On Fracking, It's Biden vs. Biden

Back in March, when people were still unironically saying "Fifteen days to slow the spread," I wrote about the absolute fury the Biden campaign was directing at Republicans over their claims that the former vice president wanted to ban the modern marvel known as fracking. I suggested that Republicans could be forgiven for making these claims -- as RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted, "There are 7.3M Americans whose jobs depend on fracking. Biden and Bernie would eliminate them" -- because Biden's actual position on fracking seemed fairly hard to decipher:

[W]hen Bernie Sanders said he wanted to stop “fracking as soon as we possibly can,” and that he was “talking about telling the fossil fuel industry that they are going to stop destroying this planet—no ifs, buts and maybes about it” in the debate the other night, Biden replied "So am I!" His position is as clear as the noonday sun! Oh, or, er, maybe not so much...

Well, Sleepy Joe is at it again, having said at a speech earlier this week in Pittsburgh, Pa., "I am not banning fracking. Let me say that again: I am not banning fracking. No matter how many times Donald Trump lies about me."

What a relief that must be to the more than 40,000 men and women who work in the natural gas industry in the state of Pennsylvania (which, it is worth noting, Trump won by just over 40,000 votes)!

Then again, maybe they shouldn't be too reassured, since, as Hank Berrien documents, Biden's own words seem to point in the opposite direction:

On January 24, 2020, speaking to a New Hampshire voter, Biden said he would stop fracking. The woman voter asked, “But like, what about, say, stopping fracking?” Biden answered, “Yes.” Woman voter: “And stopping pipeline infrastructure?” Biden: “Yes.”

On March 15, 2020, a Democratic presidential debate between Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders, [Biden said]: "No more, no new fracking."

Also in that debate, Biden stated, “Number one, no more subsidies for fossil fuel industry. No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period, ends, number one.” ....

At a Democratic presidential debate in late July 2019, CNN’s Dana Bash asked Biden, “Just to clarify, would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?” Biden answered, “No. We would — we would work it out. Make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those. Either — any fossil fuel.”

Which is to say, if the claim that Biden opposes fracking is "fake news" from Team Trump, than Crazy Grandpa Joe is in on the conspiracy.

California Bows to Energy Reality

Last week I described the dilemma facing the California State Water Resources Control Board. It could demand adherence to the schedule for closing coastal gas plants which use sea water by the end of this year. If they did so, they would compound California's energy crisis; if not, the board would have to face the fact that renewable energy was insufficient for the State's needs and acknowledge that it needed these fossil fuel plants to continue operating or the state would face further blackouts.

Today it acknowledged reality, as the Los Angeles Times reports. The board allowed the plants to remain in operation for a few more years until --  they hope -- chimerical renewable energy can pick up the load:

State officials threw a lifeline to four fossil fueled power plants along the Southern California coast, deciding the facilities are still needed to provide reliable electricity even as they contribute to the climate crisis.

Tuesday’s vote by the State Water Resources Control Board to let the gas plants keep operating past the end of this year followed brief rolling blackouts over two evenings last month, as a heat wave caused air conditioning demand to soar, and California found itself short on electricity supplies.

Energy regulators are still investigating the causes of the power shortage. But they said allowing the coastal gas plants to stay open a few more years would help prevent more outages as California continues its transition to cleaner energy sources — an ironic solution given that climate change almost certainly exacerbated the recent heat wave.

Maybe it won't ever get hot again in California. Maybe there never will be smoke and smog blocking sunlight. Maybe storage capacity will be vastly increased. Maybe the gas plants will find an efficient , affordable way to discharge seawater without substantially affecting marine life. Maybe not.

Of course the notion that the warm sea water discharge from the plants seriously harms marine life may also be open to some  debate.I remember environmentalists claiming the caribou would die off if the Alaskan pipeline was built, but it turns out the caribou love it:

Thirty years later we can see the effects of the pipeline on the caribous. Walter Hickel, a former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and governor of Alaska, said the caribou has not only survived, but flourished. In 1977, as the Prudhoe region started delivering oil to America's southern 48 states, the Central Arctic caribou numbered 6,000:it has since grown to 27, 128.

It's hyperbolical predictions like this, that make me chary of the environmentalists claims, which always exaggerate the risks of real energy production while they ignore the risks related to "renewables,"such as the risk to birds from large solar arrays in the dessert and from windmills and the danger now of disposal of solar panels and windmills that are now out of commission or soon will be.

Let me know when they march on the auto companies to highlight the environmental risks in the creation and disposal of electric car batteries.

Beware the Environmentalists' False Flags

You're probably familiar with the phrase "false flag operation." Referring originally to a ship's flying the flag of a different nation than that with which it was aligned in order to deceive the enemy, it has come to refer to any such misrepresentation, particularly those with the intent of casting one's opponents in a negative light.

The thing that makes false flag operations so effective is that it is often impossible to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one has actually taken place. Absent an admission of guilt, all one can do when investigating the circumstances is to lay out the facts and let the jury decide.

I bring this up because I've recently stumbled upon two stories which have the appearance of false flag operations. The first is by Jazz Shaw, who reports on the attempt to build what's being billed as the next generation of nuclear power plant in Idaho. The plant would serve roughly 720,000 homes in that state and in neighboring Utah. Communities in both states which would benefit from this project have already signed on, but one group of activists have made it their mission to convince all involved that it's a bad deal.

The group is called the Utah Taxpayer Association, and their principal argument is that the project is a waste of taxpayer money and (because the technology is still being developed) is likely to fail and lead to higher electricity prices.

Well, as a conservative, fiscal responsibility arguments always get my attention. But Shaw points out that there is something fishy about the organization making the argument:

As to the “fiscal conservative” group trying to get municipalities to pull out of the project, the Utah Taxpayer Association is being fronted by The Hastings Group. One look at their client list at that link will give you an idea of their general ideological makeup. They include:

Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists
Green America
National Resources Defense Council
Renewable Nation
Union Of Concerned Scientists

The Utah Taxpayer Association has also enlisted anti-nuclear power advocate Peter Bradford as a spokesperson. The list of their association with green energy and environmentalist groups goes on.

Shaw doesn't mention this, but along those same lines, the website of The Hastings Group is full of boasts about their "18-month push" to pressure the Trump administration to stop off-shore drilling and their "12-year campaign to shift media attitudes about socially responsible/sustainable investing," the latter being code for divesting from fossil fuels.

Judging by these relationships, it seems unlikely that the Utah Taxpayer Association is the confederation of Goldwater Republicans that its name and rhetoric would lead you to surmise. It's rather more likely that some textbook Greenies, aware that their normal pitch would have less purchase in rural mountain states, decided to attack the problem from a different angle, hoping that cost-conscious conservatives would miss the lefty agenda behind the scenes.

And what is that agenda exactly? After all, as Shaw notes, nuclear power is effectively zero carbon, so you'd think that anti-carbon emissions activists would be on board with this project. Their opposition reveals their true colors -- for a lot of them, at least, it isn't the carbon they care about so much as limiting the competition for their so-called renewable energy projects.

The second potential false flag is rather more complicated, and has to do with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a planned project which was principally owned by Richmond, Va., based Dominion Energy. It was meant to move natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia through Virginia and then down to North Carolina. Had the pipeline gone through, it is probable that Dominion would have built a second natural gas liquefaction terminal, likely in the Newport area, to complement the one it already owns in Cove Point, Md., creating lots of well-paying jobs for Virginians and allowing the company to export significantly more natural gas overseas.

"Was" is the operative word here, however, because in July it was announced that Dominion is cutting its losses and pulling out of the $8 billion project, citing "the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States." This is being spoken of principally as a victory for the environmentalist groups which have been trying to kill the project since it was launched, with Michael Brune of the Sierra Club crowing,

Dominion did not decide to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the people and frontline organizations that led this fight for years forced [it] into walking away.

However, journalist and Virginia native Arthur Bloom is skeptical. As he put it in a recent podcast appearance, "the death of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has sort of been heralded by activists as this big win, this is the new Virginia, pushing back on decades of probably-racist Republican rule. Virtually none of that is true."

Bloom has written a detailed piece at The American Conservative in which he attempts to connect the dots to discern what really happened here. The thing is, Dominion is not only pulling out of the Atlantic Pipeline, it is, as the Wall Street Journal reports, "selling the rest of its natural-gas transmission and storage network to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for $9.7 billion," a deal which includes a 25 percent stake in its Cove Point liquefaction facility. As he investigated the "various interests that were publicly opposed to the construction of the pipeline," Bloom was struck "quite forcefully [by] how many of them were connected to Berkshire Hathaway."

One of those interested parties was Michael Bills, a Virginia billionaire and chairman of the board of environmental lobbying group Clean Virginia, who has waged a war against Dominion for the past several years, even offering to max out donations to any political candidate in the state who pledged not to accept any money from the company. Bloom points out that Bills is the former business partner of Berkshire Hathaway executive Ted Weschler, who is frequently mentioned as a potential replacement for Warren Buffet, as Berkshire's CEO. That doesn't prove anything, but it is a connection, and a high level one at that.

Bloom also details the political opposition to Dominion from the state's ascendant Democrats, a more important part of the story than the legal and regulatory hurdles to the project. (Indeed, the project had recently won big at the Supreme Court). Of course the state Democratic ascent has been funded in large part by Berkshire money too. Bloom notes that "the largest single donor to the Democratic Party of Virginia in 2015 was the son of Buffett partner Charles Munger, Jr, whose money supplied more than half of their funds for statehouse races that year."

And then there's the fact that, in Bloom's words,

Berkshire also owned most of the newspapers in western and central Virginia until March, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Free Lance-Star, the Culpeper Times-Exponent, the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, the News Virginian in Waynesboro, and the Roanoke Times, giving them almost complete control of the pipeline narrative in the parts of the state where it mattered.

Be sure to read the whole piece to get into the real nitty-gritty of the thing, but Bloom makes a compelling case that everything is not as it seems. As he makes clear in the interview cited above, there is something a little too convenient about the fact that Dominion was the focal point of so much environmental activism, which had the effect of depressing the stock price of the company, allowing a massive financial firm -- which had deep ties to the environmental activists -- to swoop in "and [scoop] up their assets on the cheap." Meanwhile the environmentalists are able to claim the scalp of a major pipeline project while ignoring Berkshire Hathaway, this despite the fact that the company's anti-union history makes it likely that the unionized workers in Dominion's natural gas sector might soon be out of a job. Unions are less important to the left these days than wealthy environmentalists.

False flag operations are difficult to prove, but Shaw and Bloom argue persuasively that alliances and the money trail constitute a preponderance of evidence in their respective cases pointing to real deception on the part of the interested parties. Read and judge for yourself.

Will Erdogan Scupper the EastMed Pipeline?

The European Union imports about 70 percent of its natural gas, 37 percent of which comes from Russia, giving Putin considerable sway over it. That looks like it may finally be about to change as Cyprus, Greece and Israel appear to have clinched a deal to build a sub-seawater pipeline, the EastMed Pipeline, from Israel’s enormous offshore fields (Tamar—West of Haifa -- and Leviathan, southwest of the Tamar field) to Cyprus and from there on to Greece and Italy. Two other Israeli gas fields, Tarish and Tanen, are earmarked for domestic consumption.

But the expensive project still has a significant opponent—Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It’s been more than 30 years since Golda Meir voiced her complaint: ”Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order too bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil.”

Still, the complaint that Israel lacked fossil fuel was premature, for while Israel may lack oil it has for some years been sitting on enormous deposits of offshore nature gas (trillions of cubic feet of it), so much, in fact, that they cannot use it all. Legal Insurrection has been documenting the finds for seven years and provides a convenient history of them. Israel has been selling some to Jordan and Egypt, but the new fields are so enormous that other markets could also be served, although it will take significant investment and engineering and diplomatic skills to make this a reality.

Working with Noble Energy and the governments of Cyprus and Greece, and fending off domestic environmental opponents, the Israeli government has been able to greenlight the EastMed pipeline project, which is expected to carry 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas per annum with a potential to double that amount.

The countries aim to reach a final investment decision by 2022 and have the 6 billion euro ($6.86 billion) pipeline completed by 2025 to help Europe diversify its energy resources.

A land and sea survey is currently underway to determine the route of the 1,900-km (1,200-mile) pipeline. The European Union and the pipeline’s owner IGI Poseidon, a joint venture between Greek gas firm DEPA and Italian energy group Edison, have each invested 35 million euros in the planning.

At the moment, besides Russia, the major pipelines supplying Europe originate in Algeria, since the once-functioning pipeline from Libya is now cut off. Pipelines are unique in that they require belief in consistent diplomatic relations and a secure supply chain.

Unlike oil, gas neither flows to spot markets nor is sold en route to a consumer. There is no global market price like Brent Sweet Crude for oil. Gas is priced unique to each deal, nation or region. It is not globally traded as a commodity. The infrastructure to transmit gas—either via pipelines or liquefaction—is so complex, demanding, and expensive that marketing agreements and supply patterns are locked in for the long term, indeed years before the molecules even flow. Even liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipped from port to port is essentially a “locked” structure much like train lines.

The countries supplying and receiving the gas, therefore, tether their critical energy policies to the expectation of a particular supply chain, and to a particular diplomatic relationship. Since the severing of a particular source of gas is not easily replaced in an ad hoc fashion by oversupply from elsewhere, it is strategically important for a nation, even when it only represents a relatively small portion of its overall supply. Thus, even modest amounts of Israeli gas exports can carry significant strategic leverage.

Something like 18 percent of Europe’s gas comes through Algeria, and Europe is smart to seek diversification of its supplies from more stable sources.

Will the creation of the EastMed pipeline substantially shift Israeli-European relations? If built, mostly likely the answer is yes. I expect it may well also lessen Vladimir Putin’s grip on Europe, reducing its dominant role in providing critical energy resources. On the other hand, the pipeline has not yet begun construction and it's almost certain to face Turkish opposition. Putin’s not the only leader who must be viewing this deal with concern.

According to the Financial Times, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims his country’s maritime rights cross the planned EastMed pipeline route. Like Tony Soprano he wants to “get his beak in,” and seems poised to demand a cut of the revenue.

The region has the potential to become one of the last great fossil fuel plays — with bountiful gas to supply energy-poor countries around the basin, with enough left over to export...

The initial target is to provide the fuel to drive Egypt’s growing economy. Longer-term, some energy executives believe they will be able to pump gas supplies into southern Europe, reducing the region’s reliance on Russia.  But Turkey — excluded due to its fraught relations with many of the other players in the region — could stymie those ambitions. Mr. Erdogan has responded to being left out of his neighbours’43211 co-operation by sending the Turkish navy to intimidate drill ships belonging to international oil companies and dispatching his own exploration vessels.

What began as a dispute between Turkey and Cyprus is fuelling a regional power game, drawing in nations as far away as the Gulf, and causing deep unease in the EU and the US. The latest flashpoint is Libya, where Turkey this year expanded its military presence after sealing an agreement with a UN-backed government in Tripoli that could enable Ankara to drill for oil and gas off the Libyan coast.

Erdogan seems at least as big a challenge to Europe on this issue as he does on immigration, and his strengthened ties to the government of Libya (as Russia has historically maintained) give him added clout. The E.U.’s inability to deter his aggression doesn’t provide much reason for optimism.

Who's Afraid of 'Climate Change'?

If you don't already keep tabs on Michael Shellenberger, you should. While you may not always agree with him -- Shellenberger is a self-described environmentalist and man of the left -- you will find him to be an honest, insightful, and even brave writer. Brave because he consistently uses facts to counter the hysterical narrative of the Green New Deal wing of the green movement, which as you might imagine doesn't win him a lot of friends.

One example of this: Forbes, where he is a regular contributor, pulled down his most recent piece, 'On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,' within a few hours of publication.

In the piece, essentially a pitch for his book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Shellenberger reviews his environmentalist bona fides, working to save the California redwoods and lobbying the Obama administration to spend billions on so-called renewable energy, etc. Increasingly, however, he became disturbed by other environmentalists distorting the science to make a case for hysteria, and shutting down anyone who questioned their conclusions.

Shellenberger

They've been so successful that children routinely report having nightmares about climate change and people around the world are convinced the end is near. Eventually Shellenberger came to feel he had a responsibility to speak out and counter their propaganda.

Here are some facts few people know:

• Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
• The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
• Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
• Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
• The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
• The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
• Air pollution and carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for 50 years
• Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor
• We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
• Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
• Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
• Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism.

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Fitch Downgrades Canada's Credit Rating

Fitch Ratings, one of the big three global credit rating agencies, has announced it's downgrading Canada's credit rating from AAA to AA+. This is due to the tremendous debt -- roughly a quarter of a trillion dollars -- the Canadian government took on to prop up the economy during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Though the Trudeau government was quick to argue that Canada's economy remains strong and that the country in an ideal position to turn things around, this does have the potential to significantly increase the cost of government borrowing and of doing business. That danger, moreover, will be amplified if, as some think, there are further downgrades to come:

David Rosenberg... has been predicting a downgrade on Canada’s sovereign debt since late April and thinks this won’t be the last. “The real question is: What took so long?’ .... Canada’s excessively leveraged national balance sheet has looked a lot like China, Italy and Greece for quite a while.” While Ottawa may appear to be in “solid” financial shape to some, this has “masked bloated debt ratios” in households, business sectors, and most of the provinces, he said. “This won’t be the last ratings cut, I can assure you,” said Rosenberg.

Now, it is true that governments worldwide have responded to the pandemic by racking up what would normally be unthinkable amounts of debt. Consequently, it is likely that Canada won't be the only country to have its rating downgraded.

But one thing that makes Canada unique is the shame that its governing elite feels about one of the pillars of its economy. As Dan McTeague of Canadians for Affordable Energy said the other day in an excellent piece on Erin O'Toole's environmentalist pitch in the CPC leadership contest,

Rather than championing Canada's hydrocarbon industry and creating economic growth with our country’s wealth of natural resources, O’Toole’s policies seem most focused on maintaining the what-seems-to-be-required, green-is-god image of so many politicians.... Our natural resources are an asset to this country, not a liability. They keep energy affordable, and give us one of the highest standards of living. O’Toole and other political candidates seem determined to remain blind to that fact.

You would hope that this turn of events would cause Canada's governing class to thank its lucky stars for the energy sector, a potential launchpad for recovery. But unfortunately they'll probably keep just hoping for pats on the head from similarly green-obsessed organizations like the UN  -- and how's that been working out for them?

Eventually someone is going to have to grow up and start taking things seriously.

Gov. Blackface and the Greening of Virginia

You're forgiven for still thinking of Virginia as a conservative state. If you went to school before the Leftists leveled our educational system, you'll know that securing the buy-in of steady, aristocratic Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped convince the colonists that the dispute those rowdy New Englanders were having with Britain wasn't just a regional affair. But as a matter of more recent history, between the elections of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Barrack Obama in 2008, Virginia was only won by one Democrat in a presidential contest. This isn't to say that the Old Dominion has been governed exclusively by the GOP -- when Linwood Holton was elected governor in 1970 he was the first Republican to hold that position in a century -- but no matter the party power in Richmond, they had to conform to the small 'c' conservative culture of the state.

In a relatively short time, however, that Virginia has been fundamentally transformed. After the most recent gubernatorial contest, which saw the election of the fourth Democrat in the last five cycles, journalist Matthew Continetti wrote a piece about his home state entitled 'How States Like Virginia Go Blue.' In it he paints a picture of modern day Virginia as "a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals," with an exploding population comprised of both the wealthy and educated and the comparatively poor, both key Democratic constituents:

Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.

The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.

If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the ’80s, Bobos of the ’90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.

Which is to say that, in that time, Virginia has been culturally and demographically tugged away from the rural, southern states and towards the urban, mid-Atlantic states. As one might expect, these trends are significantly more pronounced in the DC suburbs of Northern Va., especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The populations of these counties have exploded in that time. Fairfax gets more press, but Continetti points out that the population of Loudoun has more than quadrupled since the early '90s. Immigration is an important factor, but the expansion of the federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations might be more significant. Bureaucrats and defense contractors have to live somewhere, and they vote according to their interests.

Transformations like the one Continetti describes have consequences. In 2017, Virginians elected Democrat Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as its governor. A lot of ink has been spilt on Northam's expanding abortion access in Virginia (including his controversial comments related to post-birth abortion) and his war on guns (as well as the extremely civil protests against his anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, which were nevertheless vilified by the mainstream media), as these have particularly enraged the Old Virginians. And who could forget his racist yearbook photo, which he originally claimed did not depict him until he eventually apologized, though without clarifying whether he's the Klansman or the guy in black face. Somehow Democrats are always able to survive these things, while Republicans have their careers ended over more ambiguous incidents.

As Politico noted at the time:

In a bid to salvage his job, the Democratic governor of Virginia denied he was one of the men dressed up as a Klansman or in blackface in a picture on his medical school yearbook page — after admitting the night before he was, in fact, in the photo.

In a different yearbook at Virginia Military Institute, Northam was nicknamed “Coonman.” Why? He wasn’t quite sure, he said. “My main nickname in high school and in college was ‘Goose’ because when my voice was changing, I would change an octave. There were two individuals, as best as I can recollect, at VMI — they were a year ahead of me. They called me ‘Coonman’. I don’t know their motives or intent. I know who they are. That was the extent of that. And it ended up in the yearbook. And I regret that.”

Right.

A less publicized aspect of Northam's agenda has been his environmental extremism. Last September he signed an executive order setting a goal that the state produce 100 percent of its energy via "carbon-free" sources by 2050, and 30% within the next 10 years.

Chris Bast... of the [Department of Environmental Quality] told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary. “The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.

Of course.

After the state elections in November flipped both legislative houses to the Democrats, they set about turning that goal into a mandate, and this spring -- in the midst of the pandemic and Virginia's lengthy and onerous lockdowns -- Northam signed the Green New Deal-inspired Virginia Clean Economy Act, which did exactly that. He also approved the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which puts Virginia on the path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This multi-state compact imposes new regulatory burdens on Virginia's oil, natural gas, and coal power plants, and introduces a cap-and-trade scheme on the 30 largest of them.

As Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal, “Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,”

Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, adds that this push will ultimately be harmful to the environment and ignores the fact that the fracking revolution has led to a significant decrease in America's carbon emissions.

“If you’re going to require all of the state’s power to come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, this will require a lot of [the] state’s land, which probably means impacting the state’s agricultural lands or cutting down some forests and probably both... So much for the environment.”

“It’s also completely unnecessary,” he said. “If the goal is to stop climate change, the U.S. is already the global leader in carbon dioxide emission reductions. Between 2005 and 2018, CO2 declined 12%. The free market is already taking care of the environment.”

Unfortunately these trends seem unlikely to turn around any time soon. The Virginia Republican party is made up of factions which seem to despise each other more than they hate the Democrats, but it just might be the case that the numbers to change course just aren't there. Northam's opponent in 2017 was the GOP establishmentarian Ed Gillespie, a two-time loser in state elections, who attempted to appeal to nationalists by focusing on issues like crime and immigration. He received only 45% of the vote.

Perhaps the only solution might be a proposal which started gaining steam during the Second Amendment battles earlier this year -- secession. Specifically secession for those counties in western and southern Virginia disturbed by the direction of their state and interested in joining the more conservatively inclined West Virginia. And the free state of West Virginia, which itself seceded from the slave state of Virginia in 1863, seems ready to welcome their separated brethren with open arms. Should that transpire, and the size and relative importance of Virginia decrease on Northam's watch, his face will no longer be black or even green. It will be red.

Prediction of Economic Recovery Terrifies Dems

It looks like we're getting to the other side of this pandemic, with lock-down orders easing up and restrictions on everyday activities being lifted, with and without masks. One sign that things are returning to normal is that people's minds are turning away from daily case numbers and towards the election in the fall. To that end, Jason Furman, a Harvard professor and one of Barack Obama's senior economic advisors, gave a presentation to the Democratic party's top strategists a few weeks ago, and what he had to say absolutely shocked them:

“We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country," he said.... “Everyone looked puzzled and thought I had misspoken,” Furman said in an interview. Instead of forecasting a prolonged Depression-level economic catastrophe, Furman laid out a detailed case for why the months preceding the November election could offer Trump the chance to brag — truthfully — about the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever....

Furman’s counterintuitive pitch has caused some Democrats, especially Obama alumni, around Washington to panic. “This is my big worry,” said a former Obama White House official who is still close to the former president. Asked about the level of concern among top party officials, he said, “It’s high — high, high, high, high.”

Maybe I've missed something, but the above sounds to me like.... good news. But I suppose that's because I'm not running for president with the hopes of hanging a new Great Depression on the incumbent.

Furman stressed that he was speaking “in gross terms, not in net terms,” which is to say that the "V shaped" recovery he was predicting wouldn't leave us better off than we were before the pandemic. The economy would look great compared to the depths of the April and May, but we would still be in rough shape. This, of course, is a difficult message to boil down into a campaign slogan or a meme, which is why the Dems are so anxious about it.

At the same time, it should serve as a rallying cry for the Right. Just a few months ago, when we were riding an incredible economic wave with low taxes and low unemployment, the Democrats were arguing that we should be willing to risk our prosperity on their ideological program. Here's Jim Geraghty on that point:

Back during one of the debates, Tim Alberta of Politico asked Biden, “As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?” Biden responded, “The answer is yes. The answer is yes, because the opportunity — the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs, as Tom said, is real.”

Biden pledged “no new fracking” during a debate, then walked it back; he wants to set a price on carbon to be used for either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade; Biden endorsed California’s AB5, the anti-“gig” law; he would raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, and he insists he can raise taxes by $4 trillion over the next decade, without raising taxes on anyone making $400,000 per year or less.

If the economy is heading in the right direction in the fall -- if jobs are coming back and the stock market is up -- but hasn't quite recovered, should we really trust Joe Biden to prioritize getting us back where we need to be, rather than handing over his domestic policy to the Green Blob? His recent pledge to kill the Keystone XL pipeline if he's elected doesn't inspire confidence.

'GOP Out of Touch on Climate Change'

Former Pennsylvania governor, Homeland Security secretary, and current enviro-lobbyist Tom Ridge has published an article at The Atlantic arguing that his fellow Republicans are behind the curve on environmentalism. After opening the piece with a maudlin reflection on the fact that we all should have been celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd, but that the COVID-19 pandemic kept us from doing so (for the first time I was able to connect with the Libs who've been rooting for the virus), Ridge states:

The Republican Party has largely abandoned environmental issues—to its great detriment politically. Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little for key aspects of the environment, such as protecting water and air quality and reducing the effects of climate change. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center finds that Democrats mostly agree that the U.S. government should do more on climate. Republicans are divided by ideology, age, and gender; moderates, Millennials, and women within the party are far more likely than conservatives, older Republicans, and men to favor more federal action. More and more, the GOP as a whole seems out of touch on this crucial issue.

This assertion is questionable. Gallup has actually just released a new poll attempting to document how Americans priorities the challenges facing our country, and the data for April, respondents put Climate Change at the bottom of the list, tied for dead last in importance. Now, of course, April is a bit of a skewed month, with the pandemic understandably taking first place and sucking up all the oxygen. Even so, it is worth noting that in the previous months surveyed, "climate change" only barely misses last place.

Heartland Institute president James Taylor, commenting on this data, rightly points out that "People have a vague, general desire for policymakers to pay attention to climate change," but when there's any question of the bill coming due -- he also mentions polling which suggests that support for Green initiatives collapses when respondents are asked if they'd be willing to pay an extra $100 per month for them -- they completely change their tune.

To Ridge's credit, he makes a few points which might make his new friends at The Atlantic uncomfortable, saying "I continue to support policies that embrace all sources of energy, including natural gas, which has lowered our dependence on coal. I also support nuclear power, the largest around-the-clock provider of carbon-free energy." But he follows that up with a lament that his "conservative friends have been reluctant to join me in supporting renewable technologies such as wind and solar." Perhaps because his conservative friends are aware that wind and solar are boondoggles which might help gullible Liberals sleep better at night, but they certainly don't benefit the environment. Then again, maybe his friends would come around if they were paid lobbyists for the renewable energy industry, like Ridge.

All of which is to say, if anyone is out of touch with American voters, its Tom Ridge.

New York's Fiscal Chickens Come Home to Roost

We are living through an apocalypse. Not the Apocalypse mind you. (Or, well, I hope not, but of course we "know not the day nor the hour"). But an apocalypse, in the truest sense of that word: an unveiling, a laying bare. With the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus and the lock-downs, as well as the economic calamity which they've brought about, many things which were obscure before are now becoming clear. The shaky ground upon which many of our political realities have been built are beginning to crumble. As the saying goes, the chickens are beginning to come home to roost.

To take just one example of this (though I plan to write about more of them in the coming days), let us take a look at New York State. The first thing I ever wrote for The Pipeline was a blog post about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ideologically grounded refusal to allow hydraulic fracturing in New York, while also killing proposals to expand natural gas pipeline capacity into New York. This has led, predictably, to natural gas shortages in the Empire State, with natural gas suppliers increasingly less inclined to hook new customers up to natural gas lines, and even occasionally refusing to turn the gas back on when people have turned them off during home renovations.

It has also meant that New York State has missed out on the well-paying blue collar jobs that have been such a boon to neighboring Pennsylvania, which allows fracking, and which like New York sits atop the Marcellus Shale, one of the largest natural gas fields in the world. These are jobs that have the potential to revitalize upstate and western New York and to help beat back the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the less-prosperous parts of the state. Moreover, the revenue which the natural gas industry could generate could help paper over the decades of poor governance which have led to poorly funded pension plans, and rankings near the bottom of the country for business and personal tax liability, which combine to make New York one of the toughest states in which to raise a family or start a business.

For years now, New York has managed to stay afloat by trading on its reputation. It's home to the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps. Ambitious kids around the country grow up hearing that "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere". They dream of taking the A Train, giving their regards to Broadway, hitching a ride to Rockaway Beach. Which is all well and good, but you can't live off of capital like that forever without the occasional deposit. And in the era of COVID-19 (which Governor Cuomo has bizarrely decided should be referred to as the "European Virus"), New York's capital -- cultural and pecuniary -- is running thin.

Thanks in large part to the inept pandemic response from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo himself, New York is the American epicenter of COVID-19, leading the country in both cases and deaths. Researchers have even determined that New York seeded the virus to the rest of the nation, with between 60% and 65% of virus samples studied displaying markers which link them back to the outbreak in New York. (Consequently, after Cuomo unveiled his "European Virus" bit the other day, the NY Post's Karol Markowicz pointed out that, if the governor wasn't careful, Americans might start calling it the "New York Virus").

New York has also taken the lead -- with New Jersey and Illinois right behind it -- in imploring the federal government for a coronavirus bailout. Cuomo publicly begged President Trump to back such a bailout the other day, saying,

You know the state governments are now responsible for the reopening and the governors are going to do the reopening, and they have no funds to do it.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal pointed out in reply,

The Governor blames the pandemic and recession, but states like New York were already in trouble from their own mismanagement. Mr. Cuomo warned for months about a $6 billion state deficit thanks to runaway Medicaid costs and taxpayers leaving his high-tax state. He signed a $177 billion business-as-usual budget on April 3 that allows him to borrow $11 billion if spending exceeds revenues. The coronavirus was already a clear and present danger....

Keep in mind that Congress’s $2.2 trillion Cares Act last month included a $150 billion blank check to states plus $90 billion for schools, public transit and Medicaid. To put these numbers in perspective: All state tax revenues during the last three months of 2019 totaled $254 billion. So Washington’s last state infusion is roughly equal to three months of tax collections... New York received $5.22 billion in direct aid from the Cares Act, or 6.8% of its $77 billion in annual general-fund tax revenue. That doesn’t include $3.8 billion in the Cares Act for the New York subways, and billions more for health care and schools. Illinois received $3.52 billion, or 8.8% of its general-fund revenue, while Michigan also made it big with $3.1 billion, or 27%.

The economic shutdowns will cause budget pain in states and cities. But states with healthy finances going into the pandemic should be able to endure revenue declines for a few months thanks to the Cares Act.

Crises happen. They are simply a fact of life. And one mark of a true statesman or of a well-governed polity, is that they use the good years to "caulk their hulls and clear their rigging," as the British politician Daniel Hannan so memorably put it. In New York that should have meant taking advantage of the Marcellus Shale, a blessing of nature which has led to Pennsylvania "producing about one-fifth of the nation’s natural gas, the making it the second-largest natural gas producer after Texas" according to the Institute of Energy Research.

Back in March, as the scope of this present crisis was beginning to become clear, I argued that the post-COVID world would have less time for anti-human environmentalist bromides and the government policies that flow from them. Hopefully in New York State that will mean clearing the way for cheaper energy and good jobs by reversing the fracking ban. It isn't like they have all the time in the world to change course. In the words of New York legend Yogi Berra, "it's getting late early."