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Politicians In Glass Houses

Over at National Review's "The Corner," there's an interesting observation by professor Victor Davis Hanson: the United Nations is looking into the rising prices of food around the world. (Hat tip: He Who Needs No Linkage.)

Dr. Hanson wonders why the United Nations is so interested in food prices, but won't even consider looking at one of the underlying causes: the rising price of oil.

The easy answer is this: by focusing on the price of food, the UN can manage to blame those nations that produce the most food. That would be the West (the United States, mainly) for being greedy, stingy, and mean.

That's certainly true, but there's more to it than that.

The United Nations is increasingly dominated by a bloc of oil-producing nations and Muslim nations. Toss in the overlap between those two groups, and you have quite a powerful coalition.

Well, right now that bloc is sitting pretty, economically. They've gotten the price of oil up to stratospheric levels, and that means more and more money rolling in to their coffers.

Meantime, in the United States, we're not looking at the price of food. We're the ones looking into the price of oil.

Congress, in its infinite wisdom, didn't ask those setting the price of oil. Instead of finding out why oil costs so damned much, they called in the big oil companies and asked them "why are you paying so much for oil, and passing along those costs to your customers?"

I wondered why Congress didn't ask about costs of food, but then I remembered: part of the reason is that Congress has worked hard towards biofuels. In other words, while food prices have been shooting up, they've been foursquare behind competing with those who want to eat food encouraging people to burn food.

So, why doesn't Congress hold hearings on the price of food? Probably because they're afraid someone would find the testicular fortitude to stand up and say "because you people are idiots!"

Likewise, the United Nations won't hold inquiries into the price of oil because they can't be certain that someone won't stand up and point out just how many UN Ambassadors and bureaucrats owe their own personal status and wealth and power to the high price of oil. No, unless they can find a way to blame the nations that buy oil, that developed the technology to dig up, refine, and use oil, that are paying the obscene prices that the petty tyrants and brutal dictators and oil ticks of the world command for their oil, while not apportioning any of the blame on those tyrants and dictators and ticks, they won't look too carefully at oil prices.

In one aspect, I welcome this kind of news. If the bureaucrats and other useless clods of the world are busy holding hearings and investigations, then they're often too busy to cause real mischief. In that sense, government is a pretty cheap way to keep these idiots occupied.

But there is a danger there. After all, Gideon Tucker was right when he said in 1866 that "no man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session." Sooner or later, the bureaucrats will grow tired of hearing themselves talk (hey, it could happen) and try to put their words to deeds.

And when that happens, almost inevitably, they make things even worse.


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Comments (15)

The bloated bureaucrats are... (Below threshold)

The bloated bureaucrats are too busy lining their pockets with green cash, making their tee times and getting to their 3 drink lunch vote us a raise meetings to care.

About the time they will start to care ( about re-election that is ) is when a Nation like the Soviet Union or China invade other countries to feed their war machines.

Then, they will hold hearings to blame Bush.

Sorry for the non-sequitor,... (Below threshold)
Son Of The Godfather:

Sorry for the non-sequitor, but Charles at LGF has posted a PDF from an OPEN directory at the Obama website:


I don't think they wanted that document public.
Read #4 for how Obama supports the troops (also, Iraq is a "humanitarian disaster")

No more food for oil!... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

No more food for oil!

"No more food for oil!"<... (Below threshold)

"No more food for oil!"

Exactly! lets see who caves first?

I don't always agree with y... (Below threshold)

I don't always agree with you - but this was right on.

Apparently the rising costs... (Below threshold)

Apparently the rising costs of oil, wheat and other critical goods is more of an issue of commodities speculation


The rising cost of oil does impact the cost of food, but the real reason for the food cost increases is this speculative investing. Not good...

The CFTC announced an investigation into these practices last week.

About 20% of the price of f... (Below threshold)

About 20% of the price of food at the store is the commodity. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

The rest comes from the cost of transportation, the cost of processing, the cost of storing or putting on the shelf. All having costs tied to energy, especially transportation.

And the price of gas has tripled. So oil is definitely on the block as a cause of food price increases.

Then there's another issue.

What is a biofuel? Because most of ethanol is put in regular gasoline as an additive. It was the alternative to MTBE. Now MTBE is on its way out because of groundwater contamination and its being replaced by 10% ethanol.

About 1% of gas stations have E85 as a fuel. But about 50% of gas stations have 5-10% ethanol in regular gas.

So right now you have to blame the Additive Program for ethanol and not the biofuel program for whatever impact ethanol has.

Then you have to decide to return to MTBE to fix it or eliminate that class of additive as a requirement altogether.

The US has been shooting it... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

The US has been shooting itself in the feet so often that we're running out of toes. If it weren't for stupid ideas Congress wouldn't have any at all. Congress needs to create a NASA equivalent for energy, give it lots of authority and money and then get the fumbling fingers of Congress and the courts out of the pie. If it ends up being ineffective and corrupt, well nothing lost, that's what we have now. On the other hand, we might just solve our energy problems.

Like many, I reject the Global Warming scam, but energy independence is near the top of my list of things the US needs to do. The new energy sources should be sustainable. For nuclear that means fuel reprocessing and a functioning long term storage facility for nuclear waste. Photo voltaic solar is viable if the cost could be brought down to $2 per watt or less. New homes in most areas should be required to install at least a kw of solar, the cost of which would be offset by local, state, and federal tax credits. The resulting production volume would bring down the price to where such tax breaks wouldn't be needed.

Wind power produced on commercial scales is rapidly developing, but like solar, it's not constant. We need to discover and develop better ways to store or at least productively utilize massive amounts of power when it's abundant.

Battery research would be high on the list of priorities. A breakthrough in this technology would revolutionize passenger transportation. If the majority of commuters drove electric (or plug-in hybrid) vehicles we could stop importing oil altogether as we have domestic supply enough for all other uses. The Chevy Volt is scheduled to go into production in 2010, but it's going to be too expensive to make much of a dent. The limiting factor for electric vehicles is the battery. The power grid is already capable of charging such vehicles for most commuters, but only at night when traditional power demand is low. The Chevy Volt gets 40 miles on $2 worth of electricity. The Chevy Volt includes it's own 53kw generator so that it can be run on gas as needed. Now if they make it reverse plug-in capable you could power your entire house during a blackout using your car running on the driveway.

There are so many ideas and technologies out there that we need dedicated experts to sort this all out, both for the short term and the long term. That's a job Congress is not capable of doing any more that it's capable of exploring space. The sooner Congress realizes that the sooner this nation can get moving on a rational energy plan.

Do you think, Mac Lorry, th... (Below threshold)

Do you think, Mac Lorry, that energy sector lobbyists are amenable to your ideas, however rational and long-sighted they might be?

I know nothing about it, but didn't GM already have an electric car, which was mysteriously recalled?

Great, now hyperbolist is g... (Below threshold)

Great, now hyperbolist is giving us the tinfoil hat version of energy policy.

I know nothing abo... (Below threshold)
I know nothing about it, but didn't GM already have an electric car, which was mysteriously recalled?

At least you admit you know nothing about it. It was the EV1. It used lead acid batteries, later Nickel Hydride, and was prone to problems in temperature extremes, esp the cold. It was only available for lease in Arizona and California (where I got to tool around in one for a while, when the Dot com boom gave too many techies too much packet cash for our own good).
It was a 2 seater, with token cargo space. The first generation using lead acid cells could get about 70 miles on an 8 hour charge. The last gen could make 140. Top speed, set by an on board limiter, was 80 or 85 mph. Charging required a special charger hard wired into a buildings electrical system, and cost over $2000 per installation.

There was a market of sorts for the car, but GM didn't want to pursue it at the time. Had they sold them, not leased them, the sticker price would have been over $70k per car. Probably would be a nice toy for "richest 1%".

Still, the research was useful, and while GM may have been right to not market the car at the time, stopping the R&D was pretty stupid. A fact that GM's current CEO admits.

Do you think, Mac ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:
Do you think, Mac Lorry, that energy sector lobbyists are amenable to your ideas, however rational and long-sighted they might be?

I'm under no such illusion. That's one reason Congress needs to get out of energy business and give it over to a NASA like organization. Maybe that will work and maybe it won't, but there's a better chance than if Congress keeps meddling in things they know nothing about.

For example, when the use of corn to produce ethanol was being questioned a US Senator got up in front of the press with an ear of corn in his hand and claimed there was little use for it other than to make fuel. Apparently, he didn't know that various subspecies of corn are used to make corn flour, corn starch, corn meal, corn syrup, popcorn, corn flakes, corn oil, corn chips or the fact that corn is used to feed nearly all domestic farm animals, which means corn produces meat, eggs, milk, butter, cream, cheese, ice cream, leather, and wool. And this was a US Senator! You would think his staff would have stopped him before he made such a fool of himself, but apparently they're all fools in training.

We have way too many lawyers running things they know nothing about. We can only hope they realize this and put properly trained people in charge of energy and then get themselves and the courts out of the way.

So why did they stop R&D on... (Below threshold)

So why did they stop R&D on electric cars? Do you really think it's in part because there was insufficient public interest in a car that doesn't use gas? Who cares how much the first model cost, if celebrities could afford them and would happily provide free marketing for several years (as with the Prius)? Cars in general used to be toys for rich people, but now pizza delivery drivers can afford to own them (sort of). Don't manufacture anything until most people can afford it?

If you think it's in the best interests of oil companies and their lobbyists for there to be an electric car available on the market, then I'm afraid you're the one wearing the tinfoil hat, SPQR.

Mac Lorry, you're right, most industry lobbyists are parasites. It's good that John McCain has started to purge them from his campaign staff. I also like the idea of a non-profit determining energy policy, rather than Darth Cheney's cabal of vampires and PNAC hacks.

hyperbolist,Simple s... (Below threshold)

Simple short sightedness and intellectual inertia explain the EV1 with far less suspension of disbelief than conspiracy theories.
You focus on my comment about the cost, but ignore the other details. Short range, environmental factors, limited utility all played against the EV1. The price merely made it a toy for those who didn't need to care that it was useless for the purposes that 99+% of the populace own cars in the first place.
Notice that scooter, that also fit the bill (short range, low capacity, limited speed, weather restricted) actually do quite well in the market.
Remember, their were market viable electric trucks running around the big cities prior to the Great Depression... this isn't a brand spanking new idea.

It would make for a perfect... (Below threshold)

It would make for a perfect commuter car at that range.

I don't think GM is run by the Stone Cutters. I do think, though, that there had to have been more going on than a bunch of corporate dinosaurs kaiboshing a pretty good idea in its infancy due to a perceived lack of interest or technological shortcomings. ("Make the battery better? Nah, let's just scrap the whole project." It just doesn't sound plausible.)






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