Hunger Strike: How does it work?

At the formerly-great Yale University, graduate students are engaging in a ‘symbolic hunger strike’ over benefits.

That “collective fast” they’re embarked upon has been described as a “hunger strike.” In reality, though, it’s only a virtual or symbolic hunger strike. That is, the students stand around in front of President Salovey’s house whining, holding signs, and feeling sorry for  themselves only until they feel hungry.

Then they go eat.

You misspelled ‘ludicrous.’

The grad students are protesting the oppressed state of their existence as PhD students at a world-renowned university. Here are the meager rations that Yale provides them:

  • A full tuition waiver
  • $30,000 per year stipend
  • health insurance

Huh. When I was a PhD student a generation ago, I also got the tuition waiver, but my stipend wasn’t $30,000. Using the Social Security Administration’s wage index to covert my stipend to today’s dollars yields…$12,000. We also did not get health insurance, and in fact I went several years without health insurance. During those years, there were a couple of occasions when I incurred medical bills and needed insurance but didn’t have it. Both times I had to negotiate a payment reduction with the provider and pay the rest out of pocket.

So as a PhD student, my stipend was only 40 percent of what the Yale snowflakes are paid, and unlike them, I had no health coverage. Somehow, I never considered going on strike:  hunger, symbolic hunger, or otherwise.

This phony hunger strike is just more evidence, as if more were needed, that the leftist mind is unusually at ease with phony poses and personal hypocrisy.

But maybe, after all, there’s still hope for Yale yet.

Earth Day: Be Very Afraid

Today is Earth Day, an annual event during which scammers traditionally attempt to frighten people into giving up their money and freedom. Our friend Mark Perry offers an amusing list of 18 scaremongering predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970. For the full list, go to Mark’s site, but here are my favorites.

6. [Paul] Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

9. In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

13. Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” Ehrlich warned that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and he predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out. (Note: According to the most recent CDC report, life expectancy in the US is 78.8 years).

14. Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

15. Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated the humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.

16. Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look that, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”

Nelson, by the way, was one of the principal organizers of the first Earth Day.

18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

Mark, however, somehow missed this one from Ehrlich.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, he warned that “[i]n ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.”

Personally, I’m far less afraid of environmental degradation than I am of environmentalists.

Seattle Environmentalists Demonstrate Fen’s Law

Fen’s Law states that leftists don’t really believe any of the crap they lecture the rest of us about.

It’s the proverbial tree that fell in the forest without making a sound, or perhaps the raw sewage that spewed into Puget Sound without making a splash.

Since the region’s largest wastewater-treatment plant was disabled in a catastrophic flood last month, the Metropolitan King County Council and Regional Water Quality Committee between them have held multiple public hearings on the disaster.
Not a single person from an environmental group or the public turned out to testify or demand action on the crippled West Point Treatment Plant, or even take notice of one of the largest local public infrastructure failures in decades.
Tons of solids are pouring into Puget Sound every day because the plant is too broken to treat wastewater properly. Yet council members say they’ve barely heard a peep from environmental groups.

The Seattle area is no slacker for environmental activism; hundreds of people have turned out of late in the streets to demand the city change banks to punish Wells Fargo for lending money to help build the Dakota Access Pipeline. And Elliott Bay swarmed with “kayaktivists” in 2015 to protest drilling in the Arctic when Shell staged equipment at the Port of Seattle docks.

“It’s odd, I have to say, I haven’t heard from any of them, not at all,” said King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, whose district includes the plant. “It is bizarre.”

So they’ll take to the streets to protest oil drilling or a pipeline thousands of miles away, but won’t protest sewage right in their own backyard. It’s almost as if environmentalism is not really about protecting the environment, but about advancing some ulterior agenda. And what might that agenda be? Well, stopping drilling and pipelines both have the effect of impeding U.S. oil production.

And who benefits from less U.S. oil production? Well, for one, there’s Russia. The last couple of years, the Russian government has had to make steep budget cuts as a result of relatively low oil prices, caused largely by expanded U.S. oil production. The Russians would love to curtail U.S. production.

Right now, the more febrile domains of the internet are burning up with conspiracy theories regarding Russian influence over the 2016 election. While we’re trying to get to the bottom of that, maybe we should also be investigating potential Russian funding of U.S. environmental groups. After all, we wouldn’t want to let the Russians corrupt our precious environmental organizations, amirite?

Beware Big Soda

We’ve reported previously attempts by the sugar and soft drink industry to whitewash the role of sugar in chronic disease. In particular, the sugar industry in the 1960s paid Harvard researchers to divert attention from sugar by focusing on saturated fat as a cause of heart disease. Similarly, the soft drink industry pays health organizations to go easy on sugary drinks.

Regarding the influence of Big Soda on nutritional advice, more evidence came to light this week in the context of the election for the presidency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest group of dieticians in the United States. The contest got really interesting when one of the two finalists, Neva Cochran, was exposed for having ties to Big Soda.

In a tweet, Anna Macnak, a member of the academy and a dietitian from Texas, revealed Cochran’s clients included the American Beverage Association, the soda industry’s lobbying group, and the Calorie Control Council, a group representing the low-calorie food and drink industry that functions as a trade group for artificial sweeteners.

Cochran’s pro-sugar bias was evident in her nutritional advice, at least as reflected by her tweets before she set her tweets to ‘protected’.

Cochran positions soda as part of a balanced diet, Pfister noted, explaining she even goes as far as promoting soda as a necessary source of calories for active kids and teens in a tweet that reads “Calorie needs R personal. Active teens: soda, lemonade, sweet tea & choc milk can replace calories & fluid. #Advisor.”

Cochran even illustrated her tweet with an old propaganda ad put out by the sugar industry in the 1960s.

Nothing says ‘cutting edge nutrition science’ quite like tweeting 50-year-old industry advertising.

Conveniently, Cochran also tweeted against soda taxes.

“Soda taxes fall flat – @USATODAY editorial. Better-informed consumers, not taxes, can help prevent obesity. https://t.co/BMdPIus97Z #Advisor” Cochran’s tweet read.

Not sure what qualifies dieticians to pontificate on the effects of tax policy, but hey, it’s a free country.

When some nutritionists tried to make public Cochran’s ties to Big Soda, elements of the nutrition establishment tried to shut them down.

Days after her tweet posted, the academy emailed Macnak and asked her to remove the tweet. In the email chain obtained by Mic, the academy told Macnak that her tweet provided a negative bias against Cochran, one of the two candidates. Using social media to spread negative messaging about candidates is in violation of the academy’s code of ethics, the academy said.

A member of the academy since 2008, Macnak noted that she sought transparency and wasn’t attempting a personal attack on Cochran. She was committed to “full disclosure of any real or perceived conflict of interest,” she said.

The academy’s response to Macnak’s concerns? They’ll put off discussing them until the spring, ostensibly after a new president would be elected.

When Kyle Pfister of Ninjas for Health, a startup that consults for public health organizations, included part of Macnak’s emails with the academy in a Medium piece about the presidential election. Representatives from Medium told him they received a complaint that he included “private communications…without the consent of all parties involved.” Medium asked him to edit the post or they would take it down.

A spokesperson for Medium later told Pfister he would not have to revise his post after all because Medium allows users to post email exchanges with “people speaking on behalf of business or organizations,” Pfister said in an email. Medium later confirmed to Mic that the post “was flagged as being in violation of Medium’s rules. On review it was found not to be in breach.”

“Censorship is yet another industry tactic to silence critics,” Pfister said. “It also seems to be an admission that these corporate connections are a problem, if so much effort is going into hiding them.”

Indeed. There certainly seems to be a lot of attempted censorship going around these days. That’s what happens when so many people rely on lies to maintain their wealth and status.

Notable and Quotable

From Instapundit.

THEY TOLD ME IF DONALD TRUMP TOOK POWER, FASCIST VIOLENCE WOULD THREATEN CIVIL GOVERNANCE. AND THEY WERE RIGHT! Betsy DeVos being guarded by U.S. Marshals Service. “The last Cabinet member protected by marshals was a director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.”

So, basically, taking on the Education Cartel is as dangerous as taking on the Drug Cartels? Well, the former has more money and jobs at stake. . . .

Bureaucrats Butthurt over Regulatory Repeal

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Congress recently revived a dormant law–the Congressional Review Act of 1996–in order to repeal last-minute Obama regulations, including a so-called ‘stream protection rule’ that would have destroyed jobs in the coal industry. Well, now Politico reports that the bureaucrat who wrote the stream rule is all salty that his handiwork is getting flushed. Almost every line of the article is unintentionally hilarious.

Joe Pizarchik spent more than seven years working on a regulation to protect streams from mountaintop removal coal mining.

Ulysses S. Grant, while dying from cancer, wrote his two-volume memoirs in less than a year. Handel composed his Messiah in 24 days. This bureaucrat takes seven years to write a stupid stream regulation.

“My biggest disappointment is a majority in Congress ignored the will of the people,” said Pizarchik, who directed the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement from 2009 through January.

Unlike Pizarchik, the members of Congress who nixed his rule were actually elected by the people.

Pizarchik and other former Obama administration officials called the rapid repeal process intensely unfair. The 1996 law says any repeal must come within 60 legislative days after a rule becomes final.

“If there had been more time and Congress had not rushed this through but had actually deliberated on what was in the rule, [then] the results would have been different,” Pizarchik said.

Yeah, no. Later in the article we learn that the GOP has opposed the stream rule since at least 2011. They had plenty of time for deliberation, and a little more time wouldn’t have changed their minds. Furthermore, if Pizarchik hadn’t taken seven years to write his rule, he could have had it enacted prior to the 60-day window, which would have made it immune to repeal.

[T]he swiftness has former Obama officials wondering if lawmakers even understood the regulations they voted to kill.

“I can’t venture to say that that many people, when they’re being honest, have actually read the rule,” said Brandi Colander, who was Interior’s deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management before leaving in September for the National Wildlife Federation.

I’m guessing Brandi wasn’t complaining when Congress voted on Obamacare without reading it.

“I think that when cooler heads really can prevail and you push the politics to the side, we should really be asking ourselves, should we be able, with the stroke of a pen, without requiring people to read it and not even giving these rules a chance to see the light of day — is that actually good governance?” she added.

Apparently, Brandi’s idea of “good governance” is unelected bureaucrats imposing rules with the force of law while the elected representatives of the American people just STFU.

Teitz similarly argued that the Bureau of Land Management’s methane waste rule would have generated revenue for the energy industry, which could have sold the gas that the regulation would make it capture. But Republicans — backed by oil and gas companies — still made it a top target.

“People are looking for scalps,” she said. “‘It’s an Obama rule so let’s drag it down whether or not it’s actually costly to industry.’”

LOLZ. The bureaucrats would have us believe that they understand the industry’s interests better than the industry itself does. ‘Don’t those dummies know they can SELL the methane that we force them to capture!’

Before this year, the only time Congress successfully used the review act to repeal a regulation was in 2001, when it blocked the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration from enforcing an ergonomics rule intended to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.

Sixteen years later, wounds are still open for some officials who helped write that rule…

Still butthurt after sixteen years!!

Jordan Barab, who had worked on the ergonomics rule, fought to save it when he moved to the AFL-CIO after the 2000 election.

Wait, this guy makes a regulation that benefits Big Labor, and then takes a job with…the AFL-CIO. And didn’t we just see above that the lady who did the environmental rule took a job with…the National Wildlife Federation? Gee, it’s almost as if they’re already working for the interest group while still on the government job.

Pizarchik is already working on ideas to write a new version of the stream rule under a future president, though he declined to share any details.

Presidents come and go, but the bureaucracy is eternal.

He also hinted someone could mount a constitutional challenge to the review act itself, which critics have long argued tramples on the separation of powers.

“I believe there’s a good chance that, in a legal challenge, that a court will overturn Congress’ actions here as an unconstitutional usurpation of the executive branch’s powers,” he said.

Who knows what some hack Democrat judge might someday decide, but only in a bizarro, anti-matter, parallel universe is it unconstitutional for laws to be written by the legislative branch rather than the executive.

The Trouble with Stadium Subsidies

A reporter in Chicago asked me to comment on government subsidies for constructing new stadiums and sports arenas. Here was my reply.

Most studies show that sports arenas do not deliver the promised economic benefits. The idea is that the sports facility will attract commerce and revitalize the downtown area of the city. But studies show it does not work very well. People commute in from the suburbs to see the game, then go back out. Maybe they spend a little money at a nearby bar or restaurant, but it doesn’t amount to much.

Even to the extent that the policy might work, economists aren’t too impressed with it because it is a ‘beggar-thy-neighbor’ effect. That is to say, the additional commerce that occurs downtown comes at the expense of the suburbs. So people eat more meals downtown, supporting a few more downtown restaurants. But they eat correspondingly fewer meals at suburban restaurants, causing the suburban market to contract. The result is merely a shift in economic activity from one geographic area to another, but there is not more economic activity overall.

In any event, even the ‘beggar-thy-neighbor’ effect turns out not to amount to much in practice.

Another problem with stadium subsidies is that the money doesn’t always get spent wisely on the stadium itself, simply because nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as they spend their own. So with subsidies available, teams build a new facility even if the old facility still optimally has many remaining years of useful life. Then they opt for the grandest version of the new facility, spending on opulent amenities like perhaps a retractable dome that might not in fact be necessary.

Public funding of new stadiums amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of millionaire owners and athletes, at the expense of public services. The subsidies are unnecessary, because the sports industry can and should be able to privately finance its own facilities. Prior to the 1960s, virtually all sports facilities–most of them built for either boxing or baseball–were financed privately, by the teams themselves. That’s how all the classic ballparks like Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and the first Yankee Stadium, were financed. There’s no reason why the same thing couldn’t happen today.

In 2006, Larry Hadley and I published a study in the Journal of Business showing that the additional revenue from a new baseball stadium would mostly cover the team’s financing costs. A new facility generates considerable additional revenue in the form of expanded ticket sales at higher prices, and in particular, new revenues from luxury boxes. Over time, these additional revenues can cover most or all of the construction costs.

Teams have gotten many public subsidies in recent decades not because of any economic necessity, but because they were able to execute a successful extortion racket against local taxpayers. The threat is that, if they don’t get the subsidies, they’ll move the team. And the league helps to make the threat credible by leaving at least one viable market without a team, like the NFL and Los Angeles.

If taxpayers everywhere were somehow able to resist the extortion, teams would have no choice but to pay for sports facilities themselves, the way they did prior to the 1960s. That would free up public money to spend on things other than further enriching people in the sports industry; things like actual public needs like crumbing infrastructure and unfunded pensions. I would like to turn back the clock to 1960 when teams were expected to build their own facilities, but I’m not sure how we get there.

Is the ‘Ozone Hole’ a Hoax?

For thirty years now we’ve heard that we’re all at risk of getting skin cancer due to the ‘ozone hole.’ As a result of the ozone scare, cheap but effective refrigerants like Freon were phased out by the Montreal Protocol of 1987. We are all therefore forced to use more expensive and less effective refrigerants.

This summer, a series of articles appeared in the media claiming that the ban on Freon and other CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) is finally working to ‘heal’ the ozone hole. The international political and managerial class is patting itself on the back for supposedly solving the problem.

In the 1980s, ozone in the atmosphere dropped like a rock at the initial onset of the affliction. The implementation of the 1987 Montreal Protocol—widely considered a triumph of international cooperation—quickly phased out industrial CFCs, and the ozone layer stabilized, though it was still at a depleted level.

The size of the ozone hole varies from year to year, influenced by changes in meteorology and volcanism, which can make it difficult to identify a healing trend. Scientists believe it has remained relatively stable since the turn of the century, but the October 2015 hole was the largest on record.

Scientists have long thought the ozone layer was recovering slowly, but [Susan] Solomon and her team—comprising researchers from MIT, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the University of Leeds—are the first to rigorously uncover evidence of the healing.

But is the ozone hole even really man made? Some scientists believe it is actually a natural phenomenon.

[The Montreal Protocol] was created to eliminate CFCs but the plan only appeared to work. There is no hole in the ozone, even at its thinnest, which occurs in winter when there is no sunlight; it is one-third the global average.

The term was created to scare people: “We’ve torn a hole in the sky, and harmful radiation will give children skin cancer!”

I appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Ozone. It was a political circus. Friends of the Earth had representatives there with no scientific knowledge; I asked them.

Ozone is created by the ultraviolet (UV) light portion of sunlight hitting free oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere. They assumed the level of UV radiation is constant. In fact, it varies widely and is the major cause of ozone variation, but that’s what allowed them to focus on and blame CFCs. [Emphasis in original.]

Even if CFCs were damaging atmospheric ozone, as alleged, it’s not clear the effects on humans would be significant. In 1995, professor Fred Singer testified as follows.

A projected 10 percent UV increase from a worst-case global ozone depletion is the equivalent of moving just 60 miles closer to the equator….New Yorkers moving to Florida experience a more than 200 percent increase in UV because of the change of latitude.

I confess that I really don’t have the scientific expertise to be sure if the ozone scare was scientifically valid or not. But one thing that makes me suspicious of the science is the economics. Dupont was the manufacturer of Freon, and was actively involved in developing the Montreal Protocol. Freon and other CFCs were cheap and not very profitable. But at the time of the ban, Dupont held the patent on the CFC substitute, R-134a.

In a 1997 paper written by MIT’s James Maxwell and Forrest Briscoe titled, “There’s Money in the Air: The CFC Ban and DuPont’s Regulatory Strategy” published by UCMERCED University of California, Merced’s Business Strategy and the Environment the other, much longer, side of this story is told.

In examining the paper, the first thing discussed by the authors is, “DuPont, the world’s dominant CFC producer, played a key role in the development of the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.”

The authors go on to state their argument that in pursuing “its economic interests, along with the political impact of the discovery of an ozone hole and the threat of domestic regulation,” DuPont was responsible for molding the “international regulatory regime for ozone-depleting substances.”

In 1986, the Freon division of DuPont conducted its own evaluation of the ozone and announced a “significant reduction” in the ozone layer.

The EPA responded with a call to reduce 85% of CFC production – immediately. The paper states that DuPont decided to support a CFC ban since the company mindset was that it could gain a “competitive advantage” with the sales of its new chemical substitutes that would be sold as specialty chemicals at a much higher price than the CFC.

Finally, the paper concludes “DuPont’s organization and strategy were key to the successful leveraging of the Montreal process.” This was achieved through the Freon Division’s interaction with “public officials” and various groups, positioning DuPont to “exploit the situation when regulatory discussions were stepped up.”

Always follow the money.

Plutocrats Plotting Payroll Tax Hike?

Key elements of America’s ruling class think you’re not giving enough money to Wall Street, so they have a plan to force you to give more. The so-called James-Ghilarducci plan would force workers to pay a new three percent payroll tax to fund a personal retirement account to be managed by Wall Street firms. The cost to workers would be partially offset by a tax credit of up to $600, and the government would (somehow) guarantee at least a 2 percent annual return, regardless of market conditions.

The plan is being pushed by Blackstone president Tony James, who just by coincidence also happens to be raising millions of dollars for Hillary. As a result, Hillary’s top aides are reportedly warming to his plan.

You have to be a fool to think that James is doing this out of goodwill and public spiritedness. The plan promises to provide firms like his with a huge spigot of cash for accounts on which the firms will charge lucrative fees.

Right now, laws prohibit retirees from investing 401(k) balances in risky and sometimes opaque ‘alternative investments’ offered by hedge funds and private equity firms. Maybe that restriction should be lifted, but James’ plan forces savers to participate.

Chris Tobe, a Democrat who advises institutional investors and who served on Kentucky’s pension board, put it just as bluntly: “James’ plan is a deliberate attempt to get around federal protections for retirees because alternative investments are not generally allowed in the 401(k) world. This is about making Blackstone and other private equity firms even richer than they already are.”

The most objectionable aspect of the James-Ghilarducci plan is its coercive nature. The retirement accounts would be mandatory, and workers would be forced to pay a new three percent tax. A typical household making $60,000 per year would have to cough up $150 every month. Maybe you had other plans for that $150, but the plutocrats have decided they know better; you have to hand the money over to Wall Street.

Worse, under the plan, individuals don’t even get to decide how their own money shall be invested. People can’t choose for themselves how to allocate their own portfolio. That will be decided by the plutocrats.

Under their proposal, “Retirement portfolios would be created by a board of professionals who would be fiduciaries appointed by the president and Congress,” James and Ghilarducci wrote in a New York Times editorial.

James is trying to sell the plan by promising real returns of 6 or 7 percent. In an economy that can’t manage even 3 percent growth, that promise is simply not realistic.

[E]conomist Eileen Appelbaum told IBT, the James-Ghilarducci plan is built on earnings projections that are fanciful.

“The plan’s promise of 6 to 7 percent returns is likely to prove unrealistic, and they fail to discuss the risks inherent in the risky investments that would have to dominate the savings portfolio that could yield such returns,” said Appelbaum, who co-authored the book “Private Equity at Work” and published a study suggesting lower private equity returns are a new normal.

“This proposal is about Wall Street getting more assets under management because that is where they make their money,” she said.

I also fail to see how government could conceivably guarantee the balances. The tax would generate something like $300 billion per year flowing into the new accounts. After one or two decades, the accounts would contain several trillion dollars. And these funds would largely be invested in assets that are relatively risky. In fact, investing in riskier assets is the whole point of the plan, which is to open up risky asset classes that are currently unavailable to 401(k)s. If we experience a crash like we did in 2009, and asset prices fall by 50% or more, the government would be on the hook for trillions in bailout money. Where would that money come from?

The other problem with the plan is that it would increase corruption by furthering ties between Wall Street and government. Wall Street would benefit from a steady source of cash, but the political class would get to dictate the terms of the deal to Wall Street. The government would decide how much Wall Street could charge in fees, and maybe even which firms could receive the cash. Government influence might also politicize the allocation of credit, which in the long term would impair the efficiency of financial markets and the growth of the economy.

What will happen, of course, is the same thing we saw with health care and pretty much every other part of the economy these days. It will be a bust out. The billions that pour into these new funds will be “invested” in things that benefit the rulers. Politicians will get advance notice on some new move so they can cash in their privileged status. The fund managers will kick back a piece of their rake to the politicians for the right to manage these funds. It will be systematic robbery of the middle class.

Will the plan be enacted? Hillary has not been campaigning on it, and when asked to comment on the article excerpted above, her campaign declined. So they won’t even talk about it. But if they don’t talk about it now, during the presidential campaign, then a future Clinton administration will have no political legitimacy for imposing it on the people. A policy change this significant should be debated during the campaign so that voters can have their say. To keep quiet and then spring the plan only after the election would betray the principles of representative democracy. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but if it does, it would be politically illegitimate.

Electric Cars: Lies, Damned Lies, and Pollution

Back in the 20th century when I was young I imagined the 21st century would bring jet packs and space colonies. I never expected that instead we’d see calls to ban proven technologies in order to replace them with something more expensive, for no good reason.

zero_emissions

Germany isn’t content with relying on financial incentives to usher in an era of pollution-free cars. The country’s Bundesrat (federal council) has passed a resolution calling for a ban on new internal combustion engine cars by 2030. From then on, you’d have to buy a zero-emissions vehicle, whether it’s electric or running on a hydrogen fuel cell.

The electric car is really nothing new; it existed over 100 years ago, but could not compete with the internal combustion engine, which is one of the most proven and successful inventions in human history. Thank goodness that 100 years ago we didn’t let government choose our auto technology for us. But things, apparently, have changed.

Old and Tired: Letting consumers decide for themselves what vehicle they drive.

The New Hotness: Using the police power of the state to stop people from purchasing the vehicle they want.

The article excerpted above is supposedly translated from Der Spiegel, the leading periodical in Germany. Did you catch the repeated use of patently false terms like “pollution-free” and “zero-emissions?” Everyone with two functioning neurons knows you cannot manufacture and operate an electric vehicle without creating pollution. The energy to power the vehicle does not come from pixie dust. In fact, under some circumstances, operating an electric vehicle can produce even more pollution than a gasoline powered vehicle.

The findings showed a dramatic swing the positive and negative effects on health based on the type of energy used. Internal combustion vehicles running on corn ethanol and electric vehicles powered by electricity from coal were the real sinners; according the study, their health effects were 80 percent worse compared to gasoline vehicles.

As an aside, notice that the other of the two adverse scenarios involves corn ethanol, which is used only because of a government mandate. Yet we’re supposed to put our trust in government as the wise and benevolent custodian of the environment. Here’s an idea: if we want to do something for the environment, instead of banning the internal combustion engine, let’s start by just repealing the ethanol mandate. And as a bonus, repealing the mandate is something that would actually benefit consumers.

Remember also that besides pollution created from operating the vehicle, there is also pollution created in producing the vehicle. In this regard, electric vehicles raise some unique issues of pollution.

Electric cars need to be light, which means they include a lot of high-performing metals. The lithium in the batteries, for example, is super light and conductive—that’s how you get a lot of energy without adding a lot of weight. Other, rare metals are sprinkled throughout the car, mostly in the magnets that are in everything from the headlights to the on-board electronics.

But those rare metals come from somewhere—often, from environmentally destructive mines…

Rare metals only exist in tiny quantities and inconvenient places—so you have to move a lot of earth to get just a little bit. In the Jiangxi rare earth mine in China, Abraham writes, workers dig eight-foot holes and pour ammonium sulfate into them to dissolve the sandy clay. Then they haul out bags of muck and pass it through several acid baths; what’s left is baked in a kiln, leaving behind the rare earths required by everything from our phones to our Teslas.

At this mine, those rare earths amounted to 0.2 percent of what gets pulled out of the ground. The other 99.8 percent—now contaminated with toxic chemicals—is dumped back into the environment.

Another potential problem is what to do with the 1,000 pound battery at the end of the vehicle’s useful life. There’s also the possibility that a world of entirely electric vehicles would overload the electric grid. By one calculation, each vehicle uses 40 percent as much electricity as the typical household. A household with two vehicles could nearly double its electricity demand.

But the biggest problem with electric vehicles is that they cost more than twice as much as a gasoline vehicle. Henry Ford was rightly considered a great man because he slashed the cost of a car by 50 percent in just eight years. Nowadays, in contrast, we associate progress with the opposite result–doubling the cost of a car. How are poor people supposed to afford a car?

Keep the electric cars. Give us the space colonies.