Thursday, December 6, 2012

It's Not Ideology.It's Waste.

Would you spend your money this way?

One has to shake their head in disbelief.  There is no way that the government can pretend that this is other than wasted resources.  However, note that this is from one day’s news coverage. Both of the items discussed in this posting refer to material from the WALL STREET JOURNAL dated December 6, 2012.  Is it any wonder that the public stops reading newspapers and following current events when this sort of stupidity is routinely displayed?

The first item concerns a report entitled “U.S. Gas Exports Clear Hurdle,” and subtitled “Study Citing Benefits Could Hasten Approvals From Obama Administration.”  The article reports that “Shipping some of the newly abundant U.S. natural gas overseas would benefit the nation's economy more than keeping it all at home, according to a long-awaited government study that has the potential to reshape the global energy market.”
Think about that for a minute.  We are using sanctions against energy exports from Iran in order to punish them and force them into submission.  Yet, we need to do a study to find out that we shouldn't do the same to ourselves? 

But one doesn't have to look to our current foreign policy to realize the insanity of requiring the study.  Anyone who is the least bit familiar with American history realizes that we have done tremendous damage to the US economy in the past when we embargoed our own exports.
If current foreign policy and American history are not your strengths, try current trade discussions.  Populists and even some economists bemoan our lack of exports and criticize foreign governments for protective actions.  We criticize foreign nations for exporting too much to us, and in some cases insist that they put quotas on the amount they can export, not for their own benefit, but for our benefit.

The money spent on that study represents waste, but the waste doesn't end with the money spent on the study.  One has to wonder about the lost opportunities associated with the fact that this study was “long-awaited.”  Why would it take so long to reach an obvious conclusion, unless there were opportunities for the government to shake down energy producers and consumers for campaign contributions in the interim period. 
So, we've got the waste of the study, the waste of the delay, and the wasted resources used in lobbying.

The disclosure is in order.  The Hedged Economist is not a particular advocate of natural gas exports.  In fact, although highly skeptical of natural gas exporting, it isn't rocket science to see that this whole article reflects nothing but waste.
The second item is a little more subtle and could be subject to misinterpretation.  That isn't surprising since it's taken from the opinion page.  The particular item is entitled “Playing Chicken in Oil-Patch Politics,” with a subtitle “Another green gambit by the Obama crowd to stop the energy boom.”  So, it might be good to begin with the blanket statement that these comments are not in any way associated with an advocacy position.  One doesn't need to take a position on the issue to see the stupidity of what's being reported.

A little background is in order.  The piece points out that “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that it will formally consider listing the Lesser Prairie Chicken—whose habitat includes some of the nation's major energy fields—as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.”
It goes on to report that “This summer, after months of research, Fish and Wildlife conceded that listing the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as threatened or endangered wasn't warranted….As it happens, the habitat of the Lesser Prairie Chicken largely overlaps that of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard.”

Understand, The Hedged Economist is all for leaping lizards and lesser chickens.  In fact, one could say that the author is even favorably disposed toward greater chickens.  That's not the issue.
Here is the issue.  The piece goes on to report that “… another issue of concern is the funding behind these efforts to list certain animals as endangered. Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson testified to Congress in June that taxpayer money is being spent in litigation over these listings. For instance, the petition to list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard was originally filed by a radical environmental group, the Wild Earth Guardians. Interestingly, this group collected $680,492 in tax money (as grants and the like) from Fish and Wildlife between 2007 and 2011. During that time the group sued the federal agency 76 times over alleged environmental violations.”

It goes on to express the opinion that “By filing an outlandish number of lawsuits, groups like the Wild Earth Guardians are trying to overwhelm Fish and Wildlife resources and force settlements that the groups can dictate, instead of letting the courts decide.”  One might surmise from the fact that the article was written by a member of the Texas Railroad Commission (which is the state's primary regulator of energy production and exploration) that the opinion isn't pulled out of thin air.  However, the motives of the author of the opinion piece, Fish and Wildlife, and the Wild Earth Guardians are not the issue.
The issue is: Why in the world is Fish and Wildlife giving grants with taxpayers’ money to advocacy groups?  The Hedged Economist is clearly an advocate.  A review of posts on this blog should demonstrate a strong advocacy for economic rationality.  Why doesn't the government subsidize The Hedged Economist?  Certainly, economic rationality should rank high in the government's objectives.  But, The Hedged Economist would be quick to point out that subsidizing advocacy, even for rationality, is not a rational behavior.

The point is that government subsidies to advocates are essentially a waste.  If an action makes sense, the rational behavior is to take the action, not to provide subsidies to somebody to advocate the action.  That seems particularly obvious if the advocate’s approach to achieving his or her objectives is to screw up the workings of a government agency, as the piece contends is the case in this instance.
This posting is written with a full understanding that we just elected a president who has displayed considerable hostility toward fossil fuels.  Therefore, one can't object to the president pursuing his objective of inhibiting energy production.  That isn't the point of the posting.  The point is that if making fossil fuels scarce and expensive is the president's policy; let him pursue it in a rational, less wasteful manner.

No comments:

Post a Comment