June 26, 2013
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Sometimes language obscures what people are really talking about.
Recently one of the President’s science advisers, Daniel Schrag, said, “The one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants. Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”
It is easy for a Harvard professor to call for a “war” on something that doesn’t affect him. His job is not at risk. His income is not at risk. His way of life is not at risk. His income is high enough that a higher electricity bill won’t change his quality of life.
The term “war on coal”, however, is highly misleading.
A “war on coal” is in fact “a war on Americans.”
It means Americans in small towns in West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, southern Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, and Wyoming will lose their jobs and see their communities destroyed as casualties in the Obama “war on coal”.
It means Americans working on railroads which transport the coal will lose their jobs as collateral damage in the ” war on coal”.
It is hard working Americans in manufacturing in Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania and other states who will lose their jobs as the increased cost of energy puts them at a disadvantage in competing with Chinese and other foreign manufacturers.
It means lower income Americans will have their family budgets hit hardest by higher electricity prices and will bear personally the cost of the Obama “war on coal”.
Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, put it perfectly yesterday:
“It’s clear now that the President has declared a war on coal. It’s simply unacceptable that one of the key elements of his climate change proposal places regulations on coal that are completely impossible to meet with existing technology.
“The fact is clear: our own Energy Department reports that our country will get 37 percent of our energy from coal until 2040. Removing coal from our energy mix will have disastrous consequences for our recovering economy. These policies punish American businesses by putting them at a competitive disadvantage with our global competitors. And those competitors burn seven-eighths of the world’s coal, and they’re not going to stop using coal any time soon.”
But the computer models say it must be done, so the President will do it. The policies he announced yesterday will inflict real pain on hundreds of millions of Americans because of a forecast spit out by climatologists’ abstract mathematical models, which they claim can tell us what the weather will be like several decades from now.
Of course, weather is a phenomenon so complex that no scientist would claim to know with any precision what it will be a month from now (since that would be quickly disprovable). Yet when the time horizon is a few decades out, they are somehow more comfortable with their forecasts.
The models might be correct, or they might not. Even though their past predictions of apocalypse have failed to come true, the extreme environmental left apparently feels no embarrassment in asking Americans to sacrifice once again. They will drive up the cost of energy for all Americans in order to stop the climate from changing.
President Obama may be cleverly appealing to wealthy left wing environmental activists but he is doing so at great expense to working Americans and small town America. In effect our own President is waging war not on coal, but on his fellow citizens.
Fed Forecasts No Better Than Weather
Fed Chariman Ben Bernanke’s comments last week demonstrated a very similar kind of hubris, applied to economics rather than climatology. He took to a podium and declared that the Federal Reserve’s models forecast an improving economy and a drop in the unemployment rate. Stock traders interpreted this as a signal that the Fed would soon end its inflationary stimulus, and by the following Monday the major stock indices were down 5 percent.
The whole event was a reminder of how bizarre it is that our money supply, our interest rates, and stock markets are determined in large part by the Fed’s reading of economic forecasts which have often been as stunningly, wildly wrong as environmentalists’ predictions.
John Mauldin, whose newsletter on economics I read regularly, describes the terrible record of agencies like the Fed at predicting future economic conditions:
“If you’ve suspected all along that economists are useless at the job of forecasting, you would be right. Dozens of studies show that economists are completely incapable of forecasting recessions. But forget forecasting. What’s worse is that they fail miserably even at understanding where the economy is today. In one of the broadest studies of whether economists can predict recessions and financial crises, Prakash Loungani of the International Monetary Fund wrote very starkly, “The record of failure to predict recessions is virtually unblemished.” He found this to be true not only for official organizations like the IMF, the World Bank, and government agencies but for private forecasters as well. They’re all terrible.” Read the rest here.
Just today, the government revised the the estimate of first quarter economic growth down from 2.4 to just 1.8 percent — abysmal. And yet, the historical gap between economists’ predictions and the reality does nothing to temper their confidence in their present forecasts, or their rush to apply them to policy.
President Obama and Chairman Bernanke need to learn the same lesson: they must not inflict pain on Americans based on little more than a computer printout from programs humans wrote to simulate infinitely complex, constantly changing systems. Because unlike the predictions, the bad policies happen in real life, where the rest of us live.