Monday, March 25, 2019

Barr's "Summary" is Spin

When the Barr letter to Congress with its summary of the Mueller Report’s main conclusion was released on Sunday, March 24, I took early media reports on it at face value and said it's time to pivot from "need to impeach" to "need to defeat." I still think that's probably going to be the end result, but I view the Barr memo as a propaganda victory, not the end of the line on the crimes this president and his campaign may have committed in getting help from Russia and trying to cover it up/obstruct justice. The Barr summary is a lawyerly piece of writing that must be viewed as a partisan document and an attempt to spin the Mueller report as an exoneration, when it clearly is not. 

Because of the way the Barr summary is written--carefully and lawyerly--the media (including some NPR news people this morning) has been largely snookered into saying things like, "there's no evidence of collusion," and "Trump did not obstruct justice." Even Barr's summary does not say that. 

Barr quotes Mueller to say they did not "establish" that anyone in the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with “the Russian government in its election interference activities." What does the word "establish" mean in this context? It means there is evidence, but not enough evidence to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. 

And why not? Mueller does not rule out obstruction of justice, though Barr tries to, by "noting" that without an "underlying crime" it is hard to establish "corrupt intent." But what if some of the evidence of obstruction is dangling a pardon to keep Manafort and others quiet? Manafort offered to cooperate with Mueller and then told lies. Why? Loyalty. Because he expects a pardon? Someday, maybe the whole truth will come out--but we deserve whatever truth is in the full Mueller report, and we should be wary of Barr's summary which is in no way the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Carbon Fee & Dividend Would Fuel Alternative Energy Boom!

I wrote the following in response to an op-ed in the Charleston Gazette Mail by David Yaussy, Feb 21. My response appeared in CGM on March 1
Predictably, a contributing columnist who represents the fossil fuel industry doesn’t find much to like in proposals like House Resolution 763, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. The columnist dismisses it as a “carbon tax” that will deprive the poor of heat for their homes and gas for their cars.

But contrary to the column that appeared on the Daily Mail Opinion page on Feb. 22 (A cure worse than the disease, David Yaussy), the carbon fee and dividend approach to transitioning from fossil fuels like coal, gas, and oil to non-polluting renewable energy is a bipartisan, market based plan that recognizes the true cost of continuing to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and prices them accordingly.

Rather than waste time debunking the columnist's speculations about why a carbon fee might not work, why don’t we for once listen to the experts? In a letter published in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 7, forty-five top economists from both parties, including former Fed chairs Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and Janet Yellen, called for a carbon tax and dividend approach.

Greg Mankiw, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisors under President George W. Bush wrote, "a carbon tax together with rebates is, in some sense, the most conservative way to deal with climate change."

Fees collected at the mine, the pump, or at our borders will be returned to American households, which will enable them to transition to cleaner forms of energy. Energy companies are already planning for this future as they shut down coal plants, open natural gas powered plants, build wind and solar farms and utilize geothermal resources. Innovations in battery technology and pump storage (pumping water uphill to be released when needed to turn turbines) are already making alternative energy scalable, and some countries, like Iceland, Sweden, and Costa Rica plan for 100 percent renewables in a few decades.

In all likelihood, this will speed the pace of a reduction of coal mining because coal will become more expensive. That is, unless new technology solves the problem of making carbon sequestration cost-effective and helps keep coal, oil, and gas competitive with non-carbon based solutions.

This is exactly the kind of approach that will unleash the forces of capitalism and the entrepreneurial spirit to slow or stop the warming of our planet. Climate change is already causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damage annually due to massive storms, droughts, fires, illnesses, and movements of populations.

Mr. Yaussy properly attributes the proposed legislation to Citizens Climate Lobby, a national organization that has been organizing volunteers to push Congress to pass this bipartisan solution for a decade.

In West Virginia, local volunteers are working to help their fellow citizens understand the facts about climate change and HR 763. We are also working with Citizens Climate Lobby groups in other coal producing states to propose a “carve out” of some of the fees collected to help affected communities.

Learn more at or come to one of our monthly meetings at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center, 1506 Kanawha Boulevard West, at noon on the second Saturday of every month.