Will Prop. 23 kill American troops?

SEPT. 22, 2010


You know a campaign is going ballistic when the terrorism threat is brought up, even in a context seemingly not connected. That has happened with Proposition 23, which would suspend AB32 until unemployment in the state — 12.4 percent in August — dropped to 5.5 percent for a year.

AB32 is the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. It would mandate that California reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 25 percent by 2020. Backers’ usual argument is that it would save the environment globally while creating “green” jobs. Opponents insist that it will cut employment.

Prop. 23 is being backed largely by two Texas-based oil companies, Tesoro and Valero, which own gas stations in California.

The latest argument against Prop. 23 comes from retired Admiral Dennis McGinn, whom the Los Angeles Times described as “a former deputy chief of naval operations who was part of a group of senior military retirees who warned in an influential 2007 report that climate change was a threat multiplier, potentially provoking instability in volatile nations vulnerable to floods, drought and rising sea levels.”

The admiral charged:

This effort by Texas oil companies to repeal California’s clean energy law … will clearly threaten national security. We continue to send out a billion dollars every day to pay for our oil addiction. Some of that finds its way to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. We are killing our troops with petro-dollars.

We can expect similar charges, or worse, in the coming weeks — portraying a Mad Max future of battles over scarce oil.

“That’s nonsense,” Robert Michaels told me; he’s a professor of economics at Cal State-Fullerton, co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Contemporary Economic Policy and an expert in energy policy. “This is fundamentally somebody who doesn’t understand international trade or even markets. The big news is that we get about 4 to 5 percent of our oil from the Middle East. It’s not going to matter what happens. If they [in the Middle East] don’t sell to us [America], they’ll sell to someone else. It’s a world market.”

Of the argument made by the admiral about terrorism, Michaels said, “They’re bring out everything they can. That also was Sen. John Kerry’s argument to promote renewables. He also trotted out some generals” to back his position.

A year ago, Kerry was joined by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to introduce what RenewableEnergyWorld.com described this way:

U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, today introduced the Kerry-Boxer legislation to create clean energy jobs, reduce pollution, and protect American security by enhancing domestic energy production and combating global climate change.

Sen. Kerry himself said, “Our addiction to foreign oil hurts our economy, helps our enemies and risks our security.  By taking decisive action, we can and will stop climate change from becoming a ‘threat multiplier’ that makes an already dangerous world staggeringly more so.”

Even if Prop. 23 is defeated and AB32 is fully put into effect, greenhouse gases would be reduced by 25 percent. California’s economy is roughly 2 percent of the total global economy. So global greenhouse gases would drop by 0.5 percent.

Energy import reality

It’s worth bringing up two facts not commonly known about energy. The first is from whom America imports oil. Here is the U.S. Department of Energy’s list of top oil importers to the U.S., with my addition of their relation to America:

1. Canada — friendly neighbor.

2. Saudi Arabia — close ally in the Middle East. The U.S. government is working on a contract to sell them $60 billion in arms.

3. Mexico — friendly neighbor.

4. Nigeria — friendly country.

5. Venezuela — leader Hugo Chavez currently is unfriendly, but in reality a minor pest.

6. Iraq — occupied by the United States.

7. Russia — friendly, despite some problems.

8. Angola — friendly.

9. Columbia — friendly neighbor; close military ties with the U.S.

10. Algeria — friendly.

The most conspicuous country that’s not on the list is Iran, with whom relations currently are difficult.

Energy price stability

The second factor most people don’t realize is that oil prices have been remarkably stable since World War II, at an average of one ounce of gold for 15 barrels of oil. As I write on Sept. 21, 2010, gold is $1,272.40 and oil is 73.52 per barrel. So, the ratio is $1,.272.40 / 73.52. Which makes the ratio:  17.31 / 1.

That means oil currently is undervalued.  So its price might rise to restore the 15 / 1 ratio.

What causes confusion is that oil usually is quoted in dollars, even though the dollar’s has lost about 75 percent of its value in the last nine years, going from $275 an ounce to today’s $1,272.40.

What has happened is not that oil has risen, but that the dollar has declined in value due to faulty policies by the Federal Reserve Board. So, our seeming increased dependency on oil, domestic or foreign, is a mirage.

Oil and gas production is one of the oldest and most mature industries around. Minor changes such as whatever happens with AB32 are bubbles on the surface of a tar pit.

Threat multiplier?

The influential report in which Admiral McGinn took part is “National Security and the Threat to Climate Change.” It warned:

Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national security challenges for the United States. Accordingly, it is appropriate to start now to help mitigate the severity of some of these emergent challenges. The decision to act should be made soon in order to plan prudently for the nation’s security. The increasing risks from climate change should be addressed now because they will almost certainly get worse if we delay.

“Even if all California cars were removed from the road, it would not change global temperatures at all,” Marlo Lewis Jr. told me; a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he writes on global warming, energy policy, and other public policy issue, he also has served as staff director of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Economic Growth, Natural Resources, and Regulatory Affairs.

He added, “Climate change as a national security threat is greatly exaggerated. I know of no one in the literature who says it will cause wars. At best, ‘threat multiplier’ countries are at risk of civil war, or regional conflict,” not with attacking the United States.

Lewis warned that “the real weakness” in the “threat multiplier” argument is that policies such as AB32 could retard economic growth in Third World countries, thus making it more difficult to deal with global warming and other changes in climate — should they actually occur. He pointed out that climate change in North America or Europe, the two most economically developed areas of the world, would be met with technological and political responses to deal with the crisis, not with war.

Thwarting development

Lewis  pointed to a recent study of his on this issue, “The Department of Defense Should Assess the Security Risks of Climate Change Policies.” He found:

Approximately 90 percent of the growth in global emissions for the remainder of this century is projected to occur in developing countries. Absent breakthroughs that dramatically lower the cost of zero-emission energy, there is no way to achieve the 50 percent global emissions reduction target without suppressing energy consumption and economic growth in the world’s poorest countries. Needless to say, thwarting developing countries’ aspirations for a better life would not promote stability and peace.

Even if developing countries successfully resist pressure to ban coal plants, they might still be harmed by the spillover effects of industrial-country climate policies. Climate policies that chill growth in industrial countries would reduce imports from, and investment in, developing countries.

Another paper on this subject is by Cato Institute scholar Indur Goklani, “Trapped Between the Falling Sky and the Rising Seas.” Lewis summarized its contents as showing that…

[E]ven the most pessimistic assessment of climate change impacts (the UK Stern Review) assumes that developing countries will be much wealthier in 2100 than we are today even after accounting for economic losses due to climate change. They will also have access to superior technologies not available to rich countries today. Consequently, their capacity to adapt to climate change will be significantly greater than ours is today.

A national AB32?

What if the dream of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Admiral McGinn and other opponents of Prop. 23 came true, and AB32 not only survived, but led the way to the adoption of similar legislation at the national level? Similar legislation already has been introduced, the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill, by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. It is named, tellingly, the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

Lewis pointed to a study by climatologist Chip Knappenberger, “Climate Impacts of Waxman-Markey (the IPCC-based arithmetic of no gain).” The study found that, if the bill reached its goal of cutting U.S. emissions by 85 percent by 2050, global temperatures (assuming there is global warming) would drop by nine-hundredths of one degree Fahrenheit.

Knappenberger wrote:

We have calculated only the climate impact of the United States acting alone. There is no successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol to bind other countries to greenhouse gas emissions reductions. But, truth be told, the only countries of any real concern are China and India. The total increase in China’s emissions since the year 2000 is 50 percent greater than the total increase from rest of the world combined and is growing by leaps and bounds. And consider that India carbon dioxide emissions haven’t started to dramatically increase yet. But it is poised to do so, and an Indian official recently stated that “It is morally wrong for us to agree to reduce [carbon dioxide emissions] when 40 percent of Indians do not have access to electricity.”

Wrapping up all these studies, Lewis told me:

To put this another way, even if climate chnage were a security threat, the California program would provide no protection unless China, India, and the rest of the developing world adopt it too. Adm. McGinn’s unstated assumption is that if California leads, the rest of the world will follow. But leading by example was supposedly what the Kyoto Protocol would do. Yet at last year’s Copenhagen conference, developing countries as a bloc continued to reject any agreement that would subject them to emission limitations.

The last refuge

Michaels brought up the phrase of English writer Samuel Johnson, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Dr. Johnson was the ultimate intellectual British patriot. But he meant that, when scoundrels can’t argue an issue on the facts, they turn to patriotism.

Michaels said, “This is as good an example of that as any.”

John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 20 years, is a reporter and analyst for CalWatchDog.com. Although not rising to the rank of admiral, he served in the U.S. Army from 1978-82 as a Russian linguist and intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army. His email: [email protected].

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  1. Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs
    Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs 22 September, 2010, 15:33

    Sure, why believe a former Secretary of State, a Marine Corps strategic defense adviser, and a three-star Admiral about the importance of generating our power here in California when we can believe Valero, Tesoro, and Koch Industries? After all, they’re more worried about California’s jobs and our energy future than their profits, right?

    A Quadrennial Defense Review Report issued by the Department of Defense in February 2010 states that “assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.” It concludes that “while climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.”

    Meanwhile, on Sept. 25, 2009, the CIA announced the launch of a Center on Climate Change and National Security. According to a CIA press release announcing the launch, the center’s charter “is not the science of climate change,” but rather “the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources.”

    So while there is certainly room for disagreement about how big a national security threat climate change will ultimately be, opponents to Prop 23 are hardly advocating a fringe theory. The notion that climate change will be significant is being discussed at the Pentagon and the CIA.

    Reply this comment
  2. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 22 September, 2010, 15:42

    But according to Steve Maviglio, Mary Nichols, & That Hedge Fund Manager that works with Maviglio, AB 32 is the only chance that California has to survive!

    How is it that these scum bags are so talented at predicting the future or California’s Economy when they are trying to push BS down the throats of the public, but they are completely incompetant when it comes to predicting the UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

    Reply this comment
  3. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 22 September, 2010, 16:01

    But according to Steve Maviglio, Mary Nichols, & That Hedge Fund Manager that works with Maviglio, AB 32 is the only chance that California has to survive!

    How is it that these scum bags are so talented at predicting the future or California’s Economy when they are trying to push BS down the throats of the public, but they are completely incompetant when it comes to predicting the UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES of every other piece of legislation they produce?

    Are we supposed to trust the same people that polluted the groundwater of California with MTBE, because they didnt think it through well enough?

    We should listen to the same people that reformulated Diesel Fuel in the 1990’s, which ended up ruining thousands of engines & costing taxpayers Millions of Dollars to fix?

    These same people(CARB) have also recently admitted that they are so bad at calculating how much pollution is being produced, that they OVERSTATED the amount of pollution produced by off-road diesel engines by such a big factor that the goals they had set for 2025 are already met. Off-road diesel engine owners do not need to lift a finger or retrofit anything, and they are already in compliance with the goals that are over a decade away.

    CARB is completely incompetant when it comes to “predicting” the need for regulations, the true cost of regulations, the benefits of their regulations, and ther true devistation caused by their actions. These radicals have no business being in charge of one of the largest economies in the world. if ab32 is not suspended in November, California will easily surpass the poverty seen in Detroit since the car makers left.

    Reply this comment
  4. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 22 September, 2010, 16:29

    The biggest “Geopolitical” problems that will occur are overzealous Alarmist crackpots & scumbag political spokespeople pushing their radical agenda on smaller nations that demand UNDENIABLE PROOF of a pending MANMADE disaster, in order for them to make drastic changes to their developing economy.

    You unethical public relations people(Maviglio) & Scumbag Hedge Fund Managers (Steyer) are just going to continue to push this crap for your own personal gain, and you are going to try to use purchased politicians to force small & developing countries to follow the rules that benefit YOU & YOUR BANK ACCOUNT.

    These other countries arnt going to just do what you want because you tell them to do it, they will demand PROOF. Real proof, not your manufactured CARB “Scientific” study “proof”, or the “Steve Maviglio Press Release” “proof”. When you are unable to provide that proof, they will laugh at you and tell you to go away. You pretentious D-bags will keep trying to push your agenda all over the place and it will eventually lead to trade embargos, boycotts, sanctions, & whatever other “politically correct” punishments you can think of to punish those countries that wont bow to your demands. Those countries will get fed up and wars will start.

    Stop trying to make it sound like a .05 degree increase in temperature is going to lead to global unrest. Its political hacks, self absorbed money men, & public relations scumbags who will cause all of these “Geo-political” problems, so if you (Maviglio & Steyer) really care about the world, then go away. The world would be a MUCH better place.

    Reply this comment
  5. misken
    misken 22 September, 2010, 21:27

    Of that list, the oil trade with Canada is causing huge environmental damage as the tar oil from Canada requires massive deforestation.

    Money for oil from Saudi Arabia is going to terrorists, whether you believe it or not. The Saudi economy is inherently unstable, based solely on US oil money – and that will cause problems in the future.

    Nigeria is causing huge human rights violations in its own country in order to continue providing us with that oil. I’m sure you don’t support that, do you? They are deliberately keeping their citizens far below the poverty line just in order to engorge themselves on the money.

    Okay, so we occupied Iraq. Wonderful. We are spending MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a DAY in order to maintain that occupation, and you say it as if it were nothing. The oil from there is EXPENSIVE.

    Reply this comment
  6. Fred Mangels
    Fred Mangels 23 September, 2010, 04:51

    “After all, they’re more worried about California’s jobs and our energy future than their profits, right?”

    Yes, they are. More concerned about jobs than you are.

    Reply this comment
  7. Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs
    Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs 23 September, 2010, 14:25

    Yes, so concerned they have a grand total of 5 jobs listed on their website. Two of them are internships. So spare me.

    Reply this comment
  8. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 24 September, 2010, 09:58

    Apparently Maviglio & Steyer havent informed their lackies how a business works, so here is a little crash course for those of you who just make your living by defending unethical politicians & hedge fund managers;

    1. Companies hire people to work for them

    2. Those employees provide goods & services to the customers in exchange for money

    3. The companies use that money to pay their employees, and eventually expand their business by hiring more employees

    4. More employees means they can provide their goods & services to more customers, which means they make more money

    5. Companies continue to hire more employees to reach more customers

    So yes, those companies are concerned with California’s jobs, because it is those jobs that create revenue & profit for those companies.

    This concept may seem foreign to someone who has spent their entire life sucking money from the taxpayers or by creating fake press releases & quotes to cover up the corruption & ethical lapses of incompetant politicians, but thats how the rest of the country works. We create value for profit. We hire more people to make more profit. When you have a rouge government agency run by corrupt radicals, it is hard to plan for future growth, which is probably why their website only has 5 jobs.

    If your really looking for another job, you can probably look on CARB’s website, I hear they are hiring thousands of people and they just love unethical people who will lie through their teeth for money. After your gig at the “Maviglio-Steyer House of Lies” is done, you would fit in perfectly at CARB.

    Reply this comment

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