Our Trust-Busting Justice Department

Republicans emphatically oppose an overreaching Federal Government interfering with business. Except when they don’t. Republicans are strongly in favor of the rights of states to handle their own internal affairs. Except when they aren’t.

As part of the current occupant of the White House’s War on Anything Obama, the Environmental Protection Agency rescinded regulations mandating increased automobile fuel economy. The regs, issued in 2011, required automobile manufacturers to produce average fuel economy of 50 miles per gallon by the year 2025. The present-day EPA stated that fewer emissions was a noble goal but it would make cars more expensive and somehow less safe and so isn’t worth it

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Today’s Climate Word: “Hormesis”

In its relentless effort to make the common good even gooder, the White House has proposed a Presidential Committee on Climate Security to determine what, if any, threat to national security is posed by climate change. The panel, to be established by executive order, will be headed by William Happer, a senior director of the National Security Council. He is an emeritus professor of physics at Princeton University. Happer is on record that carbon emissions linked to climate change should be viewed as an asset rather than a pollutant.

Not to worry, though. Even if you think CO2 is a pollutant, the Environmental Protection Agency is adopting Hormesis, the belief that certain levels of pollution are actually good for us. Hormesis will replace LNT, the “linear no-threshold” mode that posits any level of pollution is bad.

Ed Calabrese is the person responsible for junkscience.com, the favorite web site of the willfully ignorant. He made his name in the 1980s, doing purported research financed by tobacco companies. Calabrese’s crackpot ideas were considered crackpot until the current occupant of the White House decided the EPA should be filled with energy-company lobbyists and climate-change deniers.

Read about it here so you can tell your grandchildren what happened.

Science News Bulletin from the Swamp

While Republicans were noisily reminding us what they think of women, they were quietly reminding us what they think of science.

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to merge two of its science offices: the Office of Science Policy with the Office of Science Advisor. The stated purpose of the merging is “in order to reduce redundancies.” Critics say the real purpose is to mute the voice of science.

The Office of Science Advisor manages scientific standards throughout the agency and is tasked with providing unbiased advice to the EPA administrator. This action will reduce its role in the agency, putting it further down in the bureaucracy’s pecking order.

From Bloomberg:

“By dissolving the science adviser’s office and putting it several layers down in ORD [Office of Research and Development], that greatly accelerates the decay of science advice within the EPA administrator’s office,” said Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “That kind of coordination is much more difficult to do if they’re buried down inside an office.”

Just When We Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse

Despite the New York mayor’s assurance that workers on the World Trade Center 9/11 cleanup were in no danger, they have been contracting cancer and dying at startlingly high rates. The collapse of the towers released a thousand tons of asbestos into the air. U.S. manufacturers of asbestos products had already mostly gone out of business, bankrupted by claims of wrongful deaths. During their slide into insolvency, the companies set up trust funds for future mesothelioma claims. The fund currently totals $30 billion and legions of attorneys are eager to take up asbestosis suits. (Our company’s office was in the same building with a consulting economist. Most of his business derived from testifying as expert witness in asbestos lawsuits, calculating the economic loss of a victim’s early demise. He did well enough to own the building where we leased space.)

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Trump: The Energy Star

Scott Pruitt, newly-appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, made a career out of suing the EPA. When not working to ban abortion and same-sex marriage, Pruitt, as Attorney General of Oklahoma, filed thirteen lawsuits against the EPA. It’s only fitting that our current president put the climate-change denier in charge.

With so many headlines, the proposed change to the Energy Star program has not received much attention. “Proposed change” meaning elimination.

You are probably familiar with the Energy Guide label that tells what it will cost to run your new refrigerator. The program costs about $50 million per year. The EPA estimates that it has saved Americans $362 billion in energy costs since its inception in 1992. The Energy Star program also rates hotels, condominiums and office buildings on energy efficiency, information of interest to prospective buyers and lessees. In 2014 alone, building owners saved $7.6 billion on energy costs.

The Energy Star ratings are on a scale, from bad to good, of 1 to 100. In case you are curious about how Trump-branded properties rate, CNN has put together a handy chart.

610 Park Avenue (formerly the Mayfair Hotel) 1
Trump Park Avenue 7
Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago 9
Trump International Hotel & Tower New York 12
Trump Place, 160 Riverside 14
Trump SoHo New York 16
Trump Palace 19
Trump Place, 140 Riverside 22
Trump World Tower 31
Trump Parc 42
Trump Tower 48
Trump Parc East 52
555 California Street (formerly Bank of America Tower) 69
1290 Avenue of the Americas 70
40 Wall Street 90

While We Are Distracted

Filled with outrage or scorn about the Bowling Green Massacre or the Nordstrom attack on Ivanka? While we’ve given our attention to these and other inanities, there’s serious stuff going on – very quietly. Here’s a couple:

  • Representative Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, held a hearing titled “Making the E.P.A. Great Again.” Rep Smith’s plan to make the EPA great again is to replace their science advisory board with scientists employed by the industries it regulates.
  • The newly-appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, is wasting no time attacking net neutrality. Net neutrality requires Internet service providers to deliver consumers equal access to all legal content and applications without favoring or blocking particular sources. The Internet has become, in effect, a public utility. It would be like the electricity provider slowing down your service because they made a deal with certain brands of appliances and you don’t have that brand.

It’s what we don’t know that’s really going to hurt.