What follows in this blog is similar to what I say in this 18-minute-long video. Think, it’s only a few short 16 minutes longer than recommended for a movie to do well on the internet!
The Constitution is Clear
First the main point of the ad– that granting eminent domain to Line 3—or any other private oil or gas pipeline—is an unconstitutional subsidy..
I anticipate serious disagreement or at least head-scratching on some points I make in the ad and so I’d like to clarify.
I understand that the courts have been very hard on my line of reasoning here. The Supreme Court has been lackadaisical about putting any restrictions whatever on what can be seen as a public use for the last 70 years. But what I’m saying is the Supreme Court is clearly wrong, it’s wandering in the wilderness, but that’s no reason the rest of us have to be wandering with them.
Bear in mind I’m not a lawyer, thankfully, or a Constitutional Law expert.
In one famously botched Supreme Court decision on eminent domain from the early 2000s, Kelo vs New London, one of the plaintiffs was an 82 year old woman who wanted to live out her days in the house she had spent her whole life in. They ruled against her and her house got bulldozed, but then the city’s project fell through, and now on her property a monument sits, dedicated to all the victims of eminent domain all over the world. A book about the New London case ramifications is called “The Grasping Hand.”
But the Constitution is clear. It says eminent domain can only be used for “public use”. It’s easy to see why private oil and gas pipelines have become conflated with a “public use.” There is the sloppy but easy argument that since “everybody” needs to buy gas and everybody wants it as cheap as they can get it and it may have felt like a “public use” .
But it’s clearly not in the spirit of the Constitution. If the framers had meant that it was for private corporations to lower their cost of doing business, they would have written it that way. The framers don’t need to have predicted climate change, what they wrote made perfect sense and it would have outlawed this use regardless of whether people knew the stuff in the pipeline was destroying the planet, All the Courts ever had to do was enforce the Constitution.
By the way, it’s important to note Without eminent domain, there could still be pipelines. The companies could multiply their generosity to landowners and essentially offer rent payment for energy transhipment as well as the land purchase payments and get the county’s involved by paying them energy-transhipment fees that would help rural counties with their finances. Eventually were enough money offered, landowners could even be lining up to suggest routes to the companies. But under this free market scenario, it would cost a whole heck of a lot more money for the pipeline company than it does to use currently when they rely on the thug-like power of eminent domain.
Now all the economists that I buy into would say allowing the pricing of pipelines to be determined in the free market would result in more efficiencies in the market not less, so we’d all be slightly richer under this scenario and there’d be more jobs and money even though the price of one commodity would be higher.
And if the price of gasoline went higher, less gasoline would be used, and climate forcing would be eased by that amount.
Pipelines are a symptom of a bigger problem
That was the target issue of my ad but I threw in some statements that may not sit well with everyone. The ad basically acquits capitalism of being at fault for climate change, and even a lot of people who may fairly like capitalism might not be comfortable with that. I also implied a lot of pessimism that humanity will ever do anything real to stop climate change.
I obviously need to keep this short, but Let me try to back up both points.
I am, first of all, completely pessimistic. I would say nothing is that has been done, nothing that is being done and nothing that is being planned to be done will even remotely slow or stop climate change.
The infrastructure package is a great example (I say that even as I continue to view Joe Biden as a great hero for his role in helping save our democracy.) Very few people have pointed out that building over 100 billion dollars of roads and bridges and paying for it through a non-user-fee will be creating a new 100 plus billion dollar subsidy for climate change.
And so far more or less everything done or planned to so-called “address” climate change is a government mandate or subsidy or a new government program that seeks to spend money on something. None will have any significant effect on the market for fossil fuels or energy, because they all leave the fundamentals of the fossil fuel market unchanged.
There have been recent advances in energy efficiency. LEDs are an example. But LEDs don’t result in reduced energy use overall because markets will clear. The fossil fuel or electricity left on the table at the same low price it’s always been at will be grabbed up by the market. New demand will arise—one thing that happened when LEDs came in is people decided put up more lights at night. But someone will always come in to swoop up the low-priced energy that is left on the table. Three good examples of new uses waiting in the wings are indoor marijuana growing, crypto-currency mining or Space travel tourism.
Similarly the massive buildout of wind and solar looks impressive to people but it isn’t doing a thing to slow climate change because, again, it’s leaving the fossil fuel market untouched. All it’s doing is killing bats and birds and stealing habitat from desert plants and animals.
Similarly biofuel and biomass mandates have been sold to a gullible press as climate solutions when they are actually making the problem worse. Ethanol uses so much land-40% of our vast corn crop—that it is displacing agriculture into the tropics and so we are partly to blame for the current situation wherein indigenous land defenders are being murdered by the scores—We are partly to blame with our insistence on ‘thinking green and acting yellow, i.e. ethanol.
Biomass, which is a fancy name for burning forests, has been corruptly designated a renewable fuel in Europe and that’s resulted in many forests being destroyed in the name of saving the environment. Orwell would believe this.
Similarly carbon sequestration and Hydrogen power are just examples of rent-seeking, the practice of businesses and industry getting freebies from government, businesses whose main product is lobbying congress for more money. Nothing good will come of any of these.
A solution proposed:
These are socialized solutions that will not work. Capitalism offers a way out of climate change, although it would be near about politically impossible to make it ever happen because it would involve some prices going up. But it could be beautiful. Here’s how it would work:
Democratic Governments could decide to spend no more general tax money on subsidizing climate change. They would dismantle every subsidy, including hidden ones. One small but good example of a hidden subsidy for fossil fuel by the way is the Port of Seattle not making a profit for it’s citizen-owners. Instead it is on the dole, so we King County taxpayers are forking over money every year to subsidize air travelers and shipping companies. Eliminating all subsidies would be a massive and meaningful 1st step.
The second key step would be for democratic governments to resolve to spend no more money from the general fund on addressing the impacts of climate change. All money spent addressing the harm of climate change would from now on have to be raised by taxing the offending pollutant.
You could call them taxes or externality fees.
So if we needed more money to fight fires for instance, we would only spend that money and fight those fires if we could raise that more money by some kind of carbon tax. If we need to help coastal dwellers relocate, we wouldn’t refuse to do, but we’d refuse to use the general fund, we’d insist on using a pollution tax of some kind.
These policies would bring the price of carbon into line with the real cost of carbon to the world. It might be politically untenable -because the price of fossil fuels start to get really high—and unless people really thought we should stop climate change the high prices would just cause rebellion, like in France with the Yellowjackets.
So why are people so unwilling to do anything serious about climate change? What if the world were getting colder? What if there was snow in London in July? What if New York Harbor was beginning to freeze over in the winter. Humans would be on it so fast everyone’s head would spin. They wouldn’t be falling for bio fuel and biomass and carbon sequestration or any of the other “bright green lies.”. Why do we fall for things like biomass? Biofuel? Carbon sequestration?and Hydrogen? Why does the culture as a whole not care that what we’ve done so far is a failure or worse? That what Germany, Britain and Europe are doing is a failure? Why don’t we reexamine Ethanol? Why do even the climate aware journalists not seem to question things like cap and trade and low carbon standard that provide such a great cover for rent-seeking? and low carbon standards being essentially corrupt plans so the corporations can rent seek and get a new flow of cash? Why do we not react when people say the infrastructure package will fight climate change by building roads. War is peace, captivity is freedom.
Humans have a conflict of interest: (Maybe we should let Polar Bears decide!)
There is an answer. The reason we don’t want to do anything about climate change is that we humans are actually in favor of it. We are a tropical species. We re from the Garden of Eden or tropical Africa, depending on your orientation. But now the most successful economies of humans are in the temperate zone and we can’t stand the temperate zone, we want to make it into the new expanded tropics.
When I say we are a tropical species, depending on your politics we are either from the Garden of Eden, no snow shovels there, or tropical Africa. Humans have come up with a lot of technology to defeat the temperate zone winter, but they hate it. We all have heard somebody say the reason they are in Florida is they got tired of shoveling snow in Chicago.
So how to defeat that problem? We always had a moral obligation to fight climate change. We have no right to steal the Creation away from our own grandchildren, for instance. But now maybe climate change is getting so real we will all suddenly understand that we aren’t creating a tropical wonderland. Climate Change means creeks run dry. It means rivers will run dry. It means wells will run dry. If you’re in Tucson and you bend over to get a drink and press the water fountain, no water might come out.
Millions of people without water or viable agriculture will try to leave their homelands, they will have no choice, and they will head for a place they believe is better. You won’t want to be where the people are who are leaving and you don’t want to be where they are going to.
A first step we could take in really turning this around is to help the Ojibwe people stop Line 3, an aggression against both the Earth and the free market.
Here is a movie in which I mostly recapitulate this blog text
correspondence is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the text of the ad:
The US isn’t fighting climate change, it’s unconstitutionally subsidizing it
When humans are done destroying the Earth, many will look back and blame Capitalism. But Line 3 in MN, which would carry filthy climate-destroying Tar-Sands oil, only exists because of Government intervention into the free market–i.e. ‘eminent domain’ is bulldozing its path. The Constitution restricts this power to cases involving ‘public use.’ We could once afford to conflate private oil companies and subsidized gasoline prices with ‘public use,’ but no more. Help the Ojibwe Tribe save their lands from Line 3.
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