Feinstein’s green platform no solution to state’s ills

Oct. 23, 2012

By Wayne Lusvardi

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., continues to refuse to debate her Republican opponent, Elizabeth Emken. That may be because Feinstein doesn’t want to be questioned about the many policies in her 20 years in the Senate that have put herself — and California — up the river without a paddle on environmental and other issues.

Her policies have not addressed California’s many ills.  That is because she is still using the same unchanged environmental platform she always has used to remedy every situation California faces.

What has Senator Feinstein done to remedy any of California’s many ills?

* Planned higher electricity bills due to the start of the Cap and Trade emissions surtax next year;

* Continued lack of water storage despite plentiful rainfall;

* An estimated $5 billion hole in California’s Medicaid budget due to the Obama administration’s shift of people off unemployment and onto Social Security Disability;

* Massive unemployment that, although improving slightly, remains in double-digits in California.

All that she has done is to continue to tout the mostly symbolic restoration of the San Joaquin River.  This $1 billion project is meant to re-wet the portion of the river that runs dry in the late summer months.  This is so that a system of river parks eventually can be planted in the middle of farmland to incubate a future tourist and commercial salmon fishing economy for the San Joaquin Valley.  But coldwater salmon do not thrive in the habitat of the San Joaquin River in the hot summer.

The river restoration project would result in about 11,000 short-term union construction jobs and an overestimated 450 permanent tourist-related jobs projected to emerge in 2025.  According to an email from Damon Nelson of the office of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, Feinstein has no funding from Congress for this project other than the $88 million included in the original authorization.  The House of Representatives opposes the project and has zeroed out discretionary funding for it over the past two years. The project will soon run out of money and will have to stop.

The only potential source of funding is robbing farmers of water and adding a surcharge on Federal water deliveries for the project by court order.  But this will result in a loss of 3,000 permanent farm jobs.  This is the empty record of accomplishment that Feinstein is running for re-election on.

Let’s hypothetically assume President Obama is re-elected, the Senate remains in Democratic hands and the Democrats improbably regain majority control of the House of Representatives.  Feinstein and her party would still be facing the reality of the $1.2 trillion annual “fiscal cliff” that must cut $500 billion from both defense and domestic spending every year. Reality is something you can’t wish or legislate away.

Feinstein and her party have no clue as to how to solve the “fiscal cliff” other than making all cuts to national defense.  Her only solution to California’s problems is to add $1 billion to the federal debt that would result in killing jobs in California’s farm economy.  It might be said that Feinstein is up the San Joaquin River without a paddle, a canoe or a clue.  While Feinstein is drifting, other states are making progressive changes to keep pace with advancing technologies and new emerging markets.

Egypt Building Fertilizer Plant Up Iowa’s “Sugar Creek”

Egypt’s Orascom Construction Industries is planning on building a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant in the Corn Belt of Iowa near Sugar Creek in Lee County.  Orascom is Eqypt’s multinational corporation specializing in the production of building materials, natural gas plants and related technologies.  Orascom has selected Iowa due to its lower costs of doing business over Democrat-controlled Illinois.

What is attracting Middle Eastern investment in the United States is the low price of natural gas needed to produce fertilizer.  Reportedly, Orascom wants to eventually export natural gas to the Middle East!  I repeat: an Egyptian company is planning to export natural gas to the Middle East and Europe from the United States because it’s cheaper than producing it from from Middle Eastern gas fields.  The reason is the competitive price of natural gas in the United States and its open market system.

U.S. Natural Gas Price (Source: Century Management)

Source Price Per Million Cubic Feet
U.S. $2 to $4
Europe $12 to $14
Japan $5 to $17

The Wall Street Journal additionally reports Dow Chemical is planning to build a “multi-billion dollar” natural gas plant to convert plastic into building blocks in Texas.  It will create 2,000 permanent jobs by 2017.

Royal Dutch Shell will build a similar plant for $2 billion near Pittsburgh, Pa., near the Marcellus Shale Oil and Gas Field.

The Iowa-based Weitz Company also plans a “sizable” expansion to its ammonia-ethanol plant in Beaumont, Texas.

Iowa is offering $100 million in incentives to attract Orascom’s fertilizer plant. The plant will bring 2,500 construction jobs and 165 permanent jobs.  That equates to a public investment of $650,000 per permanent job.

If that sounds outrageous, Feinstein’s San Joaquin River Restoration Project will cost $2,275,789 per permanent job created.  Even worse, it will create 650 nonprofit jobs that will be dependent on government funding. This is in addition to the hundreds of government jobs necessary to complete and operate the project.  The San Joaquin River Restoration Project is a loser of a project both economically and environmentally.

Consider what $1 billion in public investment in California, as opposed to the same amount of private investment in Iowa, will generate in taxes to local governments.  As long as the natural gas boom is sustainable by investors fleeing stocks, bonds, and real estate for commodities such as natural gas, this trend will be sustainable.

Nat Gas Development Generates World Peace

Fertilizer plants closed many years ago in the Midwest due to high energy costs and taxes.  Today, Egypt’s population is starving due to the high price of wheat and grain to feed cattle to meet demand for protein for an affluent China.  This is causing political and social unrest in the Middle East.  Egypt needs to grow its own cheap food; or make multinational investments that can lower the domestic price of its imported grain and food.  In other words, a fertilizer plant in Iowa is a way to further “world peace.”

California has substantial undeveloped natural gas resources. It doesn’t need to worry about domestic pollution from natural gas extraction if it is to be exported for use elsewhere in the world.  Natural gas reduces air pollution by about two-thirds compared to other fuels.  Which brings us back to Feinstein’s so-called “dysfunctional” environmental agenda in California.

The important thing to understand is that the discouragement of fertilizer plants or oil refineries in California is not “dysfunctional” to its cultural and political values.  California has embraced a post-industrial model in reaction to modernization and globalization.  This goes way back to California’s opposition to the Southern Pacific Railroad.  California’s post-industrialism doesn’t want ugly fertilizer or natural gas plants anywhere near urban or idyllic agricultural areas.

It has no problem, however, with ugly wind and solar farms that kill birds in remote desert areas.  It has no problem with trying to restore seasonally dry rivers to create bucolic green “parkways” purportedly to put cold-water salmon into seasonally warm water river environments.  It has no problem with contaminating nearby farm fields with infestation and bacteria from eco-tourists.   Such green energy and river restoration projects are really not environmentally “sustainable” except in their public marketing imagery.

Feinstein’s environmental platform is not about restoring the environment, furthering the Progressive values of “world peace,” or  fighting global warming. It is about creating artificial union jobs and wealth redistribution that will only add to the national debt and inconspicuously damage the environment.

In his book, “Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders,” Garry Wills defined a leader as one who needs followers and, in turn, is partly defined by them. Feinstein and her compatriot, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, get re-elected every term because they go to the proverbial well of the environmental agenda to the total neglect of the economy.  This may seem “dysfunctional.” But it follows the wishes of their elite environmental constituency, as well as California’s postmodern cultural and political values.

In sum, why does Feinstein’s platform fail to provide any real solution to California’s protracted problems?  Because California doesn’t want industrial-driven population and economic growth, as dysfunctional as that sounds.  Its elite ruling class doesn’t want to solve the state’s lingering problems.  The “political dysfunction” theorists are all wrong.  In fact, voting for Gov. Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 tax increase on “the rich” will only give wealthy elite environmentalists even more power than they have now.

No candidate or proposition can succeed without getting vetted by California’s environmental ideological apparatus.  This ideology serves the same function as the Southern Pacific Railroad and its ideology of progress once did.  It is ironic that the railroad’s opponents claimed themselves to be Progressives so as to assert that they were the ones on the right side of historical change.

Political redistricting, majority rule in the legislature to pass a budget, increased taxes, and the creation of new unelected regional governments under Proposition 31 will do little to change California’s structural problems.  All they will do is to allow the elites to feed at the public trough and plug the $5 billion hole Obama’s policies created in California’s Medicaid budget.

It will do nothing to fix California’s problems with its budget, public pensions, poor school performance, drought-prone water system and intentionally over-priced energy. Nor will it lessen harm to the environment or bring about world peace.

This is not to oppose or endorse Feinstein’s re-election bid or any proposition on the upcoming election ballot.  It is mainly to clarify California’s reigning environmental platform and the set of cultural and political values that support it. For those liberals who believe they are not “values voters,” perhaps they should think again.


TAGS: Sen. Dianne Feinstein, San Joaquin River Restoration Project, Orascom fertilizer plant, Iowa; Natural Gas Boom, California, Wayne Lusvardi

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