Friday, January 9, 2009

Regulations- Polar Bears, Solar Power, Lawnmowers, and Fast-Food Restaurants- What Next?

Jack Dini
Livermore, CA

(From, January 2009)

Polar Bears

“The Interior Department, bound by the Endangered Species Act, has declared polar bears a ‘threatened’ species because they might be endangered ‘in the foreseeable future,’ meaning 45 years. (Note: 45 years ago, the now long-forgotten global cooling menace of 35 years ago was not yet foreseen). The bears will be threatened if the current episode of warming, if there really is one, is, unlike all the previous episodes, irreversible, and if it intensifies, and if it continues to melt sea ice vital to the bears, and if the bears, unlike in many previous warming episodes, cannot adopt,” says George Will. (1)

Never mind that the overall polar bear population has increased from about 5,000 in the 1960s to 25,000 today, and that the only two populations in decline come from areas where it has actually been getting colder over the past fifty years. Also, ignore the fact that polar bears wee around 100,000 years ago, long before at least one interglacial period (Eeemian) when it was much warmer than our present Holocene. Clearly, they survived long periods of time when the climate of the Arctic was much warmer than at present. (2) But obviously, they aren’t expected to survive this present warming without help from the regulators.

George Will adds, “Now that polar bears are wards of the government, and now that it is a legal doctrine that humans are responsible for global warming, the Endangered Species Act has acquired unlimited application. Anything that can be said to increase global warming can—must—be said to threaten bears already designated as threatened. Want to build a power plant in Arizona? A building in Florida? Do you want to drive an SUV? Or leave your cell phone charger plugged in overnight? Some judge might construe federal policy as proscribing these activities.” (1)

The state of Alaska sued Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, seeking to reverse his decision to list polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Governor Sarah Palin (now Vice-Presidential candidate) and other state officials fear a listing will cripple offshore and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in Alaska’s northern waters, which provide prime habitat for the only polar bears under US jurisdictions. (3)

And they are right on the money. Roy Innis observes, “Federal land management agencies report that about 40 percent of their annual budget goes just to pay for lawsuits filed by environmentalists to stop development of your lands, your resources and your energy.” (4) Unfortunately, with new regulations coming along, this percentage will increase in future years rather than go down.

Solar Power

Are you in favor of alternate energy? How about solar power? Well, if this is your preference, do you realize that Washington has placed a moratorium on solar power projects on federal land? Yep. The Bureau of Land Management quietly decided in May that the development of solar plants in 119 million sun-soaked federally owned acres in the western states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah would have to wait at least two years while bureaucrats sorted out their environmental impact. (5)

Investor’s Business Daily reports, “The environmental groups are the reason the BLM made its decision. Had they not spent the past 30 years rabidly crusading against development, reflexively defending wildlife habitats from minor and imaginary threats, and demonizing economic progress, the solar projects would not have been interrupted.

Washington has become so overly sensitive to the possibility of vocal opposition on anything that has an environmental impact that it feels it must inoculate itself from the radicals—even when the project is one they should support without reservation.” (5)

Though a great deal of land has been set aside, it would take only 1% of the total area now off-limits to generate through solar plants enough energy to power more than 20 million homes, and this at a time when the price of a barrel of oil is going through the roof. No way is alternate energy going to help in the near future.

Carbon Credits

It gets worse. In a huge document released in July, the EPA lays out the thousands of carbon controls with which they’d like to shackle the whole economy. None of it is law yet, but watch out.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “The mess began in 2007 when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Mass. V. EPA that greenhouse gases are ‘air pollutants’ under current environmental laws, despite the fact that the laws were written decades before the climate-change panic. The EPA was ordered to regulate if it decides that carbon emissions are a danger to the public. The 588-page ‘advance notice of proposed rulemaking’ lays out how the EPA would like it to work in practice. Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his dissent that under the Court’s ‘pollutant’ standard, ‘everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies,’ which the EPA appears to have taken literally. It is alarmed by ‘enteric fermentation in domestic livestock’—that is, er, their ‘emissions.’ A farm with over 25 cows would exceed the EPA’ proposed carbon limits. So would 500 acres of crops, due to harvesting and processing machinery.” (6) If this becomes law, the increase in food costs because of ethanol will seem puny by comparison to those covered by this proposed regulation.

Just about everything with an engine would be regulated; farm tractors, autos, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, planes and trains, and even your lawn and garden equipment.

Eliminate Obesity—No Fast-Food Restaurants

A proposal that would place at least a one year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a broad swath of neighborhoods has been approved by a Los Angeles City Council committee. If approved by the full council and signed by the mayor, the law would prevent fast-food chains from opening new restaurants in a 32 square mile area in South Los Angeles. This is designed to help prevent obesity. (7) Will supermarkets and green grocers come in to replace the fast-food chains? I doubt it. And as Gilbert Ross points out, “banning so-called fast-food restaurants from specific zones will not ameliorate the problem. People will walk a few extra blocks to get the products they crave.”(8) Certainly people need to eat properly and have adequate exercise, but being told what to eat by the City Council will not empower anyone to make wise choices or change their preferences.

Lastly, California this year became the first state to ban artery-clogging trans fats in restaurants and in 2003 it banned the sale of soft drinks in middle and elementary schools. (9)

The Cato Institute sums it up well, “One of the most disturbing trends in government expansion over the last 35 years has been the collection of laws, regulations, and binding court decisions that make up the ‘nanny state.’” (10) Looks like things are continually getting worse in this aspect, rather than better.


1.George F. Will, “March of the Polar Bears,”, May 22, 2008
2.Bjorn Lomborg, Cool It, (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 4
3.Dan Joling, “Alaska sues over listing polar bear as threatened,”, August 4, 2008
4.Roy Innis, Energy Keepers, Energy Killers, (Chicago, Illinois, The Heartland Institute, 2008), 73
5.“No Sun Intended,” Investor’s Business Daily, June 30, 2008
6.“The Lawnmower Men,” The Wall Street Journal, July 19-20, 2008, Page A8
7.Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “Panel OKs one year ban on new fast-food restaurants in South L.A.,” Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2008
8.Gilbert Ross, “No Quick Fast-Food Fixes,” Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2008
9.Lisa Baertlein and Dan Whitcomb, “LA’s fast-food ban draws skepticism,” Reuters Health Information, September 3, 2008
10.“The Nanny State,” The Cato Institute, December 4, 2004

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