Category: H. Sterling Burnett

Hooray for Carbon Dioxide! It's Helping to Feed the World's Hungry


Among the greatest challenges humankind has faced throughout its history, feeding the world’s hungry ranks at or near the very top of the list. And with the world’s population expected to top nine billion between 2050 and 2100, this issue will surely become even more important in the coming decades.

However, what many people may not realize is that the carbon dioxide humans have been pumping into the air since the middle of the 20th century has enriched plant growth, thereby contributing to record crop yields, which has helped to bring about the largest decline in hunger, starvation, and malnutrition in human history.

Most of the world’s plant life arose during times when carbon-dioxide levels were much higher than they are today. Over time, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere slowly declined, to the extent that during the most recent ice age, atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels fell to dangerously low levels — just 180 parts per million (ppm). Plants begin to die when carbon dioxide reaches 150 ppm, because they are unable to use sunlight to photosynthesize food from carbon dioxide and water. After humans emerged from the previous ice age, carbon-dioxide levels rose to approximately 280 ppm, still far below the levels existing when plant life began to colonize the land.

Let’s be clear: If plants die, humans and almost all other living beings on Earth will perish as well, so, historically speaking, higher carbon-dioxide levels are positive and associated with more life on Earth.

The addition of approximately 120 ppm carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by humans — through the burning of fossil fuels, slash-and-burn agriculture, and various other actions — is making plants grow stronger, more quickly and abundantly, and improving the efficiency with which they use water. (Under higher carbon-dioxide conditions, plants lose less water through their stoma during transpiration.)

Since the widespread development and use of fossil fuels, world poverty and hunger have declined precipitously. Despite adding 3.2 billion people to the planet since 1968, poverty and hunger have fallen at a faster rate than at any time in human history.

Contrary to the predictions made by 1968 Malthusian environmentalists such as Paul Ehrlich, who said in his woefully mistaken 1968 jeremiad The Population Bomb, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now,” more people are better fed today than ever before.

Forty-four percent of the world’s population lived in absolute poverty in 1981. Since then, the share of people living in extreme poverty fell below 10 percent in 2015. And although 700 million people worldwide still suffer from persistent hunger, according to the United Nations, hunger has declined by two billion people since 1990. Additionally, research shows there is now 17 percent more food available per person than there was 30 years ago.

This food abundance arose even as the amount of land devoted to agriculture declined over the same period, with former farm fields reclaimed by forests and pastures. How is this possible? Mostly because of two factors: (1) the large-scale application and widespread use of modern technologies related to agriculture, many of which dependent on carbon dioxide, and (2) increased carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Farmers have replaced oxen and horses with fossil-fuel powered tractors and manure with high inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which require fossil-fuels in their manufacture or as components. Agronomists using traditional cross-breeding techniques and genetic engineering have developed new crop varieties that are hardier, disease-resistant, pest-resistant, vitamin-fortified, and that use water more efficiently.

Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have also helped crops grow. Humans’ carbon-dioxide emissions have greened Earth, transforming some former desert regions into verdant oases of greenery, and contributed to record crop yields. World-Grain.com reports in 2016, world cereal production broke records for the third straight year, exceeding the previous record yield by 1.2 percent, recorded in 2015, and exceeding the record yield recorded in 2014 by 1.5 percent.

Contrary to the many dire predictions made by Ehrlich in 1968 and others since, humans have moved much closer to the truth captured by a New York Times headline from May 2016: “Is the Era of Great Famines Over?” The answer appears to be “yes.” Political decisions and war, not food scarcity, is now usually responsible when populations face starvation or malnutrition.

We should praise carbon dioxide for helping to feed the world, not demonize it. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, as so many erroneously or misleadingly suggest; it’s entirely natural and vital to all life on Earth.

It’s true you can have too much of a good thing, but when it comes to carbon dioxide, we are not even close to being there yet.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Among the greatest challenges humankind has faced throughout its history, feeding the world’s hungry ranks at or near the very top of the list. And with the world’s population expected to top nine billion between 2050 and 2100, this issue will surely become even more important in the coming decades.

However, what many people may not realize is that the carbon dioxide humans have been pumping into the air since the middle of the 20th century has enriched plant growth, thereby contributing to record crop yields, which has helped to bring about the largest decline in hunger, starvation, and malnutrition in human history.

Most of the world’s plant life arose during times when carbon-dioxide levels were much higher than they are today. Over time, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere slowly declined, to the extent that during the most recent ice age, atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels fell to dangerously low levels — just 180 parts per million (ppm). Plants begin to die when carbon dioxide reaches 150 ppm, because they are unable to use sunlight to photosynthesize food from carbon dioxide and water. After humans emerged from the previous ice age, carbon-dioxide levels rose to approximately 280 ppm, still far below the levels existing when plant life began to colonize the land.

Let’s be clear: If plants die, humans and almost all other living beings on Earth will perish as well, so, historically speaking, higher carbon-dioxide levels are positive and associated with more life on Earth.

The addition of approximately 120 ppm carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by humans — through the burning of fossil fuels, slash-and-burn agriculture, and various other actions — is making plants grow stronger, more quickly and abundantly, and improving the efficiency with which they use water. (Under higher carbon-dioxide conditions, plants lose less water through their stoma during transpiration.)

Since the widespread development and use of fossil fuels, world poverty and hunger have declined precipitously. Despite adding 3.2 billion people to the planet since 1968, poverty and hunger have fallen at a faster rate than at any time in human history.

Contrary to the predictions made by 1968 Malthusian environmentalists such as Paul Ehrlich, who said in his woefully mistaken 1968 jeremiad The Population Bomb, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now,” more people are better fed today than ever before.

Forty-four percent of the world’s population lived in absolute poverty in 1981. Since then, the share of people living in extreme poverty fell below 10 percent in 2015. And although 700 million people worldwide still suffer from persistent hunger, according to the United Nations, hunger has declined by two billion people since 1990. Additionally, research shows there is now 17 percent more food available per person than there was 30 years ago.

This food abundance arose even as the amount of land devoted to agriculture declined over the same period, with former farm fields reclaimed by forests and pastures. How is this possible? Mostly because of two factors: (1) the large-scale application and widespread use of modern technologies related to agriculture, many of which dependent on carbon dioxide, and (2) increased carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Farmers have replaced oxen and horses with fossil-fuel powered tractors and manure with high inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which require fossil-fuels in their manufacture or as components. Agronomists using traditional cross-breeding techniques and genetic engineering have developed new crop varieties that are hardier, disease-resistant, pest-resistant, vitamin-fortified, and that use water more efficiently.

Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have also helped crops grow. Humans’ carbon-dioxide emissions have greened Earth, transforming some former desert regions into verdant oases of greenery, and contributed to record crop yields. World-Grain.com reports in 2016, world cereal production broke records for the third straight year, exceeding the previous record yield by 1.2 percent, recorded in 2015, and exceeding the record yield recorded in 2014 by 1.5 percent.

Contrary to the many dire predictions made by Ehrlich in 1968 and others since, humans have moved much closer to the truth captured by a New York Times headline from May 2016: “Is the Era of Great Famines Over?” The answer appears to be “yes.” Political decisions and war, not food scarcity, is now usually responsible when populations face starvation or malnutrition.

We should praise carbon dioxide for helping to feed the world, not demonize it. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, as so many erroneously or misleadingly suggest; it’s entirely natural and vital to all life on Earth.

It’s true you can have too much of a good thing, but when it comes to carbon dioxide, we are not even close to being there yet.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.



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The Carbon Tax Rebate Scam


A group of old-guard, “swamp” Republicans calling themselves the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) has joined climate alarmists, including failed Democratic Party presidential candidate Al Gore, in calling for a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions. The group claims increasing CO2 emissions pose a threat for Earth’s people, animals, and plants.

Economic analyses of various carbon-tax proposals consistently show they would harm all Americans and would be detrimental for the U.S. economy. A carbon tax would burden businesses with unnecessary costs, making them less competitive in the global marketplace. All this, and much more, is why Congress passed a resolution in 2016 rejecting carbon taxes.

A standalone tax on carbon-dioxide emissions would have a disparate impact on the poorest Americans, because they spend a greater portion of their incomes on energy and energy-intensive products compared to upper-middle-class and relatively wealthy Americans. CLC recognizes this, so to avoid punishing the poor, carbon-tax proponents promise to rebate the revenue generated by the tax back to the public.

CLC’s plan would begin with a carbon tax rate of $40 per ton. At that rate, CLC says a family of four would receive approximately $2,000 as part of its carbon refund in the program’s first year. CLC brags the bottom 70 percent of Americans under its plan would receive more in refunds than they would pay in increased energy costs.

That’s great — unless you are one of the people that fall in the 30 percent that would pay more for energy without getting a full rebate. Since the rebate is aimed at eliminating the tax’s regressive impact on the poor, we can only assume the poor would get a greater proportion of the total rebate funds while the middle class and relatively wealthy would pay more than their fair share.

CLC is extremely pleased with this soak-the-rich, subsidize-the-poor scheme, but since when did Republicans become the party of class warfare?

Among the many problems with CLC’s plan is that it appears to assume it will be virtually cost-free to run the program. Nothing could be further from the truth. How are we to calculate or track the amount people would pay in new energy taxes to qualify for their rebate? Will everyone have to receive a national carbon-tax ID card, or will they have to use their Social Security card when they purchase gasoline or pay their electric bill? Whichever method the CLC chooses, the government needs a way to determine who gets which rebate, and that will likely (and rightfully so) raise the hackles of people who oppose the creation of a national ID.

Perhaps Americans will be required to itemize the carbon taxes they pay, meaning taxpayers will have to keep track of even more tiny receipts to properly file their tax returns. How much time and effort will this add to filing one’s taxes, and how much more will taxpayers pay in an attempt to ensure their taxes are filed correctly? And these questions don’t even address the additional audits some taxpayers will have to endure. What a nightmare!

A carbon tax would also result in higher policing costs, because the criminal-justice system would have to deal with tax-cheats and the efforts of organized criminal groups seeking to steal money by creating false carbon-tax IDs for illegal aliens and others. Some criminals would surely attempt to sell untaxed, black-market gasoline and other fuel.

Just like with every other government program, there will be huge costs associated with collecting, tracking, auditing, and archiving the taxes paid and rebates paid out. New employees will have to be hired. Unless a whole new government bureaucracy is created, existing federal workers will have to divert their time from other responsibilities to focus on the carbon-tax program.

These and other costs will amount to billions of dollars lost each year, unless these costs are paid directly out of the revenues the tax generates, in which case all the taxes charged will not be paid out in rebates. This means the tax would not be revenue-neutral and taxpayers would have to make up the costs of the program.

To prevent businesses from fleeing the country to escape all these taxes and costs, CLC proposes imposing a border adjustment for the carbon content of imports and exports. Exporters sending goods to countries without comparable carbon-pricing systems would receive rebates for carbon taxes paid, while those importing from these countries would face fees on the carbon content of their products.

It’s also important to note CLC’s proposed “border carbon adjustment” will likely not hold up when challenged under various international trade agreements the United States is already a party to, including the World Trade Organization. Even if a border carbon adjustment is ultimately allowed — after spending millions of dollars fighting on the program’s behalf in international tribunals — other countries would likely respond with their own protectionist policies, adding even more costs for consumers.

There is no good time to enact bad policy, and carbon taxes are undoubtedly that. Republicans shouldn’t let the nebulous specter of climate change transform it into the party of protectionism, larger government, higher taxes, and less freedom. Democrats already have that covered!

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

A group of old-guard, “swamp” Republicans calling themselves the Climate Leadership Council (CLC) has joined climate alarmists, including failed Democratic Party presidential candidate Al Gore, in calling for a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions. The group claims increasing CO2 emissions pose a threat for Earth’s people, animals, and plants.

Economic analyses of various carbon-tax proposals consistently show they would harm all Americans and would be detrimental for the U.S. economy. A carbon tax would burden businesses with unnecessary costs, making them less competitive in the global marketplace. All this, and much more, is why Congress passed a resolution in 2016 rejecting carbon taxes.

A standalone tax on carbon-dioxide emissions would have a disparate impact on the poorest Americans, because they spend a greater portion of their incomes on energy and energy-intensive products compared to upper-middle-class and relatively wealthy Americans. CLC recognizes this, so to avoid punishing the poor, carbon-tax proponents promise to rebate the revenue generated by the tax back to the public.

CLC’s plan would begin with a carbon tax rate of $40 per ton. At that rate, CLC says a family of four would receive approximately $2,000 as part of its carbon refund in the program’s first year. CLC brags the bottom 70 percent of Americans under its plan would receive more in refunds than they would pay in increased energy costs.

That’s great — unless you are one of the people that fall in the 30 percent that would pay more for energy without getting a full rebate. Since the rebate is aimed at eliminating the tax’s regressive impact on the poor, we can only assume the poor would get a greater proportion of the total rebate funds while the middle class and relatively wealthy would pay more than their fair share.

CLC is extremely pleased with this soak-the-rich, subsidize-the-poor scheme, but since when did Republicans become the party of class warfare?

Among the many problems with CLC’s plan is that it appears to assume it will be virtually cost-free to run the program. Nothing could be further from the truth. How are we to calculate or track the amount people would pay in new energy taxes to qualify for their rebate? Will everyone have to receive a national carbon-tax ID card, or will they have to use their Social Security card when they purchase gasoline or pay their electric bill? Whichever method the CLC chooses, the government needs a way to determine who gets which rebate, and that will likely (and rightfully so) raise the hackles of people who oppose the creation of a national ID.

Perhaps Americans will be required to itemize the carbon taxes they pay, meaning taxpayers will have to keep track of even more tiny receipts to properly file their tax returns. How much time and effort will this add to filing one’s taxes, and how much more will taxpayers pay in an attempt to ensure their taxes are filed correctly? And these questions don’t even address the additional audits some taxpayers will have to endure. What a nightmare!

A carbon tax would also result in higher policing costs, because the criminal-justice system would have to deal with tax-cheats and the efforts of organized criminal groups seeking to steal money by creating false carbon-tax IDs for illegal aliens and others. Some criminals would surely attempt to sell untaxed, black-market gasoline and other fuel.

Just like with every other government program, there will be huge costs associated with collecting, tracking, auditing, and archiving the taxes paid and rebates paid out. New employees will have to be hired. Unless a whole new government bureaucracy is created, existing federal workers will have to divert their time from other responsibilities to focus on the carbon-tax program.

These and other costs will amount to billions of dollars lost each year, unless these costs are paid directly out of the revenues the tax generates, in which case all the taxes charged will not be paid out in rebates. This means the tax would not be revenue-neutral and taxpayers would have to make up the costs of the program.

To prevent businesses from fleeing the country to escape all these taxes and costs, CLC proposes imposing a border adjustment for the carbon content of imports and exports. Exporters sending goods to countries without comparable carbon-pricing systems would receive rebates for carbon taxes paid, while those importing from these countries would face fees on the carbon content of their products.

It’s also important to note CLC’s proposed “border carbon adjustment” will likely not hold up when challenged under various international trade agreements the United States is already a party to, including the World Trade Organization. Even if a border carbon adjustment is ultimately allowed — after spending millions of dollars fighting on the program’s behalf in international tribunals — other countries would likely respond with their own protectionist policies, adding even more costs for consumers.

There is no good time to enact bad policy, and carbon taxes are undoubtedly that. Republicans shouldn’t let the nebulous specter of climate change transform it into the party of protectionism, larger government, higher taxes, and less freedom. Democrats already have that covered!

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.



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Interior Department Takes Steps to Make America Great Again


Amidst the angst-ridden media attention paid to President Donald Trump’s efforts to carry out his campaign promises to deemphasize the speculative dangers of climate change and focus federal efforts on the real problems people face today — including energy and jobs — the Interior Department (DOI) under new Secretary Ryan Zinke has quietly gone about implementing Trump’s vision.

DOI acted quickly to reduce federal interference with state wildlife management and energy development decisions and scale back the regulatory burden on energy production.

On his last day as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), January 19th, Dan Ashe issued a directive to phase out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on the 307 million acres of federal land controlled by the agency.

Professional wildlife managers within FWS and their partners in state wildlife agencies were taken aback by the order. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), which represents the 50 states’ fish and wildlife agencies, issued a press statement expressing “utter dismay” over the FWS action.

“The Association views this Order as a breach of trust and deeply disappointing given that it was a complete surprise and there was no current dialogue or input from state fish and wildlife agencies prior to issuance,” AFWA President Nick Wiley said in the statement

In an interview I conducted with John Jackson III, president of Conservation Force, Jackson said Ashe’s last-minute action was a “payoff” to radical environmentalists.

“This directive skipped the normal regulatory process, including scientific and public input, with good reason, because there is no sound conservation basis for the order,” said Jackson. “The lack of process was unconscionable and speaks for itself. This was clearly a payoff by the outgoing Obama administration to radical environmental allies.”

Ashe’s directive did not last long. As one of his first official acts as secretary of the Interior Department, on March 2, Zinke rescinded Ashe’s lead ban.

Also on the wildlife management front, using the Congressional Review Act, Congress rescinded an Obama-era takeover of wildlife management on public lands in Alaska. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter designated 157 million acres of Alaskan land through the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) as national parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, recreational areas, national forests, and conservation areas. As part of a compromise with the State of Alaska for seizing so much land, the federal government recognized Alaska’s authority to manage various natural resources, including fish and wildlife, on the vast majority of the lands covered by the law.

The Obama administration undermined that authority in late 2016, when FWS took over management of more than 78 million acres of land previously under the control of the State of Alaska under ANILCA.

The Republican-led Congress reversed the Obama takeover, and Zinke moved quickly to rescind the regulations.

DOI has also been active on the energy and infrastructure development front. Following executive orders from Trump to review and rescind unnecessary and unjustified limits on energy production on public lands, Zinke signed the “energy independence” directive on March 29.

The order ends DOI’s moratorium on issuing new coal leases, revokes its policies requiring environmental assessments and mitigation efforts in response to climate-change concerns, directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to “expeditiously” rescind its hydraulic fracturing regulations, ends duplicative, fracking fluid reporting requirements, and gives the agency 21 days to review its recent methane flaring rule to determine whether it is consistent with Trump’s energy independence orders.

Going further, Zinke gave all bureaus and offices 21 days to identify regulations potentially hamstringing the “development or utilization of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear resources.”

Zinke’s directive requires a “reexamination of the mitigation policies and practices across the Department of the Interior… in order to better balance conservation strategies and policies with the equally legitimate need of creating jobs for hard-working American families.”

Not content to limit his attention to wildlife and energy issues, Zinke also looked at how DOI can improve water access and use in periodically drought-stricken California. President Barack Obama had blocked a California project intended to pump Mojave Desert groundwater through a pipeline to cities in Southern California. Estimates are the Cadiz Water project could reliably fill the water needs of more than 400,000 Californians annually while generating nearly 6,000 local jobs and $1 billion in economic growth.

Cadiz planned to use an existing federal railroad right-of-way for a new water pipeline to carry supplies from the project’s proposed wells to the Colorado River Aqueduct. In 1989, the Interior Department solicitor determined the 1875 railroad law allowed railroads to authorize other uses for their rights-of-way with without Interior Department approval.

In a 2015 memo, Obama’s BLM revoked that decision, meaning Cadiz would have to go through an expensive, multi-year federal environmental review to construct a pipeline on federal land.

Proving Obama was right “elections have consequences,” on March 29, Timothy Spisak, acting assistant director for the BLM’s Division of Energy, Minerals, and Realty Management, signed a memorandum reversing the Obama administration’s 2015 memo blocking the use of the railroad right-of-way for the water pipeline.

Zinke and Trump are of one mind on the critical role America’s public lands can play in ensuring job growth, continued economic progress, and energy security. They are acting in the public interest to reverse overweening federal interference with on-the-ground management decisions, driven by radical environmentalists within the previous Obama administration.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a research fellow for energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Amidst the angst-ridden media attention paid to President Donald Trump’s efforts to carry out his campaign promises to deemphasize the speculative dangers of climate change and focus federal efforts on the real problems people face today — including energy and jobs — the Interior Department (DOI) under new Secretary Ryan Zinke has quietly gone about implementing Trump’s vision.

DOI acted quickly to reduce federal interference with state wildlife management and energy development decisions and scale back the regulatory burden on energy production.

On his last day as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), January 19th, Dan Ashe issued a directive to phase out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on the 307 million acres of federal land controlled by the agency.

Professional wildlife managers within FWS and their partners in state wildlife agencies were taken aback by the order. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), which represents the 50 states’ fish and wildlife agencies, issued a press statement expressing “utter dismay” over the FWS action.

“The Association views this Order as a breach of trust and deeply disappointing given that it was a complete surprise and there was no current dialogue or input from state fish and wildlife agencies prior to issuance,” AFWA President Nick Wiley said in the statement

In an interview I conducted with John Jackson III, president of Conservation Force, Jackson said Ashe’s last-minute action was a “payoff” to radical environmentalists.

“This directive skipped the normal regulatory process, including scientific and public input, with good reason, because there is no sound conservation basis for the order,” said Jackson. “The lack of process was unconscionable and speaks for itself. This was clearly a payoff by the outgoing Obama administration to radical environmental allies.”

Ashe’s directive did not last long. As one of his first official acts as secretary of the Interior Department, on March 2, Zinke rescinded Ashe’s lead ban.

Also on the wildlife management front, using the Congressional Review Act, Congress rescinded an Obama-era takeover of wildlife management on public lands in Alaska. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter designated 157 million acres of Alaskan land through the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) as national parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, recreational areas, national forests, and conservation areas. As part of a compromise with the State of Alaska for seizing so much land, the federal government recognized Alaska’s authority to manage various natural resources, including fish and wildlife, on the vast majority of the lands covered by the law.

The Obama administration undermined that authority in late 2016, when FWS took over management of more than 78 million acres of land previously under the control of the State of Alaska under ANILCA.

The Republican-led Congress reversed the Obama takeover, and Zinke moved quickly to rescind the regulations.

DOI has also been active on the energy and infrastructure development front. Following executive orders from Trump to review and rescind unnecessary and unjustified limits on energy production on public lands, Zinke signed the “energy independence” directive on March 29.

The order ends DOI’s moratorium on issuing new coal leases, revokes its policies requiring environmental assessments and mitigation efforts in response to climate-change concerns, directs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to “expeditiously” rescind its hydraulic fracturing regulations, ends duplicative, fracking fluid reporting requirements, and gives the agency 21 days to review its recent methane flaring rule to determine whether it is consistent with Trump’s energy independence orders.

Going further, Zinke gave all bureaus and offices 21 days to identify regulations potentially hamstringing the “development or utilization of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear resources.”

Zinke’s directive requires a “reexamination of the mitigation policies and practices across the Department of the Interior… in order to better balance conservation strategies and policies with the equally legitimate need of creating jobs for hard-working American families.”

Not content to limit his attention to wildlife and energy issues, Zinke also looked at how DOI can improve water access and use in periodically drought-stricken California. President Barack Obama had blocked a California project intended to pump Mojave Desert groundwater through a pipeline to cities in Southern California. Estimates are the Cadiz Water project could reliably fill the water needs of more than 400,000 Californians annually while generating nearly 6,000 local jobs and $1 billion in economic growth.

Cadiz planned to use an existing federal railroad right-of-way for a new water pipeline to carry supplies from the project’s proposed wells to the Colorado River Aqueduct. In 1989, the Interior Department solicitor determined the 1875 railroad law allowed railroads to authorize other uses for their rights-of-way with without Interior Department approval.

In a 2015 memo, Obama’s BLM revoked that decision, meaning Cadiz would have to go through an expensive, multi-year federal environmental review to construct a pipeline on federal land.

Proving Obama was right “elections have consequences,” on March 29, Timothy Spisak, acting assistant director for the BLM’s Division of Energy, Minerals, and Realty Management, signed a memorandum reversing the Obama administration’s 2015 memo blocking the use of the railroad right-of-way for the water pipeline.

Zinke and Trump are of one mind on the critical role America’s public lands can play in ensuring job growth, continued economic progress, and energy security. They are acting in the public interest to reverse overweening federal interference with on-the-ground management decisions, driven by radical environmentalists within the previous Obama administration.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a research fellow for energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.



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