Obama’s Anti-Carbon Policies Will Have No Impact On Global Warming

WASHINGTON – President Obama is trying to transform the US energy industry via federal regulations. He just announced a new plan aimed at promoting renewable energy production while penalizing “dirty” carbon fuels: coal, of course, but also much cleaner and cheaper natural gas.

Expensive electricity 

If implemented, this new policy means that at least for many years we shall have higher electricity prices, simply because more costly solar and wind energy still need subsidies in order to stay afloat. Without government-imposed mandates, they would not be adopted. “Dirty” natural gas instead is abundant and cheap. (Thanks to shale gas and fracking technologies that allow us to extract it, the US is now the largest natural gas producer in the world).

What is most extraordinary in all this is that, according to the same Obama administration keen on re-engineering the entire US power generation industry, there will be practically no change in global temperatures as a result of this major domestic energy revolution. Well, if this is so, what is the point?

Dogmatic beliefs

Sadly, there is no point. This is all about taking actions that please the pious members of the “Church of the Environment”. While they claim that all their policy positions are based on “definitive science”, the Faithful think and behave just like other religious zealots. Their point is that anything that contributes to global warming is bad (in fact evil) and therefore it must be stopped. Cost-benefit analysis does not apply here. What they believe is the Truth and therefore it is rational. Period.

As most of them vote for the Democrats, Obama believes that his anti-carbon policies are an appropriate homage to his base.

Let’s protect our environment 

Let me state the obvious. Every sane citizen should be in favor of environmental protection. We should all be in favor of preserving the fragile ecosystems that support all life on Earth. We should also regulate, or forbid all human activities that have or may have an adverse public health impact.

We all want clean soil, clean water, and clean air. And if this means curtailing or outright forbidding economic activities that do have harmful public health effects, so be it.

We do not want another China 

Again, this is common sense. The alternative is what we had until the 1960s, before environmental issues awareness spurred land mark US legislation, (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and so on), aimed at protecting the environment.

It is also clear that, If we stop protecting the environment, then we get something like China, a country that for 30 years promoted large-scale manufacturing without any concern whatsoever for the extraordinary pollution caused by unregulated industrial activities. And the result of this is an environmental disaster.

This is a religion 

That said, it is now clear that environmental protection has morphed into an anti-industrial religion. One of the key elements of its dogma is humanity’s moral duty to stop “man-made global warming”, most of it caused by burning fossil fuels.

As all dogmas, this absolute environmental belief assumes that man-made global warming is a settled issue, and that it is also settled that we must reverse it or at least stop it by outlawing or regulating all activities that will lead to an increase of greenhouse emissions, CO2 first and foremost.

Carbon is bad

As I said above, it should be possible to forge a consensus about regulating harmful emissions. If an old coal-fired power plant fouls the air around it, causing respiratory diseases or worse, let’s close it down.

However, it would be wise not to stretch our definition of harmful effects beyond the obvious. But this is precisely the problem we have with the environmentalists. Their dogma assumes that burning fossil will raise Earth surface temperatures so much that we shall end up cooking the planet, with anything and anybody in it. Hence the necessity, indeed the moral duty, to stop the use the use of all fossil fuels.

That said, the believers themselves agree that even drastic and costly action aimed at reformulating America’s energy mix will have almost no impact on global temperatures.

Set a good example? 

If so, then what is the point? Their point, I assume, is that America, as the leading per capita energy consumer, should set a good example. If other countries see that America is serious about “doing something” to stop global warming, then they may follow our example by cutting down their own fossil fuels consumption and emissions, this way allowing mankind to win this gigantic fight against global warming and climate change.

Irrational and crazy 

So, here is the thing. For the believers, It appears to be totally rational to embark in a policy that will have high immediate and medium term costs in terms of higher energy prices, even though we have no reassurance that it will produce any impact on the issue they want to address.

This is irrational and wasteful. In fact, it is crazy.

 




More And More Africans Flowing Into Europe

WASHINGTON – High minded European media chastise both EU governments and segments of public opinion for their myopic and ungenerous attitude regarding immigration. 

There has to be room 

The EU is a group of 28 countries with a total population now exceeding 500 million. Surely there must be some extra room for a few thousand refugees from the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. EU member states inability to forge a workable policy consensus that would resolve a manageable problem is a bad indication.

After all, the same editorials intone, look at Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. They have welcomed literally millions of Syrian refugees. If under resourced countries can do that, why is that bigger and more prosperous EU countries cannot do better with much, much smaller numbers of asylum seekers?

Not a self-contained issue 

Yes, in principle these look like valid arguments. But they are not. They are not because they implicitly assume that this wave of migration from poor and conflict ridden countries to more prosperous Europe is a temporary phenomenon bound to end quite soon. In other words, this is presented by the media as a relatively manageable, self-contained issue; but it is not.

Indeed, while the number of “African Boat People” landing almost daily in Italy are not overwhelming, it is a constant flow: 500, 900, 1200 arrivals, almost every day. And this migration of the poor towards somewhat better off countries is essentially unstoppable.

Africa is poor 

Much is said about Africa finally coming of age, with promising growth and more opportunity. However, the Continent remains extremely poor. Most Africans still lack the very basics. They have no electricity, no clean water, bad housing, at best inadequate health care facilities. And let’s not talk about education opportunities leading to good jobs and fulfilling careers. All this may come, eventually. But not now.

Add to this the perpetual political chaos in Libya and other North African countries, with consequent economic misery for millions. And to spice this up, consider the never-ending Syrian civil war, with Assad, ISIL, and assorted Syrian fighters fueling a horrible conflict that essentially destroyed the country, this way creating an immense refugee problem.

All these are the drivers of migration to Europe. It would take heroic optimism to believe that these are just temporary phenomena, coming soon to an end. Until the root causes of extreme poverty and conflict will be taken care of, this flow will go on, and on, for at least another decade, may be much longer.

Not just a few thousand people

So, let’s clarify that the issue at hand is not just finding appropriate accommodation for a few thousand people landing in Sicily, or for the poor souls who are now camped in Calais, France, with the hope to be allowed to get to Great Britain. This is a vast population movement driven by poverty and wars, enabled by a variety of criminal gangs that take care of the travel arrangements.

Unless we can assume that soon enough Africa and the Middle East will offer education, economic opportunity, and security to all or most of their inhabitants, you can safely conclude that this slow but steady migration will continue.

Demographic changes 

And, wait, there is more. This net inflow of poor, illiterate and mostly Muslim migrants has to be placed in the context of semi-impoverished Southern European countries that are the “port of entry” for the refugees. Greece, Italy and Spain are countries in economic decline. They have overstretched social welfare programs, under performing economies, and declining populations.

The net addition of even a few thousand Africans, month after month, simply makes a bad situation worse. These mostly unskilled and illiterate Africans cannot possibly add to the national economy in any meaningful way. In fact, they become recipients of public assistance, this way adding to already unsustainable costs.

More and more Africans in Southern Europe 

Last but not least, in the context of stagnant or declining indigenous EU countries populations, these African and Middle Eastern immigrants will soon begin to alter the demographic picture. The Italians have one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe. The immigrants keep arriving. Those who settle in Italy on balance tend to have higher fertility rates. This means a rapidly growing immigrant population, both in absolute and relative terms.

If these new immigrants were educated, capable and willing to contribute to the societies that welcome them, this would be great. But unfortunately this is not the case.

Given all this, the widespread anti-immigrant sentiment, even if ineffective because it cannot stop the flow, is not that difficult to understand.




Ukraine Should Accept Defeat, Focus On Its Economy

WASHINGTON – The Ukraine story of brave pro-democracy forces resisting Russian aggression has turned into a horrible mess that nobody wants to talk about anymore.

Incompetence in Kiev 

What is amazing in all this is the naiveté mixed with gross incompetence displayed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He is leading a virtually bankrupt country that relies on Russian natural gas for its survival. At the same time his government is trying to resist a Russia-funded and inspired proxy war in the East.

As we know, Russia claims that it has the duty to “protect” the ethnic Russians in Ukraine who are threatened by the extremists and rabid nationalists now ruling in Kiev. This “justification” is clearly a joke; but it does not matter. The Russians will not budge.

Well, given this semi-overt Russian aggression, will someone help Ukraine, in any tangible way?  Will the West arm a poorly equipped Ukrainian army, in order to allow it to resist? The answer is a clear and resounding “No”.

The West will not help 

Sure enough, the US and Europe have made all the right noises. They have publicly and repeatedly condemned Russia’s behavior. They have enacted economic sanctions, and so on. But they will not –repeat, will not– give any meaningful military help to Ukraine.

Whether this is a wise course of action or not, at this point it does not matter. There will be no changes. Do not expect President Obama, with a little more than a year left in office, to start a war by proxy with Russia in Eastern Ukraine. No way.

Accept defeat 

That said, what should Ukraine do? I said it long ago, and I shall say it again: “Cut your losses. Accept defeat. Accept the loss of Crimea and of the Eastern Provinces de facto controlled by Russia through its ethnic Russian militias”. 

Of course this would be terrible. No head of state would want to preside over loss of territory and humiliation. Nobody gladly surrenders to naked aggression.

But the point is that, by rejecting to acknowledge its desperate situation, Poroshenko is simply prolonging the painful agony of his country. As sad as this may be, Ukraine will get no help. Period.

Bankrupt country 

Let me say it again. The country will get no real military help from the US or Europe, while it is essentially bankrupt. Even without a messy war that absorbs precious resources, It would take years of dedicated efforts to revamp Ukraine’s semi-devastated economy.

Therefore, unless you are totally insane, it is simply impossible to believe that the Kiev government has the resources and the ability to promote meaningful economic growth in the rest of the country, while spending inordinate sums of money fighting an insurgency bankrolled by Moscow in the East.

The best that any Ukrainian leader could do would be to acknowledge the facts. 1) Russia will not let go of the Ukrainian territories it has conquered. 2) The West will do essentially nothing about it. 3) And, crucial detail, the West will not arm the Ukrainian armed forces. 4) At the same time, Ukraine is broke, while it needs to buy natural gas from Russia –its enemy.

Only a lunatic could believe that by prolonging this hopeless fight, by not accepting defeat, President Poroshenko is really serving the long term Ukrainian national interest.