Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Potpourri XXXVII

Let's see, what's out there? Oh, yeah! Got to start with this: the Obama administration knew that the Supreme Court's ruling that the EPA could regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant even though they did NOT like the decision! Someone, of course, is in big trouble. There were all sorts of "green" laws that were going to happen under Obama. The whole article from The Hill deserves to be quoted in full:

OMB memo raises doubts about EPA findings
@ 4:17 pm by Eric Zimmermann
An EPA finding last month that greenhouse gases are a danger to public health rests on dubious assumptions and could have negative economic impacts, a memo from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned.
The memo has no listed author but is marked "Deliberative–Attorney Client Privilege." A spokesman for OMB told Dow Jones Newswires that the brief is a "conglomeration of counsel we've received from various agencies" about the EPA finding, the conclusions of which would trigger regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
The author(s) of the memo suggest the EPA did not thoroughly examine the relationship between greenhouse gases and human health.
"In the absence of a strong statement of the standards being applied in this decision, there is concern that EPA is making a finding based on…'harm' from substances that have no demonstrated direct health effects," the memo says, adding that the "scientific data that purports to conclusively establish" that link was from outside EPA.
Additionally, the new regulations triggered by the finding would likely harm the economy, the brief warns.
"Making the decision to regulate CO2…is likely to have serious economic consequences for regulated entities throughout the U.S. economy, including small businesses and small communities," the memo reads.
Finally, in language sure to anger climate change activists, the memo questions whether climate change might bring benefits that would mitigate the costs.
"To the extent that climate change alters out environment, it will create incentives for innovation and adaption that mitigate the damages," the memo reads. "The [EPA finding] should note this possibility[.]"
The memo goes so far as to suggest that global warming might be a net positive for certain regions of the United States.
"It might be reasonable to conclude that Alaska will benefit from warmer winters for both health and economic reasons," the authors note.
At a Senate hearing today, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) grilled EPA administrator Lisa Jackson about the memo.
"This is a smoking gun," Barrasso said, accusing the EPA of making the finding for political reasons.
Jackson responded that the finding was based on science and was in no way politicized.
"That analysis had been done really before I took the oath of office," Jackson said.
She acknowledged that curbing climate change might have economic impact, and added that the costs could be minimized through the administration's favored cap-and-trade system.
"We do understand that there are costs to the economy of addressing global warming emissions, and that the best way to address them is a gradual move to a market-based program like cap-and trade," Jackson said.

The genie is out of the bottle. Let the merriment and chaos begin.

Your Humble Narrator is famous, from an academic point of view. I’ve got a textbook here called “Societal Impacts of Spaceflight,” which was printed by NASA and based on a bunch of papers presented by historians, sociologists, and those sorts of folk at a symposium a couple years back. One of these writers actually cited one of my articles. Page 493, reference 43, links to my "Save Our Planet: Space Advocates See the Bigger Picture" article on Wacky!

Tip o' the fedora to Michael Mealling for finding this article by George Will on the upside-down economy. Will references an article in Foreign Affairs that might be worth reading, if you're a subscriber.

Speaking of Mr. Mealling, a Masten Space Systems guy, Masten has performed a successful test of one of their rockets. Martin and I, of course, got into a lot of back-and-forth about the relative merits of government- vs. private-funded space travel. Martin's position is basically that "Physics is a beyotch" and that if there were a better way to get into space, someone would've come up with it by now. I beg to differ. And while I won't divulge any confidences or comments Martin made, I'm not shy about mine:

I agree that X-projects are the way to go. Unfortunately, we don’t do those anymore. If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. To wit: if you have a large organization with lots of money (NASA, as opposed to a startup), then you are only going to think in terms of a multi-constituency, large-organization solution. The U.S. was working its way toward space using airplane-based thinking, with X-20 Dyna-Soar as the next step after X-15, but the Russians got there first using a ballistic missile, and the airplane-based approach was dropped. Airplane designers have a different approach to problems than rocket builders. We’ll never know how the U.S. space program would have turned out if we’d stuck with the airplane-based approach because we get sidetracked by the artillery shell approach. We’ll also never know what would’ve happened if we’d stuck with the company-based model of production instead of the government-based approach because we had Apollo. Can we go back to that? I don’t know. Maybe someone could try to build Dyna-Soar and find out the hard way.

Is business-based rocket travel “imminent?” Perhaps not. I’ve gotten my hopes up too many times to be that much of an optimist anymore. However, the big-government, big-rocket approach is also fundamentally flawed and needs to be rethought. The entrepreneurs should be encouraged and funded, even if it means doing things that are considered tacky, hucksterish, stunts, or Not Worthy of the Grandeur of Space, as NASA would have it.

Martin did have an interesting link to a Jeff Bell article on spaceplanes, which I will share.

New from Hu:

  • The Mars Spirit rover is having road troubles.
  • Boeing is moving its missile defense division from Arlington, VA, to Huntsville. Gosh knows we could use the business. Here's hoping Obama doesn't cut the missile defense budget.
  • Vladimir Putin's price for signing the next Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) is for Obama to scrap our missile defenses. Reagan's answer at Rekjavik to such a gambit was historic and world-changing. One can only guess or hope with the current president
  • Google is mating with a spreadsheet...and producing products that should help web searchers better organize their data. Sounds useful, but I'd like to see the final output.

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