Newsletters

Newletter 96 - Winter 2019

Let's hear it for smaller, more focused, less costly government!

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Spread the Word
Deep State
Climate Science (John Greer)
Renewable Energy (John Nichols)
Video Corner (Gettysburg)
About SAFE

Spread the Word – SAFE has been saying for some time that the fiscal problem – not impeachment, healthcare, or global warming – should be the top issue for the 2020 presidential election. Our reasoning and efforts to date were discussed in a recent blog entry. Deficits and debt: Who’s in charge here, 12/16/19.

Readers offered several helpful comments (scroll down to the end), including this one from SAFE Director Jerry Martin: “Numbers count, and maybe it would help if we got SAFE members and supporters involved in calling the White House comment line and advocating the idea of making balancing the budget the top 2020 issue. One of the numbers is (202) 456-1111, and I’ve called them before on various issues.”

For readers inclined to aid this cause, the most effective options would probably be a phone call (as Jerry suggested) or an e-mail (from the
“Write or Call the White House” page). Either way, drafting a statement might be helpful before making contact. Here’s an example, but by all means put the message in “your own words.” Thanks for your support!

I am a member of Secure America's Future Economy, which has been advocating smaller, more focused, less costly government since 1996. For further details, please see our website.

Our members believe that the government should balance the budget every year, and that the current/ projected budget deficits are unsustainable. If the government continues on this path, the consequences will be disastrous.

Experience has shown that Congress can’t manage the budget responsibly without presidential leadership. Accordingly, we would urge that all nominees for president endorse the goal of balancing the budget by 2025 and offer specific plans for doing so if elected.

Are you willing to make such a commitment, challenge Democratic candidates to do likewise, and have one of the debates this fall devoted exclusively to evaluating the fiscal plans of the two finalists? We look forward to your response.


Deep State – Much has been reported about a “whistleblower” who claimed President Trump had said inappropriate things during a 7/25/19 telephone conversation with the Ukraine president.

Although never officially identified, said whistleblower was reportedly a CIA-trained official who had been apprised of the alleged statements by someone who had listened to the phone call. A transcript of the conversation showed the president had indeed urged an investigation of alleged misconduct by Joe Biden or his son in the Ukraine and/or Ukraine meddling in the 2016 US election, but opinions differed as to the propriety of his remarks.

USA Today published a column by a member of the US “intelligence community” re the whistleblower’s credibility and wish to remain anonymous. Attacks on deep state will weaken intelligence agencies, News Journal, Angela Kendall-Taylor,
11/15/19.

According to the writer, the CIA trains intelligence analysts to “check [their] politics at the door.” The task is not to advocate a particular course of action, but to assess threats and “equip policy makers with information to make decisions that will best serve the American people.” Thus, the whistleblower “did the job the way all analysts are trained to do it.”

Hmm, sounded as though intelligence analysts should not be expected to explain their thought processes – which in this case left several open questions.

Just what was the threat to national security perceived by the whistleblower?

Did it matter that the whistleblower’s claims weren’t a one-off event, but simply the latest in a series of claims and investigations going back to 2016? Were the judgments of all the intelligence and law enforcement officials who had been involved necessarily logical and impartial, or could a pattern of bias be involved?

Finally, why were readers being invited to follow the writer of the column - a member of the “deeply apolitical” intelligence community - on Twitter?

Climate Science – SAFE director John Greer, Jr. holds a B.Chem.E. degree and is a retired Professional Engineer. Intrigued by the scientific debate over the man-made global warming theory (MMGWT), he has been following the subject avidly in recent years. See, e.g., his report on the 13th International Conference on Climate Change, which was held in Washington, DC on 7/25/19. SAFE newsletter, Fall 2019.

As a means of promoting an informed understanding of this subject, John has developed a slide show on climate science and presented it to a number of groups in the Delaware area. SAFE member Davis Jefferson and yours truly attended a 10/14/19 presentation to about 50 members of the Hercules Men’s Club.

In some quarters, MMGWT skeptics are referred to as “global warming [or climate change] deniers,” but the label clearly doesn’t fit in John’s case. Of course the climate changes, he points out; it has fluctuated considerably in ages past and will continue to do so. And scientific studies have identified various natural factors that have caused cooling and warming over geological time periods including solar activity levels, variations in the Earth’s orbit and rotation, etc. Data – charts.

MMGWT supporters point to carbon emissions caused by the human combustion of fossil fuels as the prime driver of current climate trends, but this factor was too minor to have had much impact before about 1800. Even now, how do we know that it has somehow become the prime driver of global warming and cooling versus the natural factors that were previously predominant?

Keep these points in mind: (1) Although atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased since the start of the Industrial Revolution, CO2 is still a trace gas amounting to only about .0415% of the total atmosphere. (2) Burning of fossil fuels currently account for only about 5% of annual CO2 emissions from all sources, including plant decomposition on land, outgassing from the ocean, volcanoes and forest fires. (3) Ice core data show a correlation between rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels, but rising CO2 levels have followed temperature increases rather than leading them. Modern data show that CO2 changes are a response to temperature changes, not the cause, and temperature changes correlate with solar activity rather than fossil fuel use. Data – charts.

So where’s the proof of the MMGWT? The primary source is the output of computer models that forecast steadily rising temperatures, but computer models are no better than the assumptions built into them and the various models in use have consistently overestimated future temperature increases. Data – charts.

At some point, one has to wonder how MMGWT supporters can claim that this theory is based on an overwhelming scientific consensus as opposed to politics, rent seeking and/or ideology. No one in the audience was disposed to argue about John’s data or charts, but it was suggested that he should avoid questioning the other side’s objectivity (although he did so only in response to questions, not as part of the presentation). OK, it’s better to engage in fact-based, logical debates about this subject, but MMGWT supporters often seem allergic to such discussions.

Renewable Energy – SAFE opposes energy policies that mandate and/or subsidize the use of wind power, solar power, or Bloom Energy fuel cells. The other side has won most of the battles, however, based on widespread (albeit superficial) acceptance of the manmade global warming theory and their success in getting legal arrangements approved that obscure the costs and tradeoffs being imposed on electric power consumers.

SAFE Director John Nichols recently appealed an order of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) permitting the replacement of Bloom Energy fuel cells – based on a review that ignored most of the issues raised at a public hearing in January - for two fuel cell power plants that are primarily funded by a qualified fuel cell provider (QFCP) tariff on Delmarva Power ratepayers. After several months of exchanging legal briefs, the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) peremptorily dismissed Nichols’ appeal at a hearing conducted on 9/24/19. Support electric power that is reliable and affordable, Part A,
10/7/19.

On 11/15/19, the EAB issued a written order that attributed dismissal to lack of standing. Never mind that Nichols was a Delaware resident who had paid the QFCP tariff every month as a Delmarva Power ratepayer. Never mind also a question that had been asked twice at the hearing and both times ignored. If the claimed meaning of the statutory provision was correct, who in Delaware would have had standing to appeal the DNREC order?

In effect, this outcome reflected (1) DNREC’s determination to avoid being required to explain or justify its decisions, and (2) the EAB’s willingness to function as a “going through the motions” appeals forum. Perhaps the General Assembly should abolish the EAB, which seems to represent a waste of taxpayer money, and expect challenges of DNREC orders to be filed directly in the courts.

On 12/4/19, Nichols was a guest on the Rick Jensen show (WDEL, 1150 AM) to comment on some other “renewable energy” issues. The talk show host introduced him as an “energy researcher/ activist” and a “number cruncher.”

Several years earlier, said Jensen, Nichols had predicted that the Bloom Energy fuel cell tariff would cost Delmarva Power ratepayers considerably more than was being officially estimated (about $1 per month for the average ratepayer). If listeners checked page 2 of their monthly Delmarva bills, they would probably see a monthly “qualified fuel cells” charge of $5 or higher plus a similar charge for “wind & solar.” New “renewable energy” proposals might inflate monthly electric bills some more. What was the story?

Currently, said Nichols, renewable energy charges for Delmarva Power customers (total for fuel cells, wind and solar) are running about $80 million per year. If the Renewable Portfolio Standard is to be expanded from 25% renewable to 40% or higher, as many have suggested, one might expect this annual subsidy to double within a few years.

There’s a wild card involved, however, in that massive offshore wind projects – such as the Skipjack Wind Farm - can’t proceed without establishing subsidies that are contractually payable by the ratepayers because power companies don’t want the liabilities on their books.

Skipjack is currently a Maryland deal, but the developer has offered Delaware $18 million for park infrastructure in return for permitting a connection to the grid in this state. Acceptance of this payment might spark a proposal for Delaware to become a full partner, with Delaware utilities purchasing Skipjack power to receive a new class of Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates (ORECs) that would be effectively chargeable to ratepayers. It’s unclear how the ORECs would be priced, but the subsidy involved could be hefty.

Shifting from costs to benefits, Nichols questioned whether any benefits would result from offshore wind projects (or other wind and solar projects).

First, wind power is intermittent and adds nothing to the capacity of the electric grid. The effect of using it is to temporarily displace power from fossil fuel or nuclear power plants and drive up their cost by only using them intermittently.

Second, wind power has significant environmental drawbacks including killing birds and bats. See, e.g., 2.9 billion bird deaths linked to solar and wind power, Katie Kieffer, townhall.com,
9/23/19.

The renewable energy thrust stems from politics versus engineering/science and the current crop of Delaware legislators seem foolishly inclined to go along. One idea to slow things down would be to bring back Sen. Greg Lavelle, who has acknowledged that the effect of expanding the RPS would be to impose a tax (which requires a 2/3 vote under the Delaware Constitution).

Video corner – Here’s a treat for history buffs, courtesy of the National Park Service. A Visit to Gettysburg, video (3:37).

About SAFE - SAFE is a non-partisan, all-volunteer organization that was founded in 1996. We advocate smaller, more focused, lower cost government, to be achieved by cutting spending, restructuring “entitlements,” simplifying taxes, and rationalizing regulations.

SAFE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Andrew Betley, (302) 239-9679
Suzie Dickson
John Greer, (302) 479-0485
Dan Kerrick, treasurer, (302) 521-4272
Steve McClain, (302) 998-3910
Jerry Martin, (302) 478-5064
John Nichols, (302) 743-2783
rycK Stout, (302) 478-9495
Bill Whipple, president, (302) 464-2688
For e-mail addresses see
LINK.

The SAFE agenda is promoted through: (1) Our website, including issue statements, a weekly blog, and a “Delaware Chatter” microblog; (2) Letters to the editor, public events, legislative contacts, etc., which are also posted and/or recapped on the website; (3) This quarterly newsletter, available in print (since 1996) and now electronic editions; and (4) Posts on Twitter and/or Facebook (click icons on the website to access). SAFE dues are $10 per year for subscribers to the print edition of the newsletter and zero for electronic subscribers. Contributions are also appreciated and may be tax deductible (SAFE is a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization). To join SAFE, renew your membership, or make a contribution, please print and complete this
form and mail it with your check to SAFE, 115 Dungarvan Drive, Wilmington, DE 19709. Thank you!