Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hillary Picks Up Obama’s Attack on For-Profit Colleges

The Obama Administration’s attack on private, for-profit career colleges will get a new life under a Hillary Clinton Administration. Commenting favorably on Clinton’s recently announced government plan to bail college students out of their debt burdens, the New Jersey Star-Ledger editorialized about Clinton’s “piecemeal package”:

Its best component . . . is it continues the Obama administration's attack on exploitation, enforcing a gainful employment rule that judges ruthless for-profit schools on their students' debt and incomes after graduation.

Obama’s attack on for-profit colleges began in 2010 with the so-called “gainful employment” rules, which are supposed to see to it that the debt levels students graduate with are commensurate to the income they will receive from their chosen career path. These rules were subsequently shot down in the courts, but were reinstated in July of this year. (See Craig Biddle’s extensive article from the print edition of The Objective Standard, The Government’s Assault on Private-Sector Colleges and Universities, and my follow-up TOS blog post The Government’s Renewed Assault on Private-Sector Colleges.)

I left these comments on the Star-Ledger’s editorial:

The elephant in the room is the fact that the government college financing gravy train caused the runaway college costs that Clinton now wants to fix with still more taxpayer largess. It’s the same old scheme, repackaged: Wave the magic wand of more government subsidies, and the cost  problems Americans face with higher education will miraculously disappear. No concern for who will be forced to pick up the tab—American taxpayers themselves.

The worst of this editorial, and of Clinton's plan, is the vicious smear and attack on “ruthless for-profit schools.”

For-profit colleges, also called career colleges, cater mostly to mature working poor and middle class students who are trying to improve their skills through education while juggling jobs, families, and other adult responsibilities. These schools succeed despite unfair competition from public colleges, which have the benefit of taxpayer subsidies that enable them to keep tuitions artificially low.

The Obama Administration’s attack on for-profit schools is motivated by an ideological bias against profits, not any concern about “exploitation.” The gainful employment rules are rigged mainly to target the for-profit colleges. There is a double standard here. If the gainful employment debt-to-earnings guidelines were fairly enforced against all colleges, the public colleges and non-profit colleges would fare as bad or worse than the for-profits. The problem of the disconnect between the cost of higher education and the ability to repay the loans cuts across all of higher education, not just private for-profits. And it is mainly the government’s fault, [relating to the wide-open spigot of easy government-backed student loans]. Yet Obama gives all but the for-profits a pass.

Clinton’s plan continues that hateful attack. If successful, the discriminatory attack on for-profit colleges would cut off an important educational path for millions of students trying to improve their career prospects.

True, there are some unscrupulous private for-profit colleges. But the same goes many times over for public colleges, which have ridden the government’s student loan gravy train to tuition increases four times the rate of inflation over the last several decades. But the Obama Administration and the Left generally are allowing their hatred of profit-seeking to drive a scheme to target, crucify, and eventually eliminate the for-profits and gain increasing government control over higher education. Their use of government power to discriminatorily attack the for-profits would make any gangster drool with envy.


Students attending or considering for-profit colleges that don’t meet the gainful employment standards will lose access to federally-backed loans and grants. Given the dominance of the government in student financing, this will effectively put many of these schools out of business. And that, not any concern about “exploited students,” is the goal of Obama, Clinton, and their mouthpieces in the media like the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

But as I wrote for TOS,

The government should not be involved in lending money to students at all. But so long as it is, and so long as it regulates these loans, it is morally obligated—and should be legally obligated—to treat all students and all educational institutions equally under the law. Toward that end, Congress should amend the Higher Education Act to forbid the executive branch from acting prejudicially against private-sector, for-profit colleges and universities.

Related Reading:

NJ Assemblyman Joseph Cryan's Bill to Control College Costs is the Wrong Solution

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mulshine on the ‘National Anti-Pipeline Movement’

New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine ran a nice article last March 2015 regarding what he coined “national anti-pipeline movement.” In his article, Pipeline opponents' oily logic: The alternatives are much worse for the environment, Mulshine shredded the cause of the NIMBY/Environmentalists’ anti-pipeline movement. After noting the NJ Sierra Club’s call for more “investment” in solar and wind,  Mulshine wrote:

No, we don't. Wind and solar are incredibly inefficient compared to fossil fuels. Wind power sounds wonderful in theory. But it would take about 100 of those massive 360-foot wind turbines to equal the output of a typical conventional plant like Beesley's Point in Atlantic County - which the enviros are trying to shut down with another NIMBY campaign focusing on the perils of a proposed gas pipeline.

To equal that amount of power, you'd have to put a windmill on every decent-sized mountain in Northwest Jersey. Imagine climbing to the top of the Sourland range only to see a vast field of wind turbines - and the corpses of the hawks and eagles they kill.

The Sourland Mountain Range is a preserve that runs through Somerset and Hunterdon Counties in Central New Jersey. Mulshine tells us in his article about an excursion he took through the preserve. On a run, he came upon two pipelines running through the preserve—the Texas Eastern Pipeline and the Buckeye Pipeline. Mulshine observes that, if not for a few stakes identifying the location of the pipelines, he wouldn’t have known they were buried there.

I left these comments:

If Mr. Mulshine had ventured a little farther West on the Sourland Mountain range, he would have encountered evidence of another front in the War on Pipelines; lawn signs opposing the proposed PennEast natgas pipeline through Western Hunterdon and Mercer Counties. Here, too, another branch of the unholy alliance of NIMBY hypocrites and anti-industrial environmentalists is at work trying to stop the pipeline from being built and delivering life-giving energy to consumers. As usual, Jeff Tittel and his Sierra Club are leading the charge.

Of the two factions, the NIMBYs are the easiest to debunk and the least threatening: They are moral hypocrites for opposing pipelines in their back yards while continuing to enjoy the benefits of America’s 2.4 million mile pipeline network to sustain their lives. The “environmentalist extremists behind the anti-pipeline movement” are the much bigger danger, as they are driven by an irrational ideological opposition to reliable, plentiful, economical energy that human well-being and a liveable environment depends on. If they ever got their way, the human wreckage would be unimaginable.

I’ve been fighting my own personal battle against this alliance with article comments, letters to the Hunterdon County Democrat, and even a 3000 word post on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website regarding FERC’s review of PennEast’s application, in which I rebut the main arguments advanced by pipeline opponents. Most of the PennEast opposition’s “logic” is just as illogical as Pilgrim’s opponents. On my daily 3-mile walk, I stroll right over the Transco easement in Readington, under which 3 major natgas transmission pipelines, surrounded by houses and farms, deliver vital energy to New Jerseyans. What’s so bad about Transco’s pipelines, especially when weighed against the enormous human benefits they deliver? I don’t get how anyone can believe the nonsense that PennEast’s pipeline would ruin the Sourland Mountain, as opponents claim in signs such as “Stop the Pipeline, Save the Sourlands.”

There is a valid concern about the threat of eminent domain powers being granted to pipeline companies. But given the overall vital necessity of pipelines, it’s a shame and a danger that more average energy consumers don’t speak up on behalf of pipelines.


Mulshine also mentions the NIMBY/Environmentalist opposition to the Pilgrim Pipeline proposal through Northeastern NJ. He observes that the goal of the national anti-pipeline movement is to shut down oil and gas drilling by killing the means of delivering the product to refineries and consumers. And then he concludes:

Then enviros say this is all necessary in an attempt to curb CO-2 emissions. But if they were really concerned with CO-2 they'd support nuclear power, which produces massive amounts of energy with zero emissions.

Instead they're engaged in a thinly disguised effort to bring economic progress to a halt in the name of the environment.

As for the NIMBYs, if they're really worried about the risks from pipelines, the first thing they should do is disconnect their houses from the natural gas lines that runs down their streets. If that stuff's so dangerous in the middle of the woods, why would you let it into your house?

Mulshine concludes, “As for me, I'm glad the pipelines are there.” So am I. So should anyone who values their comfortable, safe, enjoyable lives the energy from these pipelines deliver.

Related Reading:

Climate Change or Not, Humans Need Reliable, Economical Energy—and the Pilgrim Pipeline

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Who Decides Whether PennEast’s Pipeline is Needed, Necessary, and Wanted?

A new report on behalf of PennEast Pipeline co., which has run into stiff local and environmentalist opposition to its proposed natural gas pipeline through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, argues that—

Families and businesses in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey would have saved more than $890 million in energy costs had the proposed PennEast Pipeline been in place during the 2013-2014 winter.

The 2013-2014 winter was a particularly cold one for the region. Not surprisingly, opponents reacted negatively to the report. As the Hunterdon County Democrat’s Terry Wright reports:

Critics immediately blasted today's report.

"The new claim by PennEast is more hot air," said Jeff Tittel, director NJ Sierra Club. And he termed the supposed savings for consumers to be a "false assumption since the price of natural gas is set by the overall market, not just in one area."

"There is no guarantee the gas from this pipeline would stay here; it could just as easily be exported from Cove Point, Md.," he added. He was referring to a liquefied natural gas export terminal under construction there by Dominion Resources. The U.S. Energy Department has approved Cove Point's planned exports to other countries starting in 2017.

"The reason PennEast keeps spinning with reports is because the public opposes this pipeline," Tittel added, calling it "unneeded, unnecessary and unwanted."

I left these comments challenging Tittel:

[T]he supposed savings for consumers to be a "false assumption since the price of natural gas is set by the overall market, not just in one area."

This is not true. Local and/or regional factors can and do affect prices. As Bloomberg Business reports in Northeast Record Natural Gas Prices Due to Pipeline Dearth:

“A lack of pipelines is depriving consumers of the full benefits of low-cost energy. Although the wells in Pennsylvania are practically in the backyard of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, pipeline companies are still working to connect the gas fields to the utility pipes beneath towns and cities. Until they do, a lot of gas will continue to get pumped more than 1,000 miles from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast.”

The more fundamental issue is moral; the rights of producers and their consumers to voluntarily contract to mutual benefit. Who is Tittel to claim that the pipeline is "unneeded, unnecessary and unwanted?" He has no right to speak for anyone but himself. It’s up to each consumer to decide whether they need the gas. The only moral and practical solution: If you don’t need the gas, [do not] want it, or [don't] find it necessary, don’t buy it. But don’t block other buyers who decide they do need it, want it, and find it necessary.

As for all of the anti-PennEast NIMBY’s out there, keep in mind that 1000 miles of natgas pipelines that supply New Jerseyans—or for that matter the other 2.4 million miles of natgas pipelines now in use in America that 71 million Americans rely on. Be grateful that other NIMBY’s didn’t stop them.

Related Reading:

Untangling the PennEast Pipeline Rights Conundrum

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sanders’s Open Socialism Blows the Cover Off of the Left’s Stealth Socialism

Does it matter that Bernie Sanders, the 2016 Democratic candidate for president, is an openly self-described socialist?

Yes, and here’s why.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger observes that, Like it or not, Sanders' socialism is mainstream. But is socialism really mainstream? In this presidential election cycle, we could find out. As the Star-Ledger editorializes:

On Thursday [June 11, 2015], Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), said that "in virtually every instance, what I'm saying is supported by a significant majority of the American people," which is a bold claim for someone who has been broadly labeled a "socialist" candidate in Democratic camouflage.

But it makes this a good time to consider whether that term is being applied accurately in the early innings of this 2016 campaign, rather than as a pejorative to dismiss Sanders' ideas.

Because so far, the Senator is showing the electorate that a rejection of this "socialism" – the concept, not the brainless epithet – is something that most voters would probably find unthinkable.

And if you consult the polls, Sanders' claim is not only right, he is positively mainstream.

Among Sanders’s government policies, observes the Star-Ledger, are reducing income inequality through higher taxes on the wealthy, a $15 minimum wage, reigning in “big money” in politics, repealing Citizens United, more generous government-backed student loans, fighting climate change, and forcibly shrinking Wall Street banks.

It’s true that these are mainstream Leftist policies. It’s also true that Sanders’s policies, if all are implemented, would not result in a fully socialist America. And, the Star-Ledger adds, America already has socialist programs in place. After reporting that “The 18-to-29 bloc even finds socialism (36 percent) almost as favorable as capitalism (39 percent),” the Star-Ledger observes:

Or perhaps they just know that socialist precepts, in large part, represent the civic and cultural foundation of our nation.

Consider: Many things we take for granted today were conceived by leftist coalitions that included Socialists and other Progressives, such as the eight-hour workday, women's suffrage, Medicare, and Social Security. Some were used as the platform for Eugene Debs' bid for the White House a century ago, though back then they called it "social insurance."

Labor rights, decent work conditions, and paid maternity leave were in large part socialist ideas, too, some championed by a Socialist congressman from the lower East Side named Meyer London.

And civil liberty was an ironclad tenet throughout our history – as long as your skin wasn't a tint darker than the majority - but when we interned Japanese Americans in 1942, one of the loudest objections was voiced by the prominent Socialist of the time, Norman Thomas.

Does the fact that Sanders’s policies have achieved significant popular traction mean Americans are now ready for an openly socialist president, and by extension are warming to socialism? Or is Sanders merely attempting to cash in on Americans’ confusion over what socialism is? If Americans understood that Sanders’s agenda is socialist, and would lead America toward full socialism, would they still support what Sanders is saying, to the extent they do support him? I left these comments (slightly edited for clarity). Given that some of what is mentioned above is not socialist at all, I felt it necessary to start from fundamentals:

First, let’s define our terms.

Socialism is statism based on collectivism. Collectivism is the idea that the group is the focus of moral concern. Under collectivism, the individual is subordinate to the group and can be sacrificed at any time and in any way, if the group deems such sacrifice to be to its good (the “public good,” the “good of society,” the “national interest,” etc.). Under socialism, the government represents the group, and may initiate aggressive force against private citizens at will, for the sake of and in the name of the group (society, the public, the proletariat, the race). The government may loot or, in socialism’s most violent and consistent manifestations, slaughter whomever it deems necessary to advance the good of the collective (e.g., the Kulaks in Soviet Russia; the Jews in Nazi Germany). That’s why socialism, in practice—and whether or not the government is elected—must logically—and often does, if not stopped in time—lead to totalitarian dictatorship, featuring persecution of, legalized looting of, and enslavement of the productive; the silencing and arrest of political dissenters; and mass murder. If the group is all that morally matters, then individuals are rightless creatures when it comes to their lives, property, and personal goals—all of which are expendable. Note how often it is said that the public good trumps the private interests. Under socialism, everyone but the rulers—and under democratic socialism, even the rulers, theoretically—are equal in slavery to the collective, which can only mean the state. The fact that 36% of young people have a positive view of socialism indicates that a large segment of our youngsters are either evil or ignorant.

Capitalism is constitutionally limited republicanism based on individualism. Individualism is the idea that the focus of moral concern is the individual. Under capitalism, the government protects the individual’s rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of personal goals, values, and happiness, so long as the individual respects the same rights of others, and pursues his goals through his own effort in voluntary, mutually consensual trade, association, and cooperation with others. The government protects individual rights by legally banning aggressive (initiatory) physical force against private citizens—not only aggression by private criminals but also, importantly, by the people’s own government officials. Under capitalism, government officials must live under the same moral law—respect for the rights of others—as ordinary citizens. No group, no matter its size or whether it’s a private mob or electoral majority or legislative body, can violate the rights of individuals—the individual being the smallest and only morally relevant minority. Under capitalism, everyone is equal before the law, in terms of their rights, which are inalienable—regardless of their social, personal, or economic standing. Rights are guarantees to freedom of action only, not an automatic claim to material values that others must be forced to provide. The fact that only 39% of young people have a positive view of capitalism indicates that most of our youngsters don’t know what capitalism is, or are simply immoral.

Under socialism, government is master. Under capitalism, government is servant. Under socialism, the individual is a subject. Under capitalism, the individual is sovereign.

It’s true that the legally imposed 8-hour workday is socialist. But how many people know that the eight-hour workday was made possible by capitalism, under which businessmen were free to increase through investment and innovation the productivity of labor to the point that people could earn a living wage with less work? If the 8-hour workday were imposed prior to the rise of capitalism, it would have condemned millions of adults to death. The same goes for child labor, which was eliminated not because of laws—an utterly simplistic notion—but because, thanks to capitalism, parents became productive enough to support their children without sending them out to work. If child labor laws were imposed pre-capitalist, millions of children would have been condemned to death, deprived of the freedom to earn a living.

How many people know that the legalization of gay marriage, women’s suffrage, and rationally objective anti-pollution laws are capitalist, because they protect individual’s rights to freedom of association, the right to vote, and the right to be free of other people’s pollution.

The internment of the Japanese—which was based on the collectivist idea that individual Japanese-Americans are guilty by virtue of the group they belonged to, which superseded their individual rights—was a socialist policy instituted by a “progressive” administration. That injustice was unequivocally anti-capitalist. Under capitalist principles, each person is judged as an individual, and only individuals objectively proved to be a national security threat could be incarcerated. Likewise, so-called “labor rights” are socialist, because under collectivism rights belong to groups. So “rights” become state-granted privileges bestowed only on members of favored political constituencies, at the expense of the violation of the actual rights of all other individuals—including, under so-called “labor rights” laws, workers precluded from earning a living due to the illegalization of certain jobs that politicians object to. Group “rights” are not rights, but cronyism: Cronyism is the product of socialism, not capitalism.

Whether or not you choose to label Sanders a socialist, his agenda is mostly thoroughgoing statism, and his policies are a series of steps on the road to totalitarian socialism in America —albeit under cover of fascist progressivism. Most of Sanders’s agenda is socialist-leaning and anti-capitalist; i.e., individual rights-violating and anti-liberty. And, since the centerpiece of Sanders’s campaign is an attack on a minority scapegoat labeled “the rich”; “the 1%”; the “billionaire class,” Sanders is a dangerous demagogue. The fact that so much of Sanders’s agenda polls well, if you can believe the polls, indicates how far the Left has succeeding in eroding America’s foundational principles—unalienable individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government. The Left had to destroy liberty, to make way for its regulatory welfare state. The old-line American Left—the so-called “liberals” or “progressives”—may never have wanted total socialism. But by destroying America’s Founding principles, they paved the way for a socialist candidate.

If Sanders’s candidacy gains significant traction—and I believe he has a better chance than conventional wisdom holds—it will be an unhealthy sign for our liberty, our economy, and our culture. The Right—by which I mean pro-liberty, not social or religious conservatives—has its work cut out for it in the coming election. In the 2016 election, the fundamental alternative of liberty vs. tyranny will be more clear-cut than at any time in half a century.


The Star-Ledger brushes off the “socialist” label Sanders intentionally wears as meaningless—a mere “pejorative”; a “brainless epithet”—because many of Sanders’s specific policies have popular appeal or are “mainstream.” But the label is of critical importance, because socialism is a real evil. While it’s true that every new government regulation or redistributionist program is a step toward full socialism—albeit through the backdoor of fascism—most advocates of these governmental intrusions don’t want socialism. Not so with Sanders. The fact that Sanders considers himself an unabashed socialist tells you where he ultimately means to lead the country. His current policies are not ends in themselves but stepping stones to full totalitarian socialism, or the total collectivist regimentation of the economy and our lives.

For pro-capitalists, there may be a silver lining to Sanders’s campaign, however. The Star-Ledger—which dangerously evades the deadly historical and ideological nature of socialism—apparently hopes that Sanders’s entrance into the race will cast socialism into a more favorable light in Americans’ eyes, thanks to his sugar coating of socialism with popular issues. But Sanders’s entrance looks to me like an opportunity for the Right to turn that scenario on its head.

All of the things on Sanders’s wish list, as well as those things the Left has already foisted on America (labor laws, Social Security, etc.) are socialist. America has been moving toward socialism, piecemeal and stealthily, for decades. And for decades, America's socialist-sympathizing Left has been telling us that they don’t really want to bring socialism to America. They just want to preserve capitalism by smoothing out the rough edges and making it work better, and each of their programs are designed to do just that—improve capitalism. They want a “safety net,” they tell us—that’s all. Anyone pointing out that their programs are socialist were ridiculed, even as the socialist safety net relentlessly expanded to ensnare more and more people—today, almost everyone, to some degree. This is how the Left has been winning; deny socialism is their aim, even as they enact one step after another toward that end.

Sanders the openly avowed socialist blows the cover off of the Left’s stealth socialism. His candidacy clarifies the fact that the socialist policies already enacted are not just socialist exceptions to a mostly capitalist society. They, and the next set of Leftist policies Sanders advocates, are just stepping stones to full socialism. He is saying explicitly that, yes indeed, destroying capitalism and bringing in socialism is and always has been the goal.  

Seen in that light, the full context of America’s century-long battle between socialism and capitalism becomes much clearer. Sanders places each piecemeal step toward socialism in proper long-term context. Each step is a step toward socialism, not isolated corrections to capitalism. If Americans come to see all of the socialist schemes—those already implemented and those now proposed—as piecemeal socialist steps toward full totalitarian socialism, it may become easier to convince Americans to stop the advance—and eventually reverse it.

Context is crucial. Sanders gives us that. But, exposing the context that Sanders brings to the battle is not enough, by itself, to turn the tide. The Right must still integrate this context into the economic and—above all—the long-neglected moral case for capitalism and against socialism. But Sanders may just have made the Right’s challenge a little easier. Let’s hope so. Because, to repeat, the fundamental alternative of liberty vs. tyranny will be more clear-cut in the 2016 election than at any time in at least half a century.

Related Reading:

Why Nazism Was Socialism and Why Socialism is Totalitarian—George Reisman for the Mises Institute

Billionaires' Likening of Today's Campaign Against the Rich to Nazi Germany is Frighteningly Close to the Mark

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

No More Energy Pyramids

As a followup to my last post regarding the pressure that anti-pipeline environmentalists jihadist are putting on the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC), the agency charged with the responsibility of approving pipelines, I post my reply to a correspondent who commented under the article I referenced, Federal energy commissioner concerned about gas pipeline critics.

Teal Strat commented, in part:

Unless you're a major investor in this pipeline, why in the world would you want [The PennEast Pipeline Company’s proposed natural gas pipeline through Western Hunterdon County in New Jersey] to be built? It does not solve our country's energy problems. That can only be done through a concerted R&D effort by our country's best scientists. We have the ability to develop clean energy sources just as we had the ability to send astronauts to the Moon. What we need is a national will to do great things.

I left this rebuttal reply:

What “energy problems?” Our country is awash in cheap energy, thanks to the “concerted R&D effort” of private scientists working in the fossil fuel industry. Have you not heard of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the amazing cutting edge technologies that unlocked vast new quantities of previously unreachable shale oil and gas, and that made America the world’s #1 oil and natgas producing country? This energy revolution didn’t come from any “national will “—i.e., government boondoggle. It came because of the will of private producers and investors to make money.

There is no “We” as you mean it. “We” don’t have ability. There is no “national will.” Only individuals possess ability and will, who requires only one political need to flourish and do great things—liberty. Nations never achieve greatness. Only human beings do. Any “national effort” amounts to a government takeover, paid for by seizing money from taxpayers, and proceeding by freezing out all but the politically connected from the process—a virtual moratorium on private sector brains and ability.

For decades, governments around the world have poured hundreds of $billions in taxpayer subsidies chasing the holy grail of “clean energy.” Yet nowhere on Earth have solar, wind, et al proven to be capable of being a primary source of reliable, economical, plentiful, on-demand energy. That’s why fossil fuels are the fuel of choice for developing and developed nations alike, supplying 87% of the world’s energy. It’s simply the best, most human life-advancing energy technology of all time, by far.

We don’t need another armchair “expert” with another master plan for other people’s money. We don’t need chest-beating politicians commandeering our resources in order to build useless “clean energy” monuments equivalent to those “great things” on the other side of the world, the pyramids of Egypt. We need a free market in energy, where the best energy solutions are actually determined by the best minds voluntarily funded by private capital—as, morally, it should be. The final arbiter, ultimately, will be the voluntary choices of consumers—as, morally, it should be—rather than government bureaucrats. As the history of free market capitalism has shown, no market-entrenched technology can withstand better ideas—unless it is frozen in place by backward-looking government coercion, a la Ma Bell. If solar, wind, or any other energy technology can supplant fossil fuels as the best technology, they will as long as people are free to innovate, produce, and trade freely, and consumers are free to “vote with their wallets.” Until then, keep the politicians’ grubby hands out of our pockets and out of our energy choices.

Related Reading:

"Clean" Energy Companies, not "Fossil Fuel Bosses," Need Political Favors to Compete

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Anti-Pipeline Jihadists Assault FERC—and Our Energy

Anti-fossil fuel environmentalists have, in recent years, focussed on stopping oil and natural gas pipelines as a means of strangling fossil fuel production and use. Often aligning themselves with NIMBY groups, this small but highly organized and motivated movement of environmentalists leads what New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine calls “a jihad on pipelines.”

Apparently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the federal agency charged with the task of approving pipelines, is feeling the high-powered heat from the jihadists. In a article, Federal energy commissioner concerned about gas pipeline critics, Kieth Brown writes:

The head of the federal commission that will decide whether the [PennEast Pipeline Company’s proposed natural gas pipeline through Western Hunterdon County in New Jersey] gets built expressed concern in a recent speech over the "unprecedented opposition'' to the construction of new natural gas pipelines, prompting new criticism from pipeline opponents.

"We have a situation here,'' Cheryl A. LaFleur, director of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said at a National Press Club luncheon in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27.

"Pipelines are facing unprecedented opposition from local and national groups including environmental activists," LaFleur said. "These groups are active in every FERC docket, as they should be, as well as in my email inbox seven days a week, in my Twitter feed, at our open meetings demanding to be heard, and literally at our door closing down First Street so FERC won't be able to work."

LaFleur's comments were blasted by opponents of the proposed $1.2 billion pipeline stretching through six counties from Northeastern Pennsylvania to Hopewell Township in Mercer County.

"My thoughts are with Harry Truman,'' said Hopewell Township Mayor Harvey Lester. "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.''

FERC’s jihadist opponents all but accused the commission of corruption:

"The growing public outcry is because of [FERC’s] incomprehensively bad behavior, the absolute whole cloth failure to represent the public interest,'' [Maya K. van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper,] said. "They are clearly an ally of the gas industry and we know it and we see it not just in decisions but in the behavior they have toward the public."

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, also said LaFleur's comments are evidence of a cozy relationship between the energy commission and the industry it regulates.

"These comments just show that she shouldn't be on FERC,'' Tittel said. "Instead of regulating the industry she's supposed to regulate, she's cheerleading for them.'' [Emphasis added]

I left these comments, which seem no longer to appear on the website:

Whenever someone invokes “the public interest”—a conveniently undefinable term—you can bet that someone really means “the public, c’est moi,” demanding that “my interest should be enforced at the expense of the interests of all others by legalized force.”

And what is the pipeline opposition interest?

It is more than NIMBY hypocrisy—and much worse. It is primarily environmentalist opposition to the energy development our lives depend on. The “unprecedented opposition from local and national groups” Commissioner LaFleur refers to is a radical anti-pipeline jihadist movement ideologically opposed to fossil fuels, the most reliable, economical energy source available today. The anti-fossil fuel movement is part of a broader anti-energy agenda—these people also oppose nuclear, hydro, and often solar and wind projects—which in turn is an outgrowth of a broader anti-industrial, anti-development ideology that values unaltered nature over human life as its standard of value.

These organized groups are not concerned with legitimate worries, such as the threat of eminent domain to some property owners. They are not interested in finding the best pathway for the pipeline. They do not care about the consumers who would willingly buy the pipeline’s gas; nor the livelihoods of the builders and operators of the pipeline; nor the rights of natgas producers and consumers to voluntarily contract to mutual benefit. They aim to stop this pipeline, and all pipelines, because they are pipelines. They are truly energy enemies, and should be acknowledged as such.

It’s doubtful many average people would give up their reliable fossil energy source. Yet most people keep silent and let the energy enemies have the field. They shouldn’t. They should speak up in favor of their own best energy interests. Everyone, not just Maya K. van Rossum and her ilk, are part of the public. Everyone has a right to decide for themselves whether they wish to use fossil fuels or not. Don’t let the energy enemies decide for you. Follow my lead, which includes my two Hunterdon County Democrat letters—The rights of fossil fuel producers and Fossil fuels benefits far outweigh the coststhis statement posted to the FERC website, and numerous online comments such as these.

We should also grasp that the work of the natgas pipeline producers, and the fossil fuel industry more broadly, is immensely virtuous, not the villainous activity environmentalists portray it to be. If you value your life and well-being, let FERC know (docket number PF15-1-000 for PennEast Pipeline) how much you value your energy and your life, by posting comments supportive of pipelines.


If the jihadists’ pressure on FERC is even partly effective, it will spell bad news for the price and availability of the energy we need.

Related Reading:

Rights, Fossil Fuel Dangers, Future Generations, and the PennEast Pipeline