below is the text of a letter that I submitted to Sen. Richard Lugar on Wednesday presenting to him the case for why he should oppose Lieberman-Warner.

Dear Sen. Lugar:

As a staunch supporter of Republican candidates and as one who deeply cares about the future of this country, I am writing to you in regard to a significant piece of legislation that relates to climate change and the American economy. The legislation, submitted by Senators Lieberman and Warner and titled America’s Climate Security Act of 2007, contains serious flaws premised on dubious assumptions about the best way to combat climate change.

Under S. 3036 the American economy would be subjected to a new and unprecedented era of regulation that would burden our industries, cripple our current energy market, and saddle many average Americans with indirect taxes in the form of higher energy bills and indirect cost of living increases. Not to be overlooked are the thousands of jobs that would be lost as a result of the new federal regulations.

While proponents of S. 3036 declare that the revenues from the cap-and-trade program will be used to establish new “green-collar” jobs, what they fail to acknowledge is that the hundreds of pages of regulations and the astronomical collective impact of tax increases (in the form of carbon credit auctions), a significant drop in GDP, and soaring energy prices (according to the EPA gasoline prices could increase more than 53 cents simply as a result of the policies contained in this bill) will combine to create an economic nightmare for our country.

The theories of collective central control of industry and commerce were discredited by the spectacular failure of the old Soviet Union, yet today Lieberman-Warner sets up a regulatory body that will regulate 85% of the American economy. This proposed venture stands in stark contrast to America’s heritage of freedom and free enterprise. A system where entrepreneurs are free to dream and pursue a better way of doing things; a system where hard-working, freedom-loving and God-fearing folks can make a better life for themselves and their children.

Senator, I submit to you that we cannot tax our way to prosperity or regulate ourselves into a robust economy. The provisions of Lieberman-Warner are inconsistent with the American dream and the ideals of our founding. America doesn’t need more government regulation and interference. America needs strong leadership that will reject policies and proposals that will lead to failure and hardship. Senator, I humbly and sincerely ask you to cast a “Nay” vote on the Lieberman-Warner climate change proposal.

Sincerely,

Brian Sikma