The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in a case that could determine whether or not the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis has written about the case for Forbes.
In the middle of this holiday season my colleague Stephanie Rugolo over at the Cato’s new project, HumanProgress.org, is spreading cheer by getting out the word about the improving human condition. She offered these thoughts which I’d like to share:
Good News to Share Over the Holidays: The World Is Getting Better
You’ve heard it all before, “The world is becoming increasingly violent,” “Work-related injuries are on the rise,” “Soon, we’ll have no more forests.” As it turns out, pessimism is often at odds with the real world.
Long term trends for nearly every indicator of human progress are positive. For instance, forest coverage in rich countries is increasing in line with the Environmental Kuznets Curve. This trend will hopefully continue in the developing world as it becomes richer.
According to the International Labor Organization, work fatalities are way down, while economic freedom is on the rise. This should give pause to those who think that free market is synonymous with bad working conditions. Quite the opposite. Economically free countries tend to be richer than economically unfree countries, and richer countries have safer working environments.
Moreover, there has been a dramatic decline in violence. Conflicts between major powers, which used to be commonplace, are non-existent. Deaths due to genocide are way down, too.
So cheer up and enjoy the holidays!
I had the privilege of meeting with Charlie Drevna, President of American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers this week. He had some extremely interesting things to say about the way mounting environmental regulations are threatening jobs in the refining sector that he represents.
A particularly compelling insight he provided was that many of the Obama administration’s environmental regulations actually contradict each other. For instance, CAFE regulations require higher fuel efficiency from automobiles. Yet the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates the use of less efficient ethanol, reduces fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, the Tier III rules from EPA contradict the rulemaking on greenhouse gas emissions: refineries need to do more processing to reduce sulfur in gasoline, which increases emissions at a refinery by up to 2.3 percent, while at the same time they are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Two more examples: to reduce ozone in the atmosphere under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) requires more energy. More energy requires more greenhouse gas emissions, so there is another clear contradiction. Finally, state sulfur regulations contradict federal greenhouse gas regulations — if you use energy to reduce the sulfur in heating oil, you will increase your greenhouse gas emissions.
The left seems to have decided the only way to win at global warming politics at this point is by smearing critics of climate change alarmism as being “anti-science” or equivalent to being a “flat earther.” Columnist Charles Krauthammer aptly describes this M.O. as “shockingly arrogant and anti-scientific” — the notion that questioning “settled science” or bringing new evidence to bear is wrong or disallowed. Our friends at Frontiers of Freedom posted the transcript and video clip.
It may not be a popular fact, but a fact it is: the environment is getting cleaner, and it has since about the mid-20th century. The question is, what caused this improvement? How can we keep it going? Over at Topix.com, my colleague Geoffrey McLatchey and I argue that the best answer for both questions is wealth creation:
Economic growth and environmental quality are not opposing values. They go hand-in-hand. Something happens to a country when its per capita GDP reaches about $5,000 (U.S. per capita GDP is about $48,000). At that point, families are certainly not rich. But they don’t have to worry as much about where their next meal will come from. They can afford to begin to take care of other needs, such as building sewage systems and other pollution-reducing infrastructure. Instead of using wood for heating and cooking, people can turn to more efficient fossil fuels, which means less deforestation. Farmers can afford to adopt modern techniques that produce more food with less land, leaving more left over for wildlife.
That’s the good news. The even better news is that greater progress is on the horizon. The number of people living in absolute poverty halved between 1990 and 2010, and the number continues to dwindle. Remarkably, this is happening even as global population increases. As more countries pass the $5,000-per capita benchmark, ecosystems around the world will benefit.
Read the whole thing here. Even if people do concede to the data and admit that the world’s environmental situation isn’t doom-and-gloom, they often give credit to the EPA. A glance at my recent EPA report card will hopefully disabuse people of that notion. Innovation, not regulation, is what will keep the environment healthy. That’s the lesson people should take from Earth Day.
PolitiFact falsely depicted Michael Cannon, the director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute, as suggesting that state law overrides federal law, erroneously attributing to him a radical claim that he never made (that states can forbid the federal government from setting up health insurance exchanges). Cannon merely observed that state law in 14 states forbids “state employees” to set up Obamacare health insurance exchanges, and he never said that federal employees could not set them up. (Under the Supreme Court’s Printz decision, the federal government cannot conscript state officials to administer even perfectly constitutional federal laws.)
After falsely putting words into Cannon’s mouth, PolitiFact then rated the claim he never made “false,” and prominently attributed it to him. PolitiFact cheerfully ignored the fact that it had wrongly maligned Cannon, a legally knowledgeable expert on health care regulation, even after its error was brought to its attention by Jonathan Adler, a leading law professor at Case Western Reserve University.
PolitiFact has also made repeated false claims about the Supreme Court’s Ledbetter decision that echoed false Democratic talking points against the Supreme Court in the campaign. PolitiFact resisted fixing its erroneous claims even after lawyers and law professors repeatedly pointed out and documented the falseness of its claims, people such as Professor Adler, and a former Justice Department lawyer at the Heritage Foundation.
After dragging its heels, PolitiFact finally corrected some of its false claims after criticism of its falsehoods spread beyond legal circles to the general public, drawing scrutiny from people like Megan McArdle of Newsweek/Daily Beast. (Their criticism of PolitiFact for making obvious factual errors put its (undeserved) credibility at risk if it failed to belatedly correct the most blatant of the errors they cited.)
Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment Myron Ebell discusses his recent PBS Frontline appearance, and how the debate over global warming has shifted in the last few years. The issue has all but fallen off the radar as economic difficulties have supplanted environmental concerns in the public mind.
The left-leaning, self-proclaimed “fact checker” PolitiFact ignored the most basic economic law, the law of supply and demand, in claiming that cap-and-trade legislation, which is designed to limit energy consumption and increase the price of energy from non-renewable sources, could actually result in “an average lower cost for consumers.” Even the supporters of such legislation, such as President Obama, have admitted that such legislation increases energy costs to consumers. In a January 17, 2008, interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama said that “electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket” under his cap-and-trade plan to fight global warming. Similarly, a CBS analyst pointed out that a Treasury Department analysis estimated the cost of the Obama administration’s cap-and-trade plan at $1,761 per year for the average American household.
The steady stream of outright falsehoods coming from PolitiFact, and its blatant double standards and hypocrisy, are chronicled at a blog called PolitiFact Bias. Additional commentary on the bias of the head of PolitiFact in Virginia can be found here. A rebuttal to false claims made in defense of PolitiFact Virginia can be found here.
In a similar vein, Investor’s Business Daily and other publications have chronicled how widely-cited self-proclaimed fact checkers like the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler have gotten “their own facts wrong” when writing about things like plant closings and foreign policy.