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Ethanol’s Lessons for New Mexico

Ethanol’s Lessons for New Mexico by Peter Burrows 5/10/18  elburropete@gmail.com – silvercityburro.com              

Last March, New Mexico’s Senator Tom Udall introduced a bill that would revise the Renewable Fuel Standards to virtually eliminate blending corn ethanol into gasoline.  It would drop the current 10 percent standard to 9.7 percent and begin a ten-year reduction of the required use of corn ethanol from 15 billion gallons in 2018 to 1 billion by 2029. The Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation strongly support the bill.    

This is very good news.  The evidence has been piling up for over 20 years that using corn as a biofuel source has been wasteful, unnecessary and counter-productive.  Here’s what Michael Bruce, Executive Director of the Sierra Club said about the proposed bill and its supporters:   

“The Sierra Club applauds Senator Udall, Congressman Welch, and all the members of Congress who are putting common sense first rather than continuing to permit a dirty and destructive policy to remain intact. Instead of continuing to play political games with our environment and public health, these legislators are moving policies that will help undo the damage caused by the ethanol mandate. We urge Congress to pass this legislation immediately rather than continuing to push false theories about ethanol.”  

As the saying goes, “Strong letter to follow.”  The above statement could have been made 10 years ago, but hey! Better late than never.     

One of the “false theories about ethanol” was that its use would reduce CO2 emissions. Study after study has shown just the opposite: producing and using corn ethanol actually increases CO2 emissions.  Furthermore, using corn has increased the world-wide cost of food by billions of dollars while increasing, not decreasing, the cost per gallon of gasoline.   

The conclusion that ethanol increases CO2 emissions is what has earned the environmentalists’ wrath. In the Church of Global Warming, to increase CO2 emissions is to sin. The fact that it is also very costly is of no concern. After all, they have a world to save.   

To that point, Udall’s bill maintains a cellulosic biofuel mandate.  Cellulosic biofuel uses waste organic plant material, from corn stalks to grass clippings. In theory, it’s a good idea, but the reality is that It is ridiculously expensive.  The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 mandated a goal of 9 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol by 2017. The actual production: 540,000 gallons.   

This lack of cellulosic ethanol didn’t deter the EPA from attempting to punish refiners of gasoline for not using the mandated cellulosic feed stocks that did not exist!!  Fortunately, that EPA effort was struck down by a federal court.     

To Udall’s credit, his bill eliminates the ridiculous cellulosic ethanol mandated by EISA, which rises to 21 billion gallons in 2022, and replaces that with a cap of “only” two billion gallons, which doesn’t have to be reached until 2037, at which time the mandate ceases to exist.  I think this is essentially a small concession to the ethanol “true believers” to get their support for the overall bill.   

Regardless, Udall’s bill is a big first step toward curbing an industry, ethanol, that would not exist in anything near its present size without government mandates and subsidies.  Will Udall’s bill get through Congress? It will face opposition from the owners of the over 200 distilleries that have been built to produce ethanol, and opposition from thousands of corn farmers.    

Even if Congress can overcome the millions that will be spent to stop Udall’s bill, President Trump, wearing his RINO hat, has said he will “protect” the corn farmers. “Corn farmers” of course means Iowa, and Iowa means “first primaries,” which in turn means, “Kiss those corn farmers’ tractors, cows and asses.” A wag once noted that if Florida had the first primaries, we’d be making ethanol out of orange juice.     

You’re probably thinking, “OK, Burro, what’s all this got to do with New Mexico.”  Here’s the answer: Every politician in New Mexico, regardless of party, top-to-bottom, thinks that New Mexico has a great future with renewable energy.  All the winners and losers in the upcoming primaries, all the winners and losers next November, all of them, will tout solar panels and windmills as great businesses for New Mexico’s future. If you know of one who doesn’t think that, please tell me who.  Please.  

You’re thinking, “Well, what’s wrong with that?”  What’s wrong is that, like the ethanol industry, windmills and solar panels are almost wholly dependent on government mandates and subsidies.  I would guess that solar is about 90% dependent on government, and wind 100%.    

The second or third largest owner of windmill farms in America is Berkshire Hathaway. The chairman of Berkshire Hathaway is life-long liberal and mega-billionaire Warren Buffett, who is famous for his blunt-spoken opinions. Without tax credits, he said, wind-generated electricity “doesn’t make sense.”    

Without those tax credits, New Mexico has no wind farms and no future as a big producer/exporter of windmill electricity.   

At this point, some of you are saying, “But Burro, New Mexico is so sunny! We should encourage people to put solar panels on their roofs, in fields, on buildings, along the road sides, everywhere! And then we could export all that solar electricity which would save the world from global warming and we’d get rich in the process!”  

The problem with that fantasy is the hard reality of costs.  Even if solar electricity was free, which it isn’t, the cost of storing solar electricity so it can light your house at night is very expensive.  Tesla, the electric car company, is a leader in battery technology and recently completed a project Tesla’s owner, Elon Musk, called the “world’s largest battery.”   

It is a $50 million electric storage facility in Australia that will power 30,000 homes for —-Drum roll please ––one hour.  There are about 7,500 homes in Grant County, so Musk’s “battery” would provide us four hours of electricity.   If we only occasionally had a cloudy day and never had two cloudy days in a row, we would need 36 hours of storage. (No sun from 6 PM through 6 PM the next day is 24 hours, and until 6 AM the next morning is an additional 12 hours.)  

That means we would need nine of Tesla’s batteries at a cost of $450 million.  Financed at 5% and depreciated over 20 years, or 5% per year, means this “battery” will cost Grant County $45 million per year. The cost per 7,500 households would be $6,000 per year, or $500 per month.  

How does $500 per month compare to your current electricity bill?  This is with only 36 hours of storage when at least triple that would be needed. This is with zero cost electricity, i.e. free solar panels that last forever, producing electricity with no transmission costs on free land that is not taxed.    

Last year, a couple of New Mexico’s legislators proposed that 80 percent of NM’s electricity be from renewables by 2040, a huge increase from the 20 percent mandated by 2020.  Some environmentalists want to be 100 percent by 2035. Either option would require massive amounts of storage and a massive increase in your electricity bill.      

Someday, I don’t know when, even in New Mexico it will be recognized that renewable energy is ridiculously expensive. When that day comes, and it will, wind and solar will face a “Udall bill” that will end mandates and subsidies.  Does New Mexico really want to invest its future in industries that depend on subsidies and mandates that will someday end?        

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What is “Net Metering” and why should you care?

What is “Net Metering” and why should you care? By Peter Burrows 5/4/18  elburropete@gmail.com – silvercityburro.com 

 To encourage homeowners to install solar panels, most public utilities, including Public Service of New Mexico (PNM), are required by law to pay homeowners for any excess electricity the solar panels produce.  This doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, the excess electricity is fed into the utility’s grid for sale to other customers. 

Imagine that homes with solar panels have two meters, one that measures the electricity coming into the home from the electric utility, and another that measures the excess solar electricity that goes into the utility grid on those occasions when the solar panels produce more electricity than is being used.  The net of the two is the “net metering” that determines the electric bill.  

In reality, when excess electricity is fed into the utility’s grid, the homeowner’s meter runs in reverse, lowering the electric bill in real time. 

A very important feature of net-metering is that the utility is required to pay the homeowner the same price it charges the homeowner, i.e. the retail price.  At first glance, this sounds fair.  If you’re paying the utility $.11 per kwh for the electricity they sell you, the utility should pay you $.11 per kwh for the electricity you sell them.  

There are two problems with that thinking. The first is that when the utility buys a kwh from you for $.11 and then resells that kwh at for $.11, the utility loses money.  Even a co-op run by pathological profit haters will realize that there must be a markup over the cost of something to cover heat, lights, taxes, accounting and so on.  

You may say, “Oh no, the utility doesn’t need to charge for all that because it’s only giving me back my own electricity when I need it.”  In essence, the utility has stored your excess electricity so you can use it at a later time. Conceptually, that is perfectly accurate.  In practice, that is hugely inaccurate. 

This is the second problem with net metering: It allows the homeowner to use the electric grid as though it was a huge COST-FREE storage battery when there is no such thing as cost-free electric storage, battery or otherwise.   

To illustrate the point, if you disconnect your home from the utility’s power, go “off the grid,” any excess electricity generated by your solar system will be wasted unless you can store it.  The most economical way to do that today is to buy a Powerwall battery from Tesla Motors. Tesla’s 7-kilowatt/13.5-kilowatt-hour storage system costs $5,900, plus “supporting hardware,” whatever that is, and installation.   

You’ll probably need several of these, depending on the size of your solar array, how much sunshine you get, and how much electricity you need.  Regardless, it’s hardly free.  

Bottom line: Net metering is a subsidy to homeowners who have solar installations. If you think this subsidy is paid by the electric utility, you are sadly mistaken.  Look at your electric bill. You will note that there is a “Renewable Energy Rider” which is an addition to your bill, not a reduction. On my bills, this adds about five percent to my electricity cost, before taxes.  

This is how WE, not Public Service of New Mexico (PNM) help to pay the monthly electric bills of people wealthy enough to install solar panels. This is in addition to the subsidy we paid, indirectly, through tax credits given to people as an incentive to buy the solar systems. Tax credits are a reduction in income taxes owed, which means somebody else must pay higher income taxes.   

A case can be made that such subsidies are necessary in order to get a new industry up and running.  I don’t agree but, regardless, it would be a great victory for transparency if candidates for public office would say: “I am in favor of raising your taxes so that rich people can install solar systems and have lower electric bills in order to save all of us from global warming.”   

Or something like that.  

Until recently, 41 states required net metering at retail prices. In Michigan, the Public Service Commission, the equivalent of our Public Regulatory Commission, just last month replaced retail pricing with something closer to wholesale pricing, a step in the right direction.  Montana is considering a similar change. 

In New Mexico the chances of anything so sensible are remote.  Politicians of both parties are enamored of renewable energy, and the Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) will do what is necessary to help PNM meet the renewable fuel standards mandated by New Mexico’s legislators, something the PRC should do, even if that means raising our electric bills. 

Considering its importance, one would hope that candidates running for election to the PRC would be familiar with net metering.  There are five candidates running to represent our district, District Five, two are Democrats, three are Republicans. 

I have met two of the Republicans and neither was familiar with net metering.  One, Ben Hall, was on the PRC from 2010 to 2014 when he was defeated for reelection, and I think he should have been knowledgeable about net metering. Instead, he tried to tell me that it was some kind of Federal mandate.  Ben Hall should withdraw from the race.  

The other candidate I have met, Chris Mathys, also didn’t know about net metering but at least he didn’t try to BS me. There’s hope for him.  I have not met the third Republican candidate, Joe Bizzell, but I did email him yesterday, “Is net metering a good idea?”  

No answer yet. I plan on asking the two Democratic candidates the same question, and I’ll let you know how all three respond.   

 

A Common Sense Proposal to Increase Safety at New Mexico’s Schools

A Common Sense Proposal to Increase Safety at New Mexico’s Schools, by Peter Burrows 3/14/18 elburropete@gmail.com –  silvercityburro.com 

Last month’s horrific shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, elicited the usual storm of hysterical cries to “do something.”  Most of the “somethings” proposed would in fact do nothing.  

Not all, however.  The common sense notion that teachers should be armed is gaining ground.  There are many who think arming teachers is anything but “common sense,” and those people are wrong.  Let’s look at some facts. 

1)  Crazy people are crazy, not stupid.  I should rewrite that at least ten times, because it is an important, crucial fact that gun control advocates just don’t get: The killers are crazy, not stupid.  

2) 98 percent of all mass shootings in the United States happen in placers that are legally designated as “gun free zones.”    

3) Almost all schools are gun free zones.  

The linkage between the above three points should be obvious.  Try to imagine you are a twisted little psychopath who wants to go out in a blaze of infamy.  You approach Stout Elementary during school hours and you notice a sign, a BIG sign, above the door that reads:  ALL EMPLOYEES IN THIS BUILDING ARE PERMITTED TO CARRY CONCEALED FIREARMS.  

I believe the typical psychopath would read that and decide to wreak mayhem elsewhere.  Maybe he’ll go down to the Silco Theater, confident that he can shoot the place up and escape out the back, undeterred and still on the rampage.  

He gets to the Silco, however, and notices a sign, another big one, that reads: LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AND CONCEALED CARRY PERMIT HOLDERS –  HALF PRICE.  I’m betting he reads that and heads to Walmart, where the sign on the door says firearms are not permitted in the building.  

Yes, indeed. That’s the place to kill lots of folks, unless of course, there’s a lawbreaker on the premises who might shoot back.    

The bottom line is that it is not the psychopath who is stupid; it is the advocate of gun free zones.   

Thinking that an armed guard is going to solve the problem is also stupid.  Didn’t work in Lakeland, where the guard was either incompetent or cowardly. Doesn’t make any difference which, because any psychopath with an ounce of intelligence will know that the guard is the first and only person he has to take out to then have a risk-free killing zone.  

The beauty of having armed school personnel is that not every teacher has to be armed, maybe not any. But the psycho won’t know who’s armed.  Could be the janitor. Could be the little old lady helping to teach kindergarten. Could be the kindergarten teacher.   

You get my point, I hope.  

As a practical matter, this does not eliminate the mass-shooter problem, it merely changes the locale. True, but it does keep the kids safe, which is the objective.  

Implementing this plan would be simplicity itself: The New Mexico Legislature passes a law that requires every employee of our public schools pass the background check required to buy a handgun.  (Not a bad idea, guns or not.) If they pass, they get a concealed carry permit, good for as long as they are employed by the school, which allows the employee to carry a concealed weapon at the school, or anywhere.  

Any employee can carry a weapon, but no employee is required to.  Training should be available for those who want it, but not required, because we don’t want to identify those who may be armed in any way.  The schools could sell weapons wholesale, but on a strictly confidential basis, for the same reason. 

Even if nobody in the school was armed, something I hope would never happen, the psycho would see the sign, ALL EMPLOYEES IN THIS BUILDING ARE PERMITTED TO CARRY CONCEALED FIREARMS and go elsewhere.  

Any supervisor who objects to that sign should be fired. What that person is doing is maintaining the invisible sign, easily read by the psychopath, that reads: THIS IS A GUN FREE ZONE. NOBODY WILL STOP YOU FROM KILLING OUR CHILDREN. 

Stupid.  Really, really stupid. 

 

Straight up stupid

“Straight up stupid” by Peter Burrows 3/5/18  elburropete@gmail.com — silvercityburro.com 

Somebody once described the Republicans and the Democrats as “the stupid party and the evil party.”  That’s a little unfair to the Republicans, as there is plenty of nonpartisan stupidity to go around, but last week the Republicans owned the title. No contest. Two examples: 

First, Republican Lt. Governor John Sanchez visited Silver City to talk to local officials about the Air Force’s proposed Gila Wilderness flyovers.  He then spent an hour or so with local Republicans.  At that meeting, he lamented to some of us about what a money loser Governor Bill Richardson’s Rail Runner had proven to be.   

He also mentioned another money-losing Richardson folly, the Spaceport. (I note that quite a few Republicans put on their stupid hats and supported Richardson’s Spaceport idea.)  New Mexico has spent $250 million on a facility that was supposed to start sending rich people into sub-orbit starting in 2010. That’s right, 2010.  Flights to date: Zero. 

Surprisingly, the recent budget bill has $10 million for a new hangar at the spaceport, and when I asked Sanchez if that was going to get a line item veto, I got the strong impression that it would not. Sanchez told us the Spaceport has new management that is “really professional” and will sell the locale to aerospace companies around the world and the new hangar will facilitate that and blah, blah, blah.  

Besides, the Spaceport, like the Rail Runner, can’t be sold because nobody will buy it. Gee, I said, why not try to GIVE it to Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, a couple guys who might know how to make a buck down there?  

(Bezos and Musk are billionaire entrepreneurs operating their own space cargo/travel companies. I doubt if either would want a facility located in the middle of nowhere, but it would be worth a try.)   

Sanchez looked at me as though I had lost my mind. He was probably thinking, “What a crazy Old Fart. The Spaceport cost a quarter of a billion dollars and he wants to give it away!”   

Does Sanchez really think the state can hire a bureaucrat who will do a better job than Amazon founder Jeff Bezos? Is he that stupid? More likely, Sanchez has been a member of the political class for so long that he can’t bring himself to admit that the State of New Mexico has made two of the most colossal, straight up stupid investments ever made by a state government.   

That we won’t shut them down or give them away illustrates the sunk-cost fallacy, in which previous investments, the sunk costs, compel people to add to those investments even though it doesn’t make economic sense to do so.  Here’s a great definition I found on the web: 

Sunk costs “are investments which can never be recovered. An android with fully functioning logic circuits would never make a decision which took sunk costs into account, but you would. As an emotional human being, your aversion to loss often leads you right into the sunk cost fallacy.”    

From another site: “The sunk cost fallacy is sometimes called the Concorde fallacy —- a reference to the construction of the first commercial supersonic airliner. The project was predicted to be a failure early on, but everyone involved kept goingTheir shared investment built a hefty psychological burden which outweighed their better judgements. After losing an incredible amount of money, effort and time, they didn’t want to just give up.” 

Sound familiar?   

Exercise of the fallacy is commonly called throwing good money after bad.  Those of us with an MBA in finance have a more technical term for sunk costs: Spilt Milk.  

The state should shut down both the Rail Runner and the Spaceport because doing so will save New Mexico money.   It won’t recover the investments made or the obligations incurred. Those are sunk costs.  

There is no hope under any realistic scenario for the Rail Runner, but there is a slim chance the Spaceport could become viable if it was given to private investors with the promise it would be a tax-free zone — forever.  Do not hold your breath waiting for that to happen.  

I can forgive New Mexico’s Republicans for succumbing to the sunk cost fallacy concerning Richardson’s boondoggles, but it is unforgivable not to make political hay out of them. These are two examples of Democratic stupidity that voters should be reminded of — constantly. Not to do so is even more stupid than continuing to pour money into them. Damn RINOS. Might as well be Democrats. 

The other great stupidity of last week belongs to President Trump.  He proved his Republican bona fides by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, following in the footsteps of president George W. Bush, who imposed steel import tariffs in 2002.  

The President of the Peterson Institute, economist Adam Posner, said on CNBC that Trump’s tariffs were “straight up stupid,” a wonderful phrase now a part of my lexicon. He also said Trump’s move was “fundamentally incompetent, corrupt or misguided.” Yes, indeed.  Dictatorial, too. Obama-like.   

I don’t know if there is such a thing as “trade deficit fallacy,” but there should be, right alongside sunk cost fallacy. Trump doubled down on his stupidity by saying “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.” I wonder if there is an example in history where a nation “won” a trade war?    

The effect of tariffs ripples through the economy in ways most people don’t see.  A good example, close to home, is Trump’s import tariffs on solar panels, a move opposed by our Senator Heinrich, a Democrat, who urged Trump to “look at the bigger picture,” that being that solar panel manufacturing is a miniscule portion of the solar industry, and the increased cost of panels would hurt demand, effecting installers, inverter manufacturers and so on.   

The senator is right. Of course, the REALLY big picture would include the subsidies the solar industry gets, the uneconomic realities of solar power and the stupidity of New Mexico trying to save the world from Global Warming. (Always capitalize a religion.) So, in this case, import tariffs might actually have a good effect, though not in the way intended.   

Stupid Republican thwarts evil Democrat.  Nothing to be happy about.  

The Case For Nuclear Power

The Case For Nuclear Power  by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com 1/1/18

For over ten years, there has been a growing realization among environmentalists that the best way to both eliminate poverty and “save the world” from carbon dioxide emissions is not with renewable energy, e.g. wind and solar, but with nuclear energy.

You haven’t heard about this because it runs counter to the entrenched, well-subsidized solar and wind industries’ interests.  Nuclear advocates present an argument that is reasoned, scientific and compassionate, the latter meaning it exposes the unaffordability of solar and wind.  How novel, coming from environmentalists.  

The most visible nuclear power advocate is Michael Shellenberger, who is running for governor of California.  I wrote about him in my blog, “A Progressive Environmentalist I’d Vote For,” 12/26/17.  I don’t think he has much chance to win, but he will be campaigning on why nuclear power is better than solar and wind, and that’s a start.  

If you want to see him in action, he gave a presentation last November, before he had declared his run for governor, “Why I Changed My Mind About Nuclear Power,” available on You Tube, about 20 minutes: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciStnd9Y2ak. I’ll try to summarize his arguments, with only a little editorializing.

To put nuclear powered electricity at the front of preferred power sources, you have to convince people that it is SAFE.  For the typical consumer, the reliability and cost of electricity are the most important criteria, AFTER safety.  

I don’t think CO2 emissions are an important part of the equation, but they are to Shellenberger and other “atomic humanists.”  They can give the solar and wind folks a good whuppin’, something coal backers simply cannot do if CO2 is part of the argument. (I don’t think it should be, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend, don’t cha know.)

Shellenberger uses data from the two biggest nuclear power disasters in world history to show that the mortality from the resulting radiation was either extraordinary low, as in the case of the Chernobyl, or non-existent, as in the case of Fukushima.

Chernobyl is the biggie. It is the worst nuclear accident to date, and probably the worst that will ever happen. Nobody will ever again build such a poorly designed nuclear power plant.  It had no containment dome. When the reactor exploded, it rained radiation everywhere.  Twenty eight people died from acute radiation exposure, and over the next 25 years, another 15 from thyroid cancer.

That’s all. In fact, an increased incidence of thyroid cancer is the only serious consequence of Chernobyl that has been detected in the last 30 years. Of the 16,000 people who got thyroid cancer from Chernobyl, an estimated one percent, 160, will die from it.  This is not a trivial concern for those 160 people, but they are far, far fewer than the predicted fatalities.  

Chernobyl has been intensely researched by hundreds of scientists over the years. They have found no evidence of effects on fertility, infant mortality, birth defects, heritable defects or any increase in any cancer other than thyroid.  What is most surprising, “ there’s no evidence of any increase in non-thyroid cancer including among the cohort who put out the Chernobyl fire and cleaned it up afterward.”

One of the scientists Shellenberger cites claims that breathing passive smoke is almost twice as dangerous  as being a Chernobyl liquidator, and living in a big city’s air pollution is almost three times as dangerous.  He says all this data is available on the web, “but nobody knows it.”

Deaths from particulate matter and other air pollution such as passive cigarette smoke are suspect in my opinion, but they are always cited to oppose coal power.  If used to justify nuclear, I’m good with it. Shellenberger even quotes the sainted CO2 warrior James Hansen who says “nuclear power has actually saved 1.8 million lives.”  

His biggest surprise is when he shows a graph and says, “–look at how much more materials are required to produce energy from solar and wind compared to nuclear. As a result, solar actually produces 200 to 300 times more toxic waste than nuclear.”  This is all pollution from the hard stuff, no mention of carbon dioxide emissions.  

I won’t bore you with Shellenberger’s economic case for nuclear vs. renewables.  I do a better job of that in my blog, “Dear Public Service of New Mexico, I’m still waiting for an answer,” 11/30/17.

The fact that he thinks the economics of energy are important sets him apart from the typical apocalyptic environmentalist.  I suspect he is no longer welcome at The Church of Global Warming because an article he co-wrote in 2013 claimed that “energy poverty causes more harm to the poor than global warming.”

More harm than global warming? Yes!  No moral grandstanding for Mr.Shellenberger. He has traveled the world. He has seen a lot of poverty, and people trying to escape poverty by moving to the cities for jobs, education, opportunity.  He thinks such urbanization is a good thing, because it “allows the natural environment to come back.”

Modern urbanization means skyscrapers, which take “a huge amount of energy,” and he asks, “how do you get plentiful, reliable electricity without destroying the environment?”  By that I think he means, “How can we simultaneously reduce poverty AND carbon dioxide emissions?”

Wind and solar are NOT the answer.  They are too expensive, too unreliable, and even too polluting vs. nuclear.  Good luck, Governor Shellenberger!

 

A Progressive Environmentalist I’d Vote For

A Progressive Environmentalist I’d Vote For By Peter Burrows 12/26/17 elburropete@gmail.com  – silvercityburro.com

Most “Progressives” I know suffer from a huge sense of moral and intellectual superiority. They are always right and they are better people, too. Protected by what Eric Hoffer called “fact-proof shields,” they can inflict great damage on the rest of us if we let them and alas, we are letting them.

The typical progressive refuses to recognize the dangers of Islam, black racism, economic populism, judicial activism and rampant environmentalism, to name a few of their sacred cows. Occasionally, one of them gets “mugged by reality,” and such a person deserves to be praised, whether they like it or not.

Michael Shellenberger is such a person. He is a 46-year-old environmentalist with impeccable liberal credentials. A life-long Democrat, he was on Time Magazine’s 2008 list, “Heroes of the Environment,” and coauthor of “Break Through,” which won the 2008 Green Book of the Year Award.

In 2003 he co-founded The Breakthrough Institute, which advocates higher levels of public funding to advance technologies that would make clean energy that was also cheap, just the opposite of current policies. He has been described as an “ecomodernist” and an “eco-pragmatist,” a couple of fancy words that are shorthand for: “person with common sense.”

Last year, Shellenberger resigned as president of the Breakthrough Institute and started a new organization, Environmental Progress, which has the following Mission Statement:

Environmental Progress (EP) was founded to achieve two goals: lift all humans out of poverty, and save the natural environment. These goals can be achieved by mid-century — but only if we remove the obstacles to cheap, reliable and clean energy.

Eliminating world poverty and simultaneously saving the environment. Isn’t that what “100% renewables” is all about? Those may be the claims, but the reality is that 100% renewable energy is so expensive it would dramatically INCREASE world poverty.

Shellenberger has spent a lot of time in poor countries, and he knows that standards of living correlate with access to electricity, cheap, reliable electricity. “Cheap” and “reliable” are simply not possible with 100% renewable energy. (See my blog of 11/30/17: “Dear Public Service of New Mexico, I’m still waiting for an answer.”) Shellenberger knows this.

“Clean” rules out the use of natural gas for true-believer carbon dioxide warriors like Shellenberger. What’s left is Shellenberger’s solution: nuclear power. I don’t think nuclear today qualifies as “cheap,” but it’s a helluva lot cheaper than wind and solar, so that’s good enough for me.

Advocating nuclear power pits Shellenberger against the solar and wind industry, a powerful, subsidy- sucking crony constituency that enjoys support of both political parties and is a huge waste of money. This may be Shellenberger’s political Achilles’ heel. Once a constituency gets entrenched, it is almost impossible to overcome, and they fight tooth-and-nail, with lots of bucks, to protect their turf.

Case in point: ethanol. Almost NOBODY, except a bunch of RINOs in Iowa, including two Republican Senators, supports ethanol anymore. Since Iowa is where the first presidential primaries are held, Iowa corn farmers can expect to get their butts kissed at least every four years, at our expense. As bad as it is, the ethanol lobby is chump change compared to the huge “global warming apocalypse” industry. 

When Shellenberger says we must “remove the obstacles to cheap, reliable, clean energy,” he means among other things, he wants to stop the emotion-driven closure of viable nuclear power plants. Wherever that has happened, the vast majority of the CO2- free nuclear electricity has been replaced with new CO2-spewing fossil fueled power plants. It’s happening right now in Germany and Japan.

Make no mistake: Shellenberger is a CO2 warrior. He’s also a decent human being who would rather reduce poverty than engage in the moral grandstanding so common among the environmental elite.

In early December, after watching an interview in which the famed New York Times columnist Tom Friedman planted lusty smooches on Governor Jerry Brown’s ass because Brown was shutting down more nuclear plants, Shellenberger declared his candidacy to succeed Brown as governor of California.

The centerpiece of his campaign will be stopping the closure of Pacific Gas and Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which currently supplies 9% of California’s electricity. He will point out that California’s CO2 emissions under the sainted Jerry Brown increased while CO2 emissions went down in the rest of the country, all because of Brown’s crusade to shut down nuclear power.

Shellenberger started his campaign to save Diablo Canyon in early 2016 and soon followed that with a campaign to stop Illionois from shutting down six nuclear power plants. Shellenberger’s pro-nuclear movement has been joined by a number of prominent environmentalists, most notably retired NASA scientist James Hansen, “The Father of Global Warming.”

Hansen testified to a Congressional committee way back in 1988 on what he saw as the danger of CO2 induced global warming. If you are a CO2 alarmist, there is nobody, NOBODY, more credible than James Hansen.

Shellenberger also claims the support of “the ecomodernist and atomic humanist movements.” (Atomic humanist!! No, I didn’t make that up. I’m not that good, but count me in: EL BURRO, ATOMIC HUMANIST. I think I’ll buy a cape.)

More important than his allies, Shellenberger has discovered renewable energy advocates who “were wrong, or lying,” corrupt unions, a clueless mainstream media, compliant utilities, and demagogic politicians. They’re all “progressives,” so what’s not to like when one of their own takes them on?

If I lived in California I’d vote for Shellenberger in the primary, even though he won’t win. The leading Democratic candidate is Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. He used to be Mayor of San Francisco and he’s real pretty. Plus, he’ll buss as many Lib/Prog butts as it takes to win both the primary and the general elections. I bet he’d support ethanol if he was an Iowa Republican.

In a future article, I’ll outline Shellenberger’s case for nuclear power. Most of it will be based on a 20-minute You Tube in which he lays out chapter-and-verse on why he became a nuclear advocate. It’s worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciStnd9Y2ak .

 

Proof, please, Mr. Riva

On December 3, The Beat published a number of articles by Peter Riva, who writes the Beat column, View From The Edge. In the one titled, “Lies Pretending To Be Proof,” he wrote:

“American citizens all have a right to vote. No, not everybody does. With the cost of proof of identity running at $300 (original birth certificate or a $600 Citizenship Certificate proving you’re American – note in some states neither a US passport nor a driver’s license is accepted) – many poor or paperless people can’t register to vote. And the more poor or unpapered people are, the more likely the more conservative candidates will win.”

This would be an outrageous situation wherever it exists, but damned if I could find any proof that it exists anywhere. The most recent article I could find on the cost of voter ID was an October 8, 2014, article in The Atlantic, “Here’s How Much It Costs to Vote in States With Voter ID Laws,” which cited a just-released Government Accountability Office study, one that was reissued February 27, 2015.

The GAO study looked at the 17 states that required government-issued IDs at the polls, a driver’s license being the most common form of government-issued ID. The maximum cost to obtain a driver’s license was $58.50. Sixteen of the 17 states offered a free alternative to a driver’s license, or any other required form of ID.

I didn’t go to the trouble of determining if the $58.50 state was the one not offering a freebie. The Atlantic article stated that even in the free states it wasn’t really free since some applicants had to go to the trouble of getting a birth certificate, which “can cost as much as $25.”

Where, Mr. Riva, is “the cost of proof of identity running at $300,” and what can we do to correct this unacceptable situation?

The city of Albuquerque has required photo-ID to vote since 2005. Is Albuquerque one of those $300 places, Mr. Riva? If so, count me in at the Roundhouse rally protesting this manifest injustice.

From personal experience, I can attest that there is one form of personal identification that is way too expensive in New Mexico, and that is a concealed carry permit, a.k.a. Concealed Handgun License. The state charges a fee of $100 and requires applicants take a course in handgun safety, which can cost up to $100, plus pass a background check.

The background check requires a state-issued birth certificate. If you have a birth certificate issued by the hospital in which you were born, that is not good enough. I found this out the hard way when my hospital-issued birth certificate was returned to me.

The nice lady in Santa Fe said she would love to have me come to her office, take off my sock and prop my naked foot on her desk so she could check my footprint against the one on the hospital form. She would even bring a magnifying glass, but alas, that still wouldn’t be good enough. I had to get a copy of my official birth certificate from my state of birth, Missouri, which took a couple of weeks and cost me $15.

The whole rigmarole cost my wife and me over $300. In a growing number of states, if you can pass the background check when you buy a gun that is good enough to carry it concealed, no permit needed, no payment to state bureaucrats. Vermont has been this way for decades, Arizona as of last year. Will New Mexico ever follow suit?

When there’s ice in Hell.