Michigan’s Cap on Net Metering

Net metering is the cheapest way for anyone to install solar panels on their house. Net metering means that, whenever the solar panels are producing more power than the house is using, the excess electricity is fed into the local energy distribution grid, and the meter on that house runs in reverse during that time.

It’s great for the individual owner, because the owner not only uses electricity produced without paying the electric company for it but also gets credit for any surplus electricity produced. The owner does not need to provide batteries or any sort of storage for electricity proc=duced during the daytime in order to have electricity at night. At night, the house simply uses electricity off of the grid, exactly like houses without solar panels. Continue reading

Pre-Existing Condition

Recently, I got a message from moveon.org that tried to list some common “pre-existing conditions.” Here’s their list:

AIDS/HIV, acid reflux, acne, alcohol or drug abuse with recent treatment, Alzheimer’s/dementia, anorexia, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, bipolar disorder, breast cancer, bulimia, bypass surgery, C-section, celiac disease, cerebral palsy, cervical cancer, colon cancer, congestive heart failure, Crohn’s disease, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, heartburn, hemophilia, hepatitis, high cholesterol, hysterectomy, kidney disease/renal failure, kidney stones, leukemia, lung cancer, lupus, lyme disease, lymphoma, mental health issues, migraines, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, narcolepsy, obesity, obsessive-compulsive disorder, organ transplant, pacemaker, paralysis, paraplegia, Parkinson’s disease, pregnancy, rape, schizophrenia, seasonal affective disorder, seizures, sexual assault, “sexual deviation or disorder,” skin cancer, sleep apnea, stroke, ulcers … and that’s not all.

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The Republican Carbon Tax Plan

A group of Reagan and Bush era Republicans, publishing in the name of a newly formed “Climate Leadership Council,” have proposed a national carbon tax and dividend coupled with a “significant rollback” of environmental regulations which seek to limit carbon dioxide emissions. If you want to read their publication directly, it can be downloaded from their website.

The poison pill in this plan is the elimination of environmental regulations. Apparently, it is not enough for them that the American oil and gas industry is exempt from the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking water Act and several other federal laws. (See http://www.frackfreecolorado.com/oil–gas-exemptions-from-federal-laws.html) They also want to eliminate controls on emissions from coal-powered generating plants, mileage requirements for vehicles, and anything else that regulates emissions directly.

They would like to sell us on the notion that the carbon tax can accomplish the task all by itself. In theory, it can, provided the tax is high enough, is applied strictly and with absolutely no exemptions for the military or other government agency, absolutely no exemptions for any nation and absolutely no exemptions for any company or industry. Their publication of course does not mention the possibility of any such exemption.

The possibility of exemptions still exists. Mentioning it would not help sell their idea of “rollback” (i.e., elimination) of environmental regualations. Therefore, it is not mentioned.

There is no actual need to eliminate specific environmental regulations in order to have a carbon tax. There’s nothing inherently incompatible between the two ways of controlling emissions.

For instance, a carbon tax and mileage requirements for vehicles both push in the same direction. A carbon tax and limits on smokestack emissions for coal-burning power plants both push in the same direction. If the carbon tax has compelled automakers to exceed minimum mileage requirements and has forced utilities to shut down coal-burning plants, that’s not really a problem for the goal of reducing emissions.

Let’s picture the situation if environmental regulations have been eliminated, and then there’s a financial/economic crisis similar to to the one that happened in 2008. It did happen in 2008, and restrictions on banking intended to prevent a recurrence are being dismantled, so it’s certainly a possibility that a similar crisis will repeat.

Oh, no! Layoffs! Unemployment! Major companies losing profits and going bankrupt! Stock market crash! We have to take whatever measures are needed to revive the economy immediately! Let’s eliminate the carbon tax! it’s clearly a big drag on the economy!

Hey, there’s a crisis, so this is no time to talk about bringing back environmental regulations. Besides, the agencies that used to do inspection and enforcement have been closed down, technical experts have found different jobs, enabling laws repealed, laws repealed … it’s just impossible to put environmental regulations in place quickly.

In other words, in Phase 1, eliminate environmental regulations because with a carbon tax, they are “not needed.” Then, for Phase 2, eliminate the carbon tax. Mission accomplished.

That is, in my opinion, the intention of the Republican carbon tax plan. A carbon tax is great idea if it is in addition to environmental regulation. It’s a terrible idea if it’s just an excuse to eliminate them.

If anything in current environmental law should be rolled back, it’s  exemptions granted the oil and gas industries.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

What is Our Movement?

Counterpunch has an article worth reading. I’m not entirely clear on why the author insists on a secondary role for what he identifies as identity politics, but the assertion is there. It’s worth discussing.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/03/the-left-needs-to-be-a-movement-not-a-bunch-of-lobbyists/

I certainly agree we should direct our energies to a few fundamental issues, rather than protesting every single day about Trump’s latest outrage. Further, we should look very hard for ways to make our demands on those issues effective. What the article recommends is pretty much the opposite of the “Indivisible” approach, which does indeed focus almost entirely on mass lobbying; i.e., pressuring rather than challenging elected officials. Continue reading

Public Schools and State Spending

On Sunday, January 29, 2017, The Detroit Free Press ran a long article about public schools written by Nancy Kaffer. I agree with almost all of the points she makes. It’s well worth reading the whole thing, and studying the map of schools which the State Reform Office has said should, according to their performance standard, be closed. Here are a few pithy excerpts from the article:

“… the state’s failure to make the city’s schools right — yeah, this one is on the state, which created the charter system and has run Detroit’s public schools for most of this century — is the biggest stumbling block in Detroit’s still-tenuous recovery …”

and Continue reading

What is Neoliberalism?

Watching the video will be an hour well spent.

George, in the Q & A session, starts around 51 minutes:

“…and this is also a problem for Marxism. Keynes has absolutely nothing to say about the environmental crisis, which is the biggest crisis – by far – that we confront. The Keynesian fiscal stimulus accelerates the environmental crisis. Under the Keynesian vision, just as under the neoliberal vision, salvation is indistinguishable from catastrophe. Everything that is good economically is bad environmentally because you are stimulating economic growth which is the fundamental driver of environmental destruction.”

At a little over an hour, he gets into discussing the European Green Parties, and how difficult it is to distinguish their approach from that of other leftish parties. It’s something we should no doubt be working on.