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Archive for March, 2015

Are you interested in learning more about our sixteenth president? The public is invited to a free presentation of “Young Mister Lincoln,” a fictionalized movie biography of our 16th President, which will be screened at the Dover Public Library on Wednesday, April 8th at 5:30. Larry Koch will host the program. Larry is a Lincoln expert, who will give you the most incredible stories about Abe, down to the types of jokes he thought were funny and when he thought they were appropriate. Don’t miss this event!

July was a typically warm month in New Salem Illinois in 1831. If you were people-watching on your porch you would not have found the tall, gawky, flat-footed farm boy particularly unique. Abraham Lincoln was 22 year old, and owned little more than the ill-fitting homemade buckskin clothes on his back. His pants barely reached his shins, and when he stretched or bent over his long underwear peeked out from the bottom of his raggedy trousers. Such outlandish, rustic attire was hardly worth a second glance in a western frontier community.

According to Lincoln “I was a friendless, uneducated, penniless boy… a piece of floating driftwood.” Needless to say, no matter how bizarre Lincoln might have appeared to a perhaps more discerning observer, the quotation that “you can’t tell a book by its cover” was never more apt. Within a few years Lincoln was a prominent and noteworthy young politician. In the future, of course, he would be elected president, confront the most deadly challenge to the Republic since its’ founding, built the greatest army in the world, defeat the formidable forces of disunion and end slavery in America. Interestingly, even on that first day in New Salem, Abraham Lincoln, perhaps inadvertently, advanced personal liberty and helped legitimize an increasingly trend-setting pattern in American society.

Social mobility in pre-bellum America was severely limited by tradition and circumstance. People in general followed in the occupations of their family and ancestors. The overwhelming occupation of Americans at that time was made up of subsistence farmers, and in the great majority of cases their children similarly followed in their parents’ footsteps. People generally lived and died within ten miles from where they were born. Special circumstances and survival issues (apprenticeship opportunities or loss of land fertility, for example) of course were exceptions to these accepted patterns, which otherwise continued for  generations.

Lincoln rejected the expected option to be a farmer, like his father, for startlingly different reasons. He would often say his father taught him farm work, but not how to like it. He enjoyed poetry, theater, and reading history, and simply did not find fulfillment in the hard physical, demanding work of the agrarian lifestyle. His desire to do something else was based on personal preference and ambition rather than any particular disaster or specific marketable skills.

The Lincoln who arrived in New Salem had no money, no contacts, and no idea initially about what he wanted to do. A nineteenth century observer would hardly find that Lincoln had left the world he knew to simply survive, and the Town of New Salem, population 100, hardly offered any special opportunities. It was enough, however, for Lincoln. The 22 year old and future president did have ambition, a pleasant personality, a willingness to learn and work hard, and eventually rose in New Salem society to become a surveyor, a postmaster, a storekeeper and eventually a lawyer and party leader.

Today it is not unusual to find people who choose an occupation and lifestyle based in large measure on what they enjoy doing, not what was the traditional occupation of their family, class or region. In fact it is the basic American promise that here one can exceed one’s parents’ station through commitment, hard work and learning. Generations have been assured that they can grow up to be anyone they want to be, even the president of the United States, as long as they apply themselves. The man who more than anyone else established that national ideal was the farm boy who moved to the town of New Salem in July of 1831.

Interested in this pivotal American story? The public is invited to a free presentation of “Young Mister Lincoln,” a fictionalized movie biography of our 16th President, which will be screened at the Dover Public Library on Wednesday, April 8th at 5:30. The director is the legendary John Ford, and, in perhaps his best performance, Henry Fonda stars as Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln defends in court two brothers accused of murder. As a movie prequel to the great events that would follow, you will gain insight into the life events that shaped a future president. A brochure will be shared with the audience that will identify historical accuracies and errors, movie goofs, and other information about “Young Mr. Lincoln.” I will be hosting this program, and I look forward to seeing you, and telling you about other Dover Library offerings celebrating the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War.

Larry Koch, EdD

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Rational thought underlies conservative Christian views on climate change and the environment
by Dr. David R. Legates
Although he has rarely been willing to discuss or debate energy or environmental issues with those who do not share his views, environmentalist David Suzuki frequently challenges them on other grounds. In his recent article, “Religious Right is wrong about climate change,” Suzuki claims that some US and Canadian scientists hold religious views that are “anti-science”.
Suzuki asserts that some climate scientists – including me, by name – put “misguided beliefs above rational thought.” His implicit assumption is that conservative Christian views are irrational and incompatible with science, and that I have replaced Almighty God with the “almighty dollar,” believing the economy matters more than the environment.
As a co-author of the Cornwall Alliance’s Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science and Economics of Global Warming, which forms the basis for the Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming that Suzuki criticizes, I know the Cornwall Alliance fully and carefully integrates scientific, economic, ethical and theological reasoning to support its conclusions. There’s nothing at all irrational about it – unless you consider religion irrational per se.
However, Suzuki is correct regarding one aspect of my belief: the economy does matter as much as the environment. Good environmental stewardship requires sound financial footing – and improving and safeguarding human health and welfare requires maintaining a strong, vibrant, innovative economy that can sustain continued environmental progress.
When a country is in dire need of food, clothing, shelter and other necessities for life, it cannot possibly be concerned with environmental issues. The poor people of India pour untreated sewage into the Ganges River – and then draw their drinking and “cleaning” water from it. So poor that they’re desperate simply for survival, they cannot possibly concern themselves with environmental stewardship. Only when economic improvements allow technological advancements to increase the quality of life, provide ample food and clothing, house citizens, provide clean drinking water, and treat and eradicate diseases can a thus wealthier society turn its attention to caring for the environment.
That is precisely what has happened in more developed nations. As the United States and Canada advanced economically, we developed technologies and policies that increased our quality and length of life. In turn, this has led us to be more proactive with our environmental stewardship.
We emit far less pollution and waste today, both per person and per unit of production, than we did fifty years ago. We feed more people with every parcel of land, we get more energy from every drop of oil, we are more efficient at everything we do, and we are much better stewards of our environment. But none of that could have occurred without a strong and developing economy.
Unfortunately, some so-called environmentalists wish to keep Africa and other developing nations in perpetual underdevelopment. They pay them off to be “environmentally conscious,” by giving them handouts – food and monetary aid – to keep them alive and perhaps have little solar panels on their huts. But they also ensure that those poor families never prosper or become middle class – so as to perpetuate environmentalist notions of “noble natives,” supposedly “at one” with their environment and living a “sustainable” existence.
Equally harmful, much of that money is lost to corruption, while the people are forced to continue living in a state of poverty, disease, malnutrition and deprivation, as technologies that could enhance their length and quality of life are denied to them. Among the technologies denied are modern seeds, fertilizers, and high-tech, high-yield farming methods to increase food supplies; natural gas and electricity to heat homes and cook food, instead of cutting down forests and burning wood, thereby degrading indoor air quality and causing lethal lung infections; refrigeration so that people do not have to choose between eating spoiled food and going hungry; and the use of insecticides, including the powerful insect repellant DDT, to spare them from the agonizing illness and death brought on by malaria.
Each of these enhancements requires plentiful, dependable, affordable energy. Yet in the name of “saving the planet” or “preventing cataclysmic climate change,” environmentalists like Suzuki deny developing countries the modern technologies and energy they need to improve their lives and environment – thereby perpetuating high infant mortality, significantly shortened life spans, and greatly decreased quality of life.
Climate alarmism is the rationale for these deadly policies – and that is where political ideology mixes with the new religion of environmentalism. Overstated or non-existent threats to the environment, along with impractical or imaginary ways to prevent the purported threats, are the new scripture on which the adherents develop their theologies and policies for directing and micromanaging the course of human events. Unfortunately, these eco-religionists never encounter (or intentionally avert their eyes from) the misery and devastation that their policies dramatically inflict on the world’s poorest people. That is because they are too concerned with “saving the planet.”
Back in North America, some wish to have energy rationed or be made increasingly expensive, creating artificial fuel poverty for millions. Such policies will make food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical care – in short, everything – more expensive and scarce, create more unemployed workers, push many people back into conditions of poverty and deprivation, and gravely impair human health and welfare. This strategy will not save the planet, as they hope, because one of its first casualties will be environmental stewardship. History and human nature both testify that, forced by economic limits to choose between a cleaner environment and food on the table, people always choose food.
In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus told of a master who gave one of his servants a single talent, and then condemned him for hiding it in the earth and not putting it to use. Often we think of the talent only as money or ability, but it really stands for every resource – including natural resources. How will the Master of all creation judge us if we hide our resources in the earth, and then on Judgment Day say, “Behold, you have what is yours”?
If we do not use the resources God has set before us in the earth to care for those in need, our Creator will likely condemn us, saying: “You kept buried what I gave you, instead of using and investing it. You failed to employ my gifts to care for the poor, the hungry, the sick, and those who were dying from disease. You have been worthless, irresponsible stewards of my creation.” We would deserve the same fate as the servant the master called “wicked and lazy.”
I fail to understand how anyone thinking rationally can argue that poverty and economic hardship will enhance environmental stewardship, or that the planet is more important than the people who live on it.
_________
David R. Legates is a Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, USA. He is a Christian and a senior fellow of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He is a member of CRI’s Advisory Council.

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Today’s News Journal featured a Delaware Voice piece from Reps. Michael Mulrooney and Edward Osiensky explaining why they favor Delaware’s prevailing wage law and oppose right to work legislation. Economic Policy & Analysis Director Omar Borla will provide more detail about the economic impact of having a prevailing wage law and not having right to work, but here are our main arguments against this article (bold emphasis ours):

1. “Republicans stated in a letter to the governor and accompanying press release that they believe that right-to-work laws and “meaningful changes” to our prevailing wage laws would help grow our economy. They tell us the prevailing wage drives up the cost of state construction projects and point to outlier figures to stoke the flames.”

CRI: Prevailing wage means the government tells contractors what they have to pay their workers in order to get a government contract for construction, repair, or general maintenance. Have you seen our prevailing wage? $69.27/hour to be a cement finisher in NCC? $71.17 to be a pile driver? The average American household earns between $25-26 an hour (assuming a 40 hour workweek). Surely these working men and women could take just a small cut, save taxpayers some money, and still earn a decent living?

2. “Prevailing wage laws set pay rates and benefits for workers on state-funded projects. The prevailing wage rate is determined by surveys sent to contractors in all trades, such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians, to collect information on wages and benefits being paid in each county to tradesman working on all types of construction projects, private and public. This establishes the true, current construction market rates for the area.”

CRI:  Partially true, but not the full story. Delaware’s prevailing wage survey oversamples union-friendly contractors.This results in a higher prevailing wage than ought to be the norm.

3. “Opponents take a simplistic view that equates higher wages with higher overall costs. Wages and benefits are only about one-third of overall construction costs – and that percentage has been falling. Prevailing wage requirements help ensure that competition among contractors in the bidding process is focused on areas of overall cost efficiency, high productivity, and innovative methods. The most qualified and responsible contractors will find other cost-saving measures before cutting wages and benefits, which is exactly what the state wants from its public contractors – efficiency and productivity that doesn’t come at the expense of hardworking Delawareans.”

CRI: We have a gross receipts tax, a corporate income tax, personal income tax, high electric rates, and the heavy hand of regulation from the government. Let’s start by ending the gross receipts tax on all revenue generated, and making our other taxes and expenses more competitive with the other leading states (such as Texas, Florida, Nevada, and Virginia) to remove unnecessary burdens from the private sector. Delaware’s prevailing wage requirements have little to do with ensuring workers get a fair wage for their services, and more to reward loyal union members with high wages if they continue to back the elected officials who support the prevailing wage. Of course, this assumes the workers are able to get work in the first place. Remember what happened with the Rockwood Museum? No work ended up being done and no workers got paid.

4. “While there is always room for improvement, fundamental changes or the elimination of the prevailing wage for state projects will not result in savings for the state; it will result in shrunken wages for taxpaying citizens. Contractors will simply pay workers less and increase their profit margins.”

CRI: More likely, there will be more work for workers because it won’t be so expensive to pay them. This is a basic principle of the free markets: the more something costs, the less it will be bought or used. The less it costs, the more it will be bought or used. For example, would you be more likely to buy a book at $5 or $30? Assume it was the same book and there were no differences between the two. Read our analysis here and here and here.Better yet, visit our website and search for all our articles on prevailing wage.

5. “Similarly, the Republicans’ other proposal, right to work, is another partisan talking point masquerading as a jobs plan. Its purpose is to serve the interests of big business by diminishing the rights of workers, not supporting them. “Several states have adopted “right-to-work” laws of some form over the years, which means we can compare prosperity in states where organized labor is free to represent workers and states where workers’ rights to organize are curtailed. A 2012 report from the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan agency of Congress, showed there is no conclusive evidence proving “right-to-work” laws spur job growth or reduce unemployment. “The CRS did find hard evidence that shows average wages are $7,000 lower per person in “right-to-work” states than in states that respect the role of unions. That is a huge hit for families when every dollar counts. That is part of why Democrats often line up against such “right-to-work” proposals.”

CRI: Most Delawareans support Right to Work. Contrary to misinformation, right to work doesn’t ban unions; it simply says one does not have to be a union member to get a job in an area where unions have representation. And as for the ‘scab’ argument, unions are under no obligation to represent non-union members unless they declare they are “exclusive bargaining representatives”, which requires all employees in that shop to accept union representation. So said the Supreme Court. As for Delaware’s economy, we have not regained the manufacturing jobs lost from the Great Recession. A lot of this is simple: If you were a business owner thinking of someplace to build a manufacturing plant, what makes Delaware more competitive than another state or country?

Our solution: If the prevailing wage law will not be repealed entirely, eliminate Delaware’s PW survey and just use the one the US Dept. of Labor uses. This is a more fair and accurate survey of market wages. This move will keep a PW law in Delaware AND save the taxpayers money.  

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Division of Energy and Climate in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)

If you missed this story, Delaware has a new “climate action plan” based on dubious data which assumes more state control of private land use will somehow save us from “man-caused climate change”. Below is our response.

For the most part, the state’s new climate plan could have been titled “Let’s Plan for the Storm of the Century”, a basically sound idea. Unfortunately, the plan also promotes a continuing un-Constitutional effort of the state to take over land use planning from the counties and municipalities. It also promotes the concept there will be catastrophic impacts from global warming which some key state leaders follow with religious like fervor. The facts show no upward trend in global average temperatures for the last eighteen years, and point to modest impacts on our environment from global warming.

Recent lawsuits have upheld local control of land use issues, as delegated by the Delaware Constitution, by over turning state attempts to write land use regulations. The state Strategic Planning Office must approve local land use plans as it relates to state funded infrastructure such as highways. Some key goals of the climate plan are directed at influencing land use planning. The office is adding a request local land use plans consider climate change, and will enforce it by weighing infrastructure investment in favor of localities that include climate considerations that conform to the state plan.

Additionally, DNREC will specifically use their excessive estimates of global warming induced sea level rise estimates and increased rainfall estimates to push for more control over storm water management (an issue already involved in a lawsuit), shoreline management, beach replenishment, and expanded tidal wetlands maps. DELDOT will use the presumption of more temperature influenced high ozone days to consider driving restrictions during air quality events. DEDO will encourage real estate agents to spread out weekly beach rentals to different start dates, an idea which has some merit but will be disruptive to the tourist industry. It should be noted all of these efforts will likely lead to higher cost for private industry.

The climate plan forecasts sea level rise from greenhouse gas induced global warming at 1.5 to 5 feet by 2100, and used three feet to develop Flood Risk Adaptation Maps which will be used for state planning purposes. Meanwhile, the report also quotes the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration estimates of only 1.1 feet of sea level rise by 2100, including about half that amount from localized land subsidence at the Lewes Tide Gauge, an amount roughly equal to sea level rise that occurred during the twentieth century. Most of the state is not subsiding, and land height actually increases for estuaries from deposition of sediments from upstream erosion. A realistic expectation is about six inches of sea level rise by 2100.

The plan also assumes rainfall will increase during major storms because of global warming. Even the UN climate change report admits no linkage has been confirmed between global warming and storm intensity.

The state wants to abandon the use of Federal Emergency Management Agency hundred year Flood Insurance Rate Maps which look at historic trends and current flood plain data. The complaint is these maps don’t forecast future trends. We submit the FEMA maps are updated frequently enough to be used for infrastructure planning over the likely lifespan of most infrastructure projects. The use of DNREC’s Flood Risk Adaptation Maps uses questionable forecasts and will result in un-needed additional expense for both the state and private interests. The expanded wetland maps will take a large amount of private land without compensation.

Climate change estimates will be used to force a review of electric rates by the Public Service Commission which could lead to higher rates. The Department of Health & Human Services wants to increase low-income fuel assistance even though higher average temperatures would have a net impact of lowering utility bills as much more money is spent on heating then on cooling. Every state agency has an action step in the plan to increase education of the reality and impacts of catastrophic climate change, an effort some would call propaganda.

Finally, the state has adopted a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 30% by 2030 from a 2008 base year. The plan admits carbon dioxide emissions were already reduce by 25% by 2010 and so is looking for an additional 5% reduction from new initiatives by 2030. Appendix C of the plan provides the key assumptions used in developing emission forecasts. The plan used the U.S. Energy Information Agency 2009 forecast which assumed carbon dioxide emissions would increase 0.7% a year to 2030. The more recent EIA 2014 forecast assumes emissions will decrease by 0.2% a year. Based on the more recent forecast, the 30% reduction target will be met without any new initiatives needed.

The legislature, and all Delaware citizens, should question any legislation, budget, or regulatory changes driven by the “Climate Framework for Delaware”.

Dave T. Stevenson, Policy Director

Center for Energy Competitiveness

Caesar Rodney Institute

                                              

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CRI has joined a Freedom of Information Act request for disclosure of sources of grants given to University of Delaware Professor John Byrne for his work on climate change. Those paying attention to these issues will notice that our request merely followed in the footsteps of a request for similar information regarding UD’s Dr. David Legates. We replicated US Representative Raul Grijalva’s language nearly verbatim, hoping to place his move in perspective. As Delaware citizens we proceeded under a transparency law providing for the release of public records; to those who would claim such requests chill academic freedom, we note that it is Rep. Grijalva whose request waves the banner of governmental authority.

Rep. Grijalva is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and is targeting only those who have testified, using their research, against claims that global warming is causing harms such as an increase in severe weather events. He states it is important we know who funded the research in case some fossil fuel company supported the funding to influence the results. He has not made similar requests of anyone who testified using research that supports the connection. Apparently, grants from environmental groups, government, and certain foundations are assumed, incorrectly, to be beyond suspicion of influencing research.

Using the power of his office for this sort of one-sided pursuit poses real potential to limit research of controversial topics. For several years we have seen an ongoing campaign aimed at removing inconvenient scientists from the climate change debate. Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder announced in a blog post responding to Grijalva’s letter, “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt. I have already shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues.” Pielke’s work, similar to Dr. Legates, shows that damages from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and droughts have not increased in frequency or intensity since the middle of the twentieth century despite warmer temperatures. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading proponent of government action to decrease carbon emissions, also states global warming has not been proven to impact severe weather events.

We support transparency at publicly funded institutions, and researchers should disclose funding sources when they publish a paper as is the policy at most universities. However, we have seen numerous requests for “skeptic” scientists’ emails (such as Dr. Legates’ at Delaware) draw no university opposition or public challenge, only to hear shrieks of outrage when the roles are reversed. The reach of transparency laws is a topic of legitimate debate, though whether they should be evenly applied should be beyond challenge. The use of government office to join one side and intimidate unwanted challenge, however, is climate McCarthyism. We hope our request will contribute to placing the similarities — and stark differences — between these efforts in perspective.

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