Sacrificing to the Sacred Owl

In ancient religions, practiced by primitive cultures, it was customary to make sacrifices to sundry gods and idols. Some of the more sanguinary cults engaged in human sacrifice.

We like to consider such practices far removed from our civilized modern society. However, we make far more extravagant sacrifices to our sacred idols than the ancients ever dreamed of making.

While the ancients may have slaughtered the odd sheep or bull or virgin on the altar of an angry god, we sacrifice entire regions of our country, decimating their economies, wiping out employment for thousands of people, destroying their livelihoods and breaking up homes, creating widespread poverty and sending statistics on domestic violence, divorce, and drug abuse soaring through the roof, as once-productive and self-sufficient communities decline into indigence.

And to what powerful god are we making this enormous human sacrifice? Well, it’s not a god, exactly. It’s a Sacred Owl.

The Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) was adopted in 1994 to “protect” the Sacred Owl. Nobody actually knew how many Sacred Owls existed at the time; nor did they know how many had existed in any previous period. Nobody had ever counted them. Instead, they created a model based on nesting habitat. Since Sacred Owls nest in “old growth,” and “old growth” was being reduced by logging, the model inferred that the Sacred Owl population must be declining also.

Based on this model, the powers that be concluded the Sacred Owl must be endangered. Since the Sacred Owl also requires younger stands and clearings for forage, the critical habitat designation was broadened to include most of the public forest lands in the Pacific Northwest. This opened the door for the environmental movement to litigate virtually any timber sale on public lands under the auspices of the Endangered Species Act.

Today, the environmentalists claim the Sacred Owl population is still declining at an alarming rate. So we must set aside even more land as “critical habitat,” sacrificing even more production, jobs, and communities. But, if the Sacred Owl population really is declining so rapidly, eighteen years after the NWFP was put into effect, then clearly the plan is not successful and should be scrapped. Why double down on a failed plan?

Perhaps, from the perspective of the environmental movement, the plan hasn’t really been a failure. Suppose, instead, it has been wildly successful. How could that be, if the Sacred Owl population is even worse off today than it was before the NWFP was implemented?

Let’s do a little thought experiment. What if the Sacred Owl was only a means to an end, rather than an end in itself? Suppose for a moment that the environmental movement wanted to eliminate logging on public lands. In order to accomplish that, they would need to find a law that would allow them to challenge any government timber sale and tie it up in litigation until the legal expenses exceeded the revenues.

The Endangered Species Act would serve that purpose well. They would just need to come up with an endangered species that lives in places where logging occurs. Of course, it couldn’t be just any endangered species, like an insect or rodent or fungus. It would have to be something cute and appealing, something cuddly-looking that people who live in cities would want to protect.

Enter the Spotted Owl. With apologies to Voltaire, if the Spotted Owl didn’t exist, the environmentalists would have had to invent him.

Serendipitously, the Sacred Owl has proven very lucrative for the environmental movement. They discovered another law, called the Equal Access to Justice Act, which requires the government to reimburse legal fees for the prevailing party in lawsuits against the federal government.

In the last four years alone, more than 570 lawsuits have been filed under the Endangered Species Act. When the environmentalists lose, it costs them very little because their attorneys belong to the movement. When they win, they can claim up to $500 an hour in attorney fees.

Just since 2009, U.S. taxpayers have paid the environmental movement more than $15 million in attorney fees for preventing the productive and sustainable use of natural resources on public lands.

So it’s easy to see why this owl is sacred to the environmental movement. It’s been very good to them. But how many more jobs, how many more communities, how many more local economies are we willing to sacrifice to this Sacred Owl, and to its high priests in the environmental movement, before we expose this dangerous cult for what it is? How many more sacrifices can our nation afford to make?


Environmentalists vs. Alternative Energy

As energy prices skyrocket, so does inflation. Our personal budgets, as well as our national economy, are shriveling up. While all Americans feel the pain of higher fuel prices, and most understand the correlation between energy prices and the inflation that’s eroding their buying power and chipping away at their standard of living, not nearly as many recognize the potential impact of energy dependence on national security. Much of the world’s oil is controlled by forces that are hostile to us. Our precarious energy position makes us very vulnerable.

We need to produce more energy at home. There are two reasons we aren’t doing that today. The first reason is the cost of R&D. The U.S. has a lot of shale oil, but it’s expensive to extract. However, with the prices of oil on the global market today, it’s getting to the point where the return will justify the investment. The other reason we aren’t producing more energy is counterproductive regulations and endless litigation brought about by environmental groups.

There may be enormous reserves of oil in ANWR, but we need to do exploratory drilling to find out where they are and assess how much oil there is. Environmentalists have stymied any attempt to do that, because it might disturb the polar bears. Other countries are taking full advantage of off-shore drilling but our government won’t permit that, because it might disturb the rich and powerful environmental lobbies that help our legislators get reelected.

The environmentalists claim they oppose drilling for oil because they favor alternative energy sources that are cleaner and safer for the environment. But it turns out that the greatest opposition to alternative energy production comes from environmental groups!

Wind power is about as clean as you can get. Environmentalists used to promote it but, once massive wind farms became a reality, environmentalist groups all over the country sprang up with injunctions and litigation to shut them down because of their impact on birds, bats, and even ground squirrels.

Hydroelectric power is another source of clean energy that environmentalists used to tout. But now they want to blow up dams, and have successfully lobbied and litigated to have dams removed, at tremendous taxpayer expense, because of their impact on fish habitats.

Natural gas burns cleaner, with lower emissions than petroleum products, and even the Sierra Club initially came out in favor of it. Yet, all over the country, wherever drilling for natural gas is undertaken, or a natural gas pipeline is proposed to be built, environmentalists rear up in litigation because of speculation about the potential harmful consequences of potential leaks.

Geothermal power is an interesting concept, because it’s clean and safe and permanent. It doesn’t vary with the weather, and it can never be depleted. Yet, the Sierra Club’s Juniper Group is litigating to prevent an exploratory project for development of a geothermal plant on a 5-acre parcel outside Oregon’s Newberry Crater, which is one of the most promising geothermal resources in the world. There is no specific threat to the environment or habitat of any particular species. They’re just concerned that having the project so close to a national monument might have a potential impact on forests or wildlife.

There are many more examples of environmentalists opposing alternative energy. But what does it all mean? They tout alternative energy until it starts to become a reality, and then they start backpedaling and litigating to thwart it. Is it just because they can’t accept the idea that any kind of energy production will necessarily entail environmental tradeoffs? (See What Have Progressives Got Against Progress?) Or is there some other agenda that motivates them to try to block every avenue of energy independence? I believe many of them are simply naive, and haven’t thought it through. But the consequences of their good intentions affect us all.

There’s a group in Oregon, called Lights On Oregon, that has launched a Campaign for Affordable and Reliable Energy (CARE) in our state. If you’re a resident of Oregon, you might want to consider signing the petition. If you’re not a resident of Oregon, you can contact the national headquarters of FreedomWorks to see if they have a project like Lights On Oregon in your state.

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Greenology is a Bankrupt Philosophy


Guest Article by Jack H. Swift

This is a first for Government Is Not Your Daddy. I’ve never published a Guest Author before, but Jack Swift is somebody who truly ought to have his own blog. Anyone who regularly reads GNYD is likely to enjoy Jack’s writing as much as I do. He’s top shelf.

The great green movement driven by the Sierra Club, the Audobon Society, and other more nefarious forces appears about to run out of gas. A half century of a reckless orgy of economic extravagance driven by environmental values is finally coming home to roost. We are about to discover that you cannot protect anything if you are broke.

For nearly fifty years the new environmentalists have hounded industrial manufacturing out of business in the interest of protecting the environment. The result has been a constant elimination of jobs and the transfer of manufacturing capacity to foreign shores. That is a monstrous expense in a world economy dominated by balance of trade considerations critical to the value of one’s currency. Industry by industry, it could be selectively justified in genuine feel-good considerations of the intellectually unwary. Collectively, it has been a formula for disaster.

For nearly forty years, the new environmentalists have prevented the development of nuclear power plants as an alternative to fossil fuel powered electrical plants while the nation’s demand for more and more power has increased incrementally. Site by site, an emotional argument in opposition could always be fabricated. The cumulative effect was to have the nation buy into a collective policy recklessly discarding cheap, clean, renewable energy. In the face of growing demand, another formula for disaster.

For nearly thirty years, the new environmentalists have log-jammed the exploitation of our domestic oil resources, be it drilling in ANWR, drilling on the continental shelf, or using the shale on the continental divide. In the face of that constraint nationally, we are today forced to purchase oil overseas in a market controlled by a hostile cartel and foreign speculators. The cumulative effect of that has been a further deterioration of our balance of trade and the subjection of our currency to the artificial inflation induced by regimes bent on our destruction. Yet another unthinking, ill-conceived disaster.

For twenty years, particularly here in the Northwest, the new environmentalists have frustrated the utilization of natural resources, renewable or not. Once again creating a loss of jobs and a dependence on foreign imports. This has been an unmitigated disaster community by community, with no relief in contemplation.

Recently, the new environmentalists are driving for and effecting the removal of our hydro-electric power generation system. Once again eliminating cheap, clean, renewable power and forcing greater reliance upon foreign fuel imports.

Today, the new environmentalists are pressing our representatives Wyden and DeFazio for legislation to effectively turn the rural portions of our state into a great pristine wilderness area.

The forces of the new environmentalism recognize no economic restraint and they are more relentless than a spend-happy teenager.

We have gasoline at $4.00 per gallon, looking for $5.00 by the end of the summer. That cost factor is appearing in every commodity we consume. We cannot avoid it any more than the spendthrift can avoid the interest on his credit card debt. The effect is runaway inflation with further devaluation of our currency. The total impact portends to be an economic disaster on a scale of the great depression.

The message is the fundamental one that one cannot spend one’s limited money on luxuries one cannot afford. Enhancing the environment at the expense of the economy has led us to the brink of national insolvency. Having to work for a living is not nice, but a necessary reality of life. One undergoes the unpleasantness in the interest of comfort and survival. Despoiling the environment to a limited degree is also a necessary trade-off in the interest of economic survival.

Unthinking and injudicious commitment to aesthetic values, emotions, and desires has brought us to the brink.

As a matter of survival, it is time to consign the environmental movement to the stupid bin in the ashcan of history. We need to get about the business of restoring our solvency and we need to do it now.

— Jack H. Swift

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Save the Dinosaurs

The environmentalists keep insisting that we must curb our ever-growing demand for more energy. The problem is, in the world in which we live, all forms of progress are dependent on energy. The rate of industrial and technological progress has increased exponentially over the last century. So has the demand for energy. It’s not a coincidence.

We could reduce our energy demands by renouncing progress and going back to doing things the way people did them in the “good old days.” We could give up cars and airplanes and electricity, central heat and air conditioning, computers, etc., slowing any future progress to a the same plodding pace it was a century ago. But in what way would that be a good thing? — Except in that we would use less energy. But is using less energy really intrinsically good? And is it so good that it’s worth giving up all kinds of benefits man has striven to achieve over the last couple of centuries?

Of course, that isn’t what the environmentalists have in mind. They don’t want to completely curtail the use of energy. They just want to control it to make sure it’s only used in acceptable ways for acceptable purposes. The question is, who defines what’s acceptable? — The answer is them, of course.

On a personal level, they want people to use less electricity, less gasoline, less toilet paper, etc. And it’s true that some people do waste a lot of energy. Personally, I abhor waste. I admire efficiency. I would love to see more efficient forms of energy, and I certainly would love to see less gratuitous waste. However, different people define waste differently.

I enjoy driving. I do it for pleasure. If I were confined to my home, or wherever I could propel myself by foot or by bicycle, I wouldn’t be a very happy camper. Sure, I could sit at my desk all day and cruise the Internet, but that uses energy, too. Is there anything truly wrong with driving out into the country, up in the mountains, to enjoy the natural beauty? It isn’t necessary to my survival. So here I am, wasting a limited natural resource for my own selfish gratification. But, somehow, it doesn’t seem to me like an intrinsic evil. I realize I could significantly reduce my carbon footprint by never leaving my house. I could reduce it even more by never getting out of bed. I could reduce it even more by dying. But what exactly is the point?

There’s a lot of research going on in the field of alternative energy. By the time fossil fuels actually do start to run out, I expect at least some of these “new” forms of energy will be viable. Today, they’re even more expensive than fossil fuels. That’s why so few people use them. If they were less expensive, and more practical to use, everybody would be using them already. But there’s still a ways to go before they’re competitive in the marketplace. I’m all for alternative energy. The sooner it becomes viable, the better. But, in the meantime, I’m not going to stop living my life to save the dead dinosaurs for future generations.

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Alternative Energy and the Law of Unintended Consequences

The environmentalist lobby has been haranguing us for years about alternative energy sources. Fossil fuels = Bad. Alternative energy = Good. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for alternative energy. However, every alternative energy source comes with its own set of issues. Once it’s implemented (always at great expense), the environmentalists turn to attack the new energy source with the same fervor with which they previously promoted it.

  • Wind farms have been roundly attacked by environmental groups for slicing and dicing migratory birds and decimating local bat populations.
  • Hydroelectric plants have been taken to task for their impact on fish habitats, and environmentalists have successfully litigated for the removal of dams (at great public expense) in salmon spawning areas.
  • Nuclear power is anathema to environmentalists because of the potential for leakage and questions about adequate waste disposal.

But biofuels were supposed to be the ultimate panacea that solved everything from global warming to war in the Middle East. After all, they’re natural, renewable, and, best of all, green! Yet, from both a social and environmental perspective, biofuel production is turning out to be one of the biggest disasters of all.

The environmentalist lobby finally succeeded in getting federal legislation passed to subsidize ethanol production and provide tax incentives to fuel companies to dilute gasoline with it. Some states, like Oregon, have even mandated that all gasoline sold in the state must consist of 10% ethanol. According to an article on Hidden Costs of Corn-Based Ethanol, in the Christian Science Monitor, “ethanol yields about 30% less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly.”  (That’s OK, though, because gas is taxed by the gallon, and fewer miles per gallon means more revenue for the state.) Diluting gasoline with ethanol won’t reduce the price per gallon, either, and may even make it higher, due to of the high cost of production and handling. But the negative impact on consumers is acceptable to the environmentalists because, if consumers were environmentally conscious, they wouldn’t be driving cars in the first place…

On the other hand, there are problems with biofuel production that hit a lot closer to home for the politically correct. Our national “investment” in subsidizing bio-fuel production has been so overwhelmingly successful that it’s had the effect of repurposing the majority of our corn crops to ethanol production. It has also motivated farmers to divert production from other crops to crops that can be used for biofuels.

Unfortunately, the unintended consequences of this noble effort have been to raise food prices, not only here in the U.S., but around the world. Rising food prices hit the poor the hardest, and accelerate the spread of poverty. In an article in Foreign Affairs, titled How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor, authors Runge and Senauer said “Filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires more than 450 pounds of corn – which contains enough calories to feed one person for a year.” Even as food shortages increase in countries where people are already starving, the U.S. is being forced to reduce its international food aid due to rising food costs at home, largely due to the diversion of crops to biofuel production.

The high demand for biofuels is also having an unintended impact on some of the environmentalists’ own pet causes. Palm oil and sugar cane are some of the more efficient biofuel crops. The surge in demand for these crops has been a boon to certain third world economies but has, by the same token, led to the clearing of rainforests to create palm and sugar plantations. The environmentalists don’t like that at all! And here in the U.S., some farmers who previously rotated corn crops with soybean crops are now growing only corn. Not rotating crops strips the topsoil of nutrients, requiring the farmers to use more fertilizers and pesticides, which eventually end up in the water supply.

And, in the end, it turns out that the fossil fuel energy required to produce and process the enormous quantities of corn it takes to convert into biofuel ends up costing almost as much energy as it produces. According to a PBS Science Report, “Producing ethanol yields about 25 percent more energy than is used in growing and harvesting the corn and converting it to fuel.” Given that the ethanol produced is 30% less efficient than gasoline, the whole process results in a net reduction in energy, along with all the social and environmental negatives it engenders. But, once you get the government to latch onto something, it’s awfully hard to reverse, no matter what the unintended consequences.

But, hey, it sure sounded like a good idea, didn’t it? And, after all, it’s the thought that counts…

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