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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
Subscribe now, or browse Back Issues.

Volume 6, Issue 32: August 9, 2004

  1. States’ Global Warming Lawsuit Heats Up
  2. Allawi’s Crackdown
  3. The Real Farm Subsidy Scandal

1) States’ Global Warming Lawsuit Heats Up

Encouraged by the states' lucrative shakedown of the tobacco industry, the attorneys general (AGs) of eight states -- California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin -- filed a lawsuit last month against five large electric utilities.

The AGs' argument is not that these utilities, which operate 174 power plants, are producing toxic substances or are in violation of the Clean Air Act (although some AGs threatened to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for disagreeing with them on what constitutes a "pollutant"). Rather, the AGs are prosecuting the utilities for emitting a substance that their power plants are actually designed and legally permitted to emit -- nontoxic, odorless, colorless carbon dioxide.

If the AGs aren't claiming that CO2 is toxic or a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, what exactly are they claiming?

"The AGs' main argument (apart from the breathtaking claim that the provision of energy is, somehow, a 'nuisance') is that CO2 contributes to 'greenhouse warming,'" write Independent Institute Research Fellows Michael I. Krauss and S. Fred Singer in an op-ed published in the August 3rd edition of the WALL STREET JOURNAL.

The public should take note, however, that "two recent studies from the Universities of Rochester and Virginia demonstrate that the global warming claim is not supported by observational evidence," Krauss and Singer add.

The first study shows that although global warming computer models predict that warming will be more pronounced at higher altitudes, the data show the opposite has occurred. The second study calls into question the temperature data, collected on the earth's surface, that shows a general warming trend; this data is not consistent with temperature data collected by weather balloons and satellites, which show no significant warming. Together, these studies suggest that the AGs will have their work cut out for them -- if the utilities are willing to fight the suits.

Conclude Krauss and Singer: "Junk science plus junk law add up to one super-junk case. Voters in their states should remember the AGs' names, and every owner of a CO2-emitting device (a car, an oil furnace, or a mouth) should help relieve them of their addiction to tort suits at the ballot box. On the other hand, if the utilities have the courage to defend this case, we'll have the opportunity to test the scientific basis of the global warming scare in a court of law. And the sooner, the better."

See "Pseudo-Tort Alert," by Michael I. Krauss and S. Fred Singer (THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/3/04)
http://www.independent.org/tii/news/040803Krauss.html

Also see:

"Regulation by Litigation: Diesel Engine Emission Control," by Bruce Yandle and Andrew P. Morriss (THE INDEPENDENT REVIEW, Winter 2004)
http://www.independent.org/tii/content/pubs/review/tir83_yandle.html

"New Perspectives in Climate Change -- What the EPA Isn’t Telling Us" (7/28/03) http://www.independent.org/tii/news/030728story.html

To order FIRE AND SMOKE: Government, Lawsuits and the Rule of Law, by Michael I. Krauss, see
http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog_pr/policy_fire_and_smoke.html

To order HOT TALK, COLD SCIENCE: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate, by S. Fred Singer, see
http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog/cat_hot_talk.html

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2) Allawi’s Crackdown

Will Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi become the new Saddam Hussein? Allawi's recent hardliner tactics make the question plausible, argues Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute. Most recently, Allawi has closed down the Baghdad office of the Al Jazeera television network, arrested political rival (and former Pentagon favorite) Ahmed Chalabi, declared a fight to the end with the militia of Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, and reinstated the death penalty.

"Allawi has cast the death penalty so widely that it covers almost any type of guerrilla attack," writes Eland. "The death penalty can be applied to Iraqis who engage in ambushes, hijacking, kidnapping, attacks on infrastructure and murder.... Even in World War II when the stakes were much higher, the United States did not execute captured German or Japanese soldiers for defending their homeland. In fact, after the war, the vast majority of them were given their freedom.

"Furthermore," continues Eland, "although Iraqi officials have claimed that the list of capital offenses excludes any possibility that the death penalty will again be used for political reasons, the ultimate sentence can be meted out for the vague offense of 'endangering national security.' Such Orwellian wording has to make Iraqis -- accustomed to Saddam’s terror -- very nervous about the direction the new Allawi government is heading."

See "Bringing Back Saddam (Almost)" by Ivan Eland (8/10/04)
http://www.independent.org/tii/news/040810Eland.html

Center on Peace & Liberty
http://www.independent.org/copal

For information on Ivan Eland's forthcoming book, THE EMPIRE HAS NO CLOTHES: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, see
http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog/cat_empire.html

To order a copy of the video, UNDERSTANDING AMERICA'S TERRORIST CRISIS: What Should be Done?, see
http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog/cat_vidal.html

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3) The Real Farm Subsidy Scandal

Farm subsidies are among the most wasteful, yet widely supported, handouts disbursed by the federal government. A General Accounting Office study of USDA farm-subsidy applications found recently that 30 percent of the USDA-approved applications it reviewed were filed by farmers who were ineligible for the subsidies.

"With so much money being freely handed about, the GAO report should lead to some tough questions for USDA officials on Capitol Hill," writes Nicholas Heidorn, public policy intern at the Independent Institute, in a new op-ed. "Yet for all its detail, the 75-page report artfully avoids the bigger question that no lawmaker wants to hear: why do we even have farm subsidies?"

Heidorn refutes several popular myths that have contributed to public support for farm subsidies. First, farm subsidies are not free; they are paid for by taxes. Second, they do not necessarily reduce food prices significantly; from 1995 to 2002 U.S. taxpayers financed about $14 billion in farmland conservation subsidies to farmers for not cultivating their land. Third, just because farm subsidies contribute to export earnings does not make them a good economic investment. Fourth, farm subsidies can actually make farm imports more expensive due to retaliatory tariffs. Fifth, farm subsidies hurt, rather than help, the small family farmer because the bulk of farm subsidies go to wealthier farmers.

"Why then do we have farm subsidies at all?" Heidorn asks.

"Rich farmers are a powerful lobby in American politics," Heidorn continues. "In the last election, crop producers gave $11.5 million in campaign contributions, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and they are likely to give much more by this November. So don't be surprised that the GAO's report won't be taken too seriously on Capitol Hill. Farm subsidies are more than just payoffs for loaded, large landowners. They're subsidies for your elected official."

See "The Real Farm Subsidy Scandal," by Nicholas Heidorn (8/9/04), at
http://www.independent.org/tii/news/040809Heidorn.html

To order AGRICULTURE AND THE STATE: Market Processes and Bureaucracy, by E. C. Pasour, Jr., see
http://www.independent.org/tii/catalog/cat_agriculture.html

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