“Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Picking losers

From National Review:

SunEdison, which billed itself as the “largest global renewable energy development company,” is on the verge of bankruptcy after sucking up $650 million in federal grants and tax credits and $846 million in federal loans, loan guarantees, tax-exempt federal bonds, and federal insurance.

Also in April, Spanish energy company Abengoa SA filed for bankruptcy in Delaware, having disappeared $2.6 billion in federal loans and loan guarantees, as well as $986 million in federal grants and tax credits.

That adds up to about $5 billion taxpayer dollars, 70% of it to a foreign company.

Maybe MIT Technology Review should revisit its story on the limits of "clean coal" for balance.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dissociative identity disorder?

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's senior aide, told Republican National Committee members that Trump has two personalities: one in private and one onstage.
"When he's out on the stage, when he's talking about the kinds of things he's talking about on the stump, he's projecting an image that's for that purpose.”
In other words, Trump isn't really a clueless, insecure, sneering, obnoxious bully. He just plays one on TV.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

#Cleanfail

Since I posted Headline at MIT Technology Review: (April 15, just below), it has been nagging at the back of my mind that "clean coal" projects probably were not exempt from the crony capitalist excesses of the eco-industrial complex. So there was likely more to the Peabody Energy bankruptcy story than simply deploring all the failed wind/solar/battery #Greenfail projects we've funded. I had some time this morning to check.

Turns out, the Feds spent $2.5 billion between 1978 and 2008 on "clean coal."

In 2002, the Bush administration picked up the baton and allocated almost $2 billion (of which $200 million was actually spent) over 10 years to the idea. They killed it in 2008.

It was revived in the Obama administration's 2009 stimulus package before being killed again in 2015.

So, "clean coal," even though industry had to pay 50% of project costs, is another example of the government promoting failed environmental projects. In this case, deciding to go the additional mile to make sure the entire coal industry disappears.

All that money could have resulted in quite a bit of carbon-emissionless nuclear power, and it would have been financed entirely by industry - if they'd been allowed to.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Headline at MIT Technology Review:

Peabody Energy’s Bankruptcy Shows the Limits of “Clean Coal”

I'm not sure what MIT's point is here. Peabody's bankruptcy is the result of unlimited political manipulation. It was the intended result of Federal planning:

So if somebody wants to build a coal power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.
- Barack Obama, January 2008

The real issue is eco-corporatism, not "clean coal," so it's worth looking at other energy company bankruptcies that didn't follow the Fed's political script.

Solyndra's bankruptcy was not the government approved plan.

Barack Obama visited Solyndra's facility on May 25, 2010. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September 2011.

On whether he he regretted holding up Solyndra as a model for jobs and clean energy: "No, I don't, because if you look at the overall portfolio of loan guarantees that have been provided, overall it's doing well."

"And what we always understood was that not every single business is going to succeed in clean energy, but if we want to compete with China, which is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into this space, if we want to compete with other countries that are heavily subsidizing the industries of the future, we've got to make sure that our guys here in the United States of America at least have a shot..."

For A123, if the plan was to compete with China, the result was exactly the opposite:

"What we want to do is to have energy independence in America, and have control over our own ability to be free of Middle Eastern oil. That means that we want to manufacture the cells and do the assembly, and do the R&D all here in Michigan."
- Jennifer Granholm, January 2009

(While Governor Granholm was fertilizing A123's bankruptcy seeds, the frackers were actually doing something about our dependence on foreign oil. In spite of government interference.)

This is about the birth of an entire new industry in America -- an industry that’s going to be central to the next generation of cars...
- Barack Obama, September 2010, during an event celebrating the opening of the A123 plant in Livonia

A123 was sold to the Chinese at bankruptcy prices. So we heavily subsidized the R&D on behalf of the Chinese.

In sum:
  • Peabody Energy was bankrupted by an administratively engineered avalanche of absurd and unconstitutional Federal regulations.
  • A123 went bankrupt despite $100 million in Michigan tax credits and $255 million in Federal grants.
  • Solyndra failed despite a $536 million Federal loan guarantee and a $25.1 million California tax break.
Yes, MIT, there are limits. So, consider these headlines for a future story:

A123’s Bankruptcy Shows the Limits of Advanced Battery Manufacturing

Solyndra’s Bankruptcy Shows the Limits of Thin Film Solar Cells

Or maybe: Green Bankruptcies Show the Limits of Winner Picking Corporatism

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Worth reading

Hi. It’s me, Jeff. And I have something to say.

He must think we're stooopid

Trump Has a Plan to Win Conservative Support?
In the Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled Trump’s Plan to Win Conservative Support, Fred Barnes says Trump will soon deliver “a series of formal speeches on policy issues, set pieces drafted by speechwriters and delivered from prepared texts.”
Trump plainly doesn't understand conservatism, nor conservatives. A couple of canned speeches will no more reveal a principled, limited-government candidate hiding under the orange statist facade, than if they were delivered by Bernie Sanders.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Untie is an anagram of Unite

Donald Trump has said he can be "more presidential than anybody," and has been talking about the need to unite the GOP in order to defeat Mrs. Bill. His close advisors, surrogates, media supporters, his wife and his daughter have been urging him to adopt a more civil tone for quite some time.

So, departing from his recent practice of holding a post-primary press conference (where he might have said something unscripted and objectionable), Mr. Trump issued the following considered statement after his loss in the Wisconsin primary:
Donald J. Trump withstood the onslaught of the establishment yet again. Lyin' Ted Cruz had the Governor of Wisconsin, many conservative talk radio show hosts, and the entire party apparatus behind him. Not only was he propelled by the anti-Trump Super PAC's spending countless millions of dollars on false advertising against Mr. Trump, but he was coordinating with his own Super PAC's (which is illegal) who totally control him. Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet--- he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump. We have total confidence that Mr. Trump will go on to win in New York, where he holds a substantial lead in all the polls, and beyond. Mr. Trump is the only candidate who can secure the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination and ultimately defeat Hillary Clinton, or whomever is the Democratic nominee, in order to Make America Great Again.
Well! Aside from a possible quibble over the definition of "withstood," that certainly puts those who doubt his ability to act like a president in their place: He didn't mention the size of his hands and he didn't repeat any adverbs, like "really, really total confidence."
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"Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives.”
-Edmund Burke. Three Letters to a Member of Parliament on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France (1796–1797)

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Magic

Bernie Sanders grants a platitudinous interview to The New York Daily News. I’ll save you the trouble of reading the whole thing.

Imagine, if you will, the foothills of Big Rock Candy Mountain. The unicorns are prancing through lovingly tended, non-GMO fields dotted with organic milk and honey dispensers. Windmills disguised as trees are everywhere, rising above the solar panels blocking out the sun. All under the watchful eye of Uncle Bernie’s drones “that could, you know, take your nose off…”

Among other things, Senator Sanders is asked about foreign trade and it’s mentioned that his policy seems very similar to Donald Trump’s.
Sanders: Well, if he [Trump] thinks they're bad trade deals, I agree with him. They are bad trade deals. But we have some specificity and it isn’t just us going around denouncing bad trade. In other words, I do believe in trade. But it has to be based on principles that are fair. So if you are in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 65¢ an hour, or you're in Malaysia, where many of the workers are indentured servants because their passports are taken away when they come into this country and are working in slave-like conditions, no, I'm not going to have American workers "competing" against you under those conditions. So you have to have standards. And what fair trade means to say that it is fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.
Interestingly more specific than Trump, and all the more fanciful for that. In “fairness” to American workers - as if none of those workers were also consumers - Sanders proposes to cast all economies in the mold of the United States. More accurately: He is proposing economic warfare through elimination of comparative advantage (which will only devastate the target economy).

This is nation building by other means. In "fairness" he'll have to enforce something resembling our property laws, work ethic and contract law in all those countries: Roughly equivalent to the investment, research and development infrastructure standards in the United States. The other "fair" way is to impose their culture, tools, methods and standards here.

To be “fair” about it, then, he’ll also have to force bits and pieces of American engineering and technology companies to relocate to Mexico, Vietnam and Malaysia. And maybe this will happen when he takes Wall Street down.

The Daily News makes an attempt to determine what Bernie thinks the effect would be of forcing JPMorgan, for example, to “break themselves up.” He won’t speak to the consequences (he leaves decisions about how to break up to the breakees), but I think that’s because he knows bread lines might be one of them. And he likes bread lines.

Senator Sanders says, “You can't look at politics as a zero-sum game.” No, for socialists, it’s only economics that’s a zero sum game.