Tag Archives: regulation

Supreme Court limits government’s attempt steal land for endangered species

The Supreme Court today ruled against the federal government’s attempt to designate private land as a habitat for an endangered species, even though that endangered species doesn’t even inhabit that land.

In a unanimous ruling the justices rejected the federal government’s attempt to designate roughly 1,500 acres in Louisiana as critical space for the dusky gopher frog. “Only the ‘habitat’ of the endangered species is eligible for designation as critical habitat,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the opinion.

The frog hasn’t lived on the land in five decades, having shifted to neighboring counties. But the government, fearing future events might push the frog back, sought to designate the land, which would have imposed severe restrictions on what the owners could do with it.

Consider the chutzpah of the federal government in attempting to do this. If the court had ruled in their favor, it would have allowed them to designate any piece of property anywhere in the country as a habitat for any species, and thus negate all property rights, forever.

Share

Leftist San Fran shuts down Airbnb business

They’re coming for you next: The leftist government of San Francisco has forced the shut down of a chain of Airbnb rentals owned by a couple for violating the city’s many laws.

A San Francisco couple has been fined $2.25 million and ordered to not engage in listing their real estate properties on sites like Airbnb until 2025 for repeated violations of the city’s short term rental laws, the city attorney announced Monday.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said landlords Darren and Valerie Lee have been running “an illicit hotel chain” during San Francisco’s housing crisis rather than lawfully renting the units to residential tenants.

Though it clearly appears the couple had violated San Francisco laws, the real question is the immoral nature of the laws.

[W]hat should really be on trial here are not the Herreras but the laws that San Francisco has put in place to stifle the gig economy. The Herrera family owns those apartment buildings and they pay the taxes, are responsible for all the maintenance and took the risk of investing in the properties. Clearly, there is a market for short-term rentals because if there weren’t they wouldn’t be able to remain profitable. Why is the city telling them how they must rent out their property?

The public doesn’t benefit from these laws, providing the owners keep the properties up to code and safe to inhabit. The only beneficiaries are the major hotel chains who charge outrageous prices for rooms and lobby politicians heavily (as well as donating generously to their campaigns) to try to squeeze out the gig economy. If the Herrera family has any hope of prevailing here it should come by way of a challenge to these short-term rental laws and the chance to expose the influence of the hotel lobby that drives them.

This is what you get when you allow government too much power: Corruption, favoritism, and oppression. I have in recent years made it my business to avoid California at all costs. This story reinforces that position.

Share

Hawaii Supreme Court rules in favor of TMT

Hawaii’s Supreme Court today upheld by a 4-1 vote the construction permits of the consortium building the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea.

In its own press release, the TMT consortium said that it “will move forward with fulfilling the numerous conditions and requirements of [the state’s permit] prior to the start of any construction.”

The comments by one of the the telescope’s opponents at the first link are revealing.

Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the main leaders against the telescope, said she’s doesn’t know what their next steps will be, but she’s not hopeful that more legal wrangling will help. “The court is the last bastion in democracy,” she said. “The only other option is to take to the streets. If we lose the integrity of the court, then you’re losing normal law and order, and the only other option is people have to rise up.” [emphasis mine]

Let me translate: We didn’t get our way, so we’re now going to throw another tantrum! Expect more protests and attempts to block construction. Expect the Hawaiian government, dominated almost entirely by Democrats, to fold to those protests. Expect more delays. For example, do you really think the permit process was really done?

State Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case said the next steps involve telescope builders submitting construction plans. The department will review the plans before issuing permission to proceed.

This was all done almost a decade earlier, and was exactly what the Supreme Court ruled on. To bring it up now suggests the state government is still quietly looking for loopholes to stop the construction, even though the public supports construction and the protesters are a decided minority.

Share

Trump moves forward on Space Force; commercial space reorganization

In a speech by Mike Pence yesterday the Trump administration outlined its continuing plans to moves forward with a new military branch focused on space as well as a reorganization of the bureaucracies that regulate commercial space into a single Commerce Department agency.

Pence said the National Space Council and National Security Council will review space operational authorities “to ensure that our warfighters have the freedom and flexibility they need to deter and defeat any threat to our security in the rapidly evolving battlefield of space.” A lack of centralized leadership and accountability threatened U.S. ability to “advance our national security in space,” Pence said. “The time has come to stop studying the problem and start fixing it.”

The Trump administration in August announced an ambitious plan to usher in a new “Space Force” as the sixth branch of the military by 2020. Such a change, which the Defense Department has estimated would cost $13 billion in the first five years, must first be approved by Congress. Pence said at an earlier Washington Post forum that China and Russia have established similar space forces. “This is what our competitors are already doing. And the president is determined to make sure that America leads in space, as well, from a military standpoint,” he said.

…The proposed bill would also create the Bureau of Space Commerce under the U.S. Department of Commerce to liaise with industry representatives and organizations, according to a copy provided to Reuters. It also calls for $10 million per year for five years starting in 2020 to fund the commerce arm.

I am traveling up to Phoenix as I write this to be a talking head on a Science channel television show, so I haven’t yet reviewed carefully this proposal. Based on the quote above, the cost for the Space Force is absurd. This is an office, not a military force. At $13 billion it looks more like gold-plated pork.

Meanwhile, the proposed Commerce agency makes sense only if it truly replaces other bureaucracies. I am not yet sure that will happen.

Share

Trump scraps academic EPA air pollution panel

The head of EPA in the Trump administration has scrapped the academic EPA air pollution panel that has dominated the agency’s air quality control standards for decades.

Andrew Wheeler, the acting chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), yesterday fired a panel of scientific experts charged with assisting the agency’s latest review of air quality standards for particulate matter. He also scrapped plans to form a similar advisory panel to aid in a recently launched assessment of the ground-level ozone limits.

Those steps, coupled with Wheeler’s previously announced decision to concentrate authority in a seven-member committee made up mostly of his appointees, quickly sparked objections that the agency is intent on skewing the outcome of those reviews in favor of industry.

…Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is supposed to review the adequacy of the standards for particulate matter, ozone and four other common pollutants every 5 years with help from outside experts. While the seven-member committee, officially known as the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), has the lead in the process, the [scrapped] review panels are supposed to provide additional know-how in assessing the relevant scientific literature, which can span a variety of academic disciplines.

Essentially the acting administrator is continuing the effort of the former EPA head, Scott Pruitt, to de-emphasize the domination of the leftist academic community in these matters. Naturally, the academics are screaming, but then, screaming has recently become the left’s only debating point in all matters of national discussion.

Share

UAE passes a space law

The new colonial movement: The United Arab Emuirates Cabinet has passed a space law, supposedly designed to encourage the development of their space sector.

I say “supposedly” because of this:

“Although the details of the new law are not yet publicly available, I believe it has tremendous potential and am excited by the UAE’s incorporation of educational guidelines into the legal framework,” said Sunil Thacker, senior partner at the STA law firm.

It is even unclear whether this lawyer has seen the language. He is quoted extensively, raving about the wonders this new law will bring, but states no specifics. In the top-down sheik-run UAE, he has no other choice.

Share

Bill increases funding to FAA space office, adds other provisions

A bill about to be approved by Congress increases funding to the FAA Office of Commercial Transportation while also requiring that office to create several new regulatory positions.

The bill authorizes a significant increase in spending for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, or AST, from the $22.6 million it received in fiscal year 2018 to a little more than $33 million in 2019, growing to nearly $76 million in 2023. Appropriators, though, have not matched that authorized increase for 2019, with House and Senate versions of spending bills funding the FAA offering just under $25 million for AST.

The reauthorization bill includes several policy provisions associated with commercial spaceflight as well. One would require the FAA to designate an official within its air traffic organization to serve as the single point of contact for working with the head of AST on airspace issues associated with commercial launch activity.

Another provision establishes an “Office of Spaceports” within AST intended to support commercial licensing of launch sites and develop policies to promote infrastructure improvements at such facilities. It also requires AST to develop a report within one year of the bill’s enactment on spaceport policies, including recommendations on government actions to “support, encourage, promote, and facilitate greater investments in infrastructure at spaceports.” It directs the Government Accountability Office to prepare a separate report on ways to provide federal support for spaceports.

The bill creates a category of commercial spaceflight vehicles known as “space support vehicles” that cover parts of launch vehicles systems flying for other purposes, such as training or testing. Such vehicles would include the aircraft used by air-launch systems. The bill allows commercial flights of space support vehicles without the need for a full-fledged airworthiness certificate from the FAA.

It is hard to say if these provisions will help or hurt the growth of commercial space. It does appear that Congress’s goal was to help, but their methods always include more spending and greater bureaucracy.

The article also reviews a number of bills not yet agreed to by Congress that would address the regulation of Earth observation satellites as well as satellite servicing. It quotes a number of industry experts supporting the laws being proposed, but once again, it is unclear if those laws would help or hurt. My previous review of one of these laws presently working its way through the House was decidedly mixed. It will clarify and simplify many of the regulatory problems that presently exist, while creating more bureaucracy.

Share

3D gun files still available to public despite judge’s ruling

Pushback: Despite a judge’s apparently unconstitutional ruling that banned the free give-away of the plans for printing 3D guns, the company that is producing them has instead made them available for purchase, at any price the buyer designates.

The ruling was intensely shaky and a jab to both the First and Second Amendment, so naturally Democrats were aroused.

But their celebration was premature.

Defense Distributed founder Cody Wilson crushed their short-lived happiness during a Tuesday press conference where he revealed that he actually won’t be stopped from sharing technical data; he will simply sell the files via his website, defcad.com. (Yes, he can do this.) “This judge’s order, stopping us from simply giving things away, was only an authorization that we could sell it, that we could mail it, that we could email it, that we could provide it by secure transfer. I will be doing all of those things, now,” announced Wilson.

“A lot of this to me was about principle,” he continued. “For many years, I just chose not to sell these files, because I’m an open-source activist. I believed in demonstrating that there was a right to commit this information to the public domain.”

“But, this is my opportunity to correct the media all in one place. To read headline after headline about how you can no longer 3D-print a gun, you can no longer have these files, this is not true. This has never been true. I now have to demonstrate this to you, forcefully, to deliver the point.”

There is no set price for the material; patrons are asked to give whatever they’d like in exchange. Wilson said the money would be used for further legal fees.

The judge’s ruling was completely bogus, especially since the Trump Justice Department had already settled the suit that the Obama Justice Department had brought. Moreover, since when can a judge ban the publication of any information the U.S.? His ruling appears to violate the First Amendment, and possibly the Second Amendment as well.

Share

Trump EPA proposes new power plant climate rules

The Trump administration has now proposed a revision to the climate rules established by the Obama administration to limit carbon dioxide releases at power plants.

President Donald Trump’s administration released a plan today to regulate carbon dioxide emissions at power plants, undercutting a much broader effort by former President Barack Obama to slash planet-warming gases.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposal would give states wide latitude for determining how to cut greenhouse gases from the power sector, a key contributor in the U.S. to climate change. The proposed rule is far narrower than the Obama plan, which sought to cut emissions across the power sector rather than only at individual plants.

On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump promised to repeal Obama’s rule, called the Clean Power Plan. His administration stopped short of that today and is instead offering a weakened alternative to avoid a potentially damaging defeat in court.

Based on the article and the actual proposal [pdf], I am far from convinced this change reduces regulation that much. It appears to shift the regulation to the states, but whether this simplifies things for power plant operators is very doubtful.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats and various leftist environmental groups oppose the change. Expect lawsuits, since it is absolutely forbidden for any subsequent president to ever change policies set by past Democratic presidents.

Share

Researchers say cubesats with propulsion systems must have encrypted software

Capitalism in space: Researchers from Yale University are recommending that the smallsat industry establish rules requiring all future cubesats that carry their own propulsion systems be encrypted to prevent them from being hacked.

That research by a team of graduate students, presented at the AIAA/Utah State University Conference on Small Satellites here Aug. 9, recommended the space industry take steps to prevent the launch of such satellites to avoid an incident that could lead to a “regulatory overreaction” by government agencies. “We would propose as a policy that, for those cubesats and smallsats that have propulsion, that the industry adopt a ‘no encryption, no fly’ rule,” said Andrew Kurzrok of Yale University.

That recommendation comes as cubesat developers, who once had few, if any, options for onboard propulsion, are now looking to make use of more advanced chemical and electric propulsion systems. Some of those technologies can provide smallsats with large changes in velocity, which can enable major orbital changes.

Kurzrok and colleagues at Stanford University and the University of Colorado modeled several different propulsion systems on a notional 10-kilogram nanosatellite, assuming the spacecraft was in a 300-kilometer orbit and that the propulsion systems accounted for half the spacecraft’s mass. The results ranged from the satellite reaching medium Earth orbit altitudes within two hours when using chemical propulsion to passing geostationary orbit in about a year with an electric propulsion system.

The scenario involving the nanosatellite with chemical propulsion is particularly troubling, he said. “What are the abilities within two hours to track that something isn’t where it’s supposed to be and then warn or take some sort of secondary action?” he said, concluding that the satellite reaching GEO in a year is a much less plausible threat.

The concern, then is a scenario where hackers are able to take control of a satellite and redirect it quickly.

Getting encryption for their software would raise costs, but it really is the cost of doing business. Better for the industry to create these rules than wait for the federal government to step in, as the government regulation will certainly end up being more odious and difficult to change.

Share

New York shuts down 7-year-old’s lemonade stand

Fascist New York: Because of complaints by commercial vendors, New York bureaucrats moved to shut down a 7-year-old’s lemonade stand.

Soon-to-be second-grader Brendan Mulvaney ran afoul of government regulators last Friday when vendors at the Saratoga County Fair in upstate Ballston Spa whined to a state health inspector that he had no permit to sell refreshments from his family’s front deck just outside the fairgrounds.

Being just a kid, he was also undercutting their pricey drinks by nearly 90 percent, selling lemonade for just 75 cents — a significant discount from the $7 cups inside the fair. He also peddled $1 snow cones and bottled waters. The vendors griped to a state health inspector doing a routine inspection of the fair, and his next visit was to the Mulvaneys’ home. He promptly ordered the stand shut down, leaving the family shocked.

Note that the stand is on the family’s porch, on private property. The boy has has also been operating it for three years, with no problems.

Essentially, the local vendors used the government as a hammer to smash the competition, even if it was something as innocuous as a child’s lemonade stand. And New York, being a fascist state run by fascist Democrats, immediately moved to do the bidding of those vendors.

The government, embarrassed by this, is now trying to fix it, but they still claim that a permit is required for the stand. How nice of them! In modern New York, no one is allowed to start a business without government permission!

Share

San Francisco legislators propose banning company cafeterias

Fascist California: Two San Francisco supervisors plan to introduce local legislation that will ban companies from having their own cafeterias for employees.

The measure, proposed by Supervisor Ahsha Safai and co-sponsored by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, would adjust zoning laws to ban workplace cafeterias moving forward, but would not be retroactive.

Peskin said the measure, was inspired by tech companies like Twitter and Airbnb, which are widely known to have access to dining in their own buildings, depriving nearby restaurants of the dollars usually spent by nearby workers. The measure has the support of Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and other local merchants.

Under the legislation which is expected to be introduced Tuesday, “you can’t have an industrial kitchen in your office building,” Peskin said. Peskin said the legislation sought to avoid the “Amazon effect that impacts retail and restaurants across the county,” he said. “This is forward thinking legislation.”

Isn’t it amazing how these leftists think that they not only have the right to dictate how everyone else lives their lives, they are also arrogantly convinced that they are anointed with the perfect wisdom necessary to impose their will.

As I have said, California is not a place you should consider moving to, at this time. It is heading for Venezuela, and should get there in about a decade.

Share

House committee approves new space weather bill

The House Science Committee yesterday approved new space weather bill that would shift responsibility for coordinating the government’s space weather observation capabilities to the National Space Council, while also creating a pilot commercial program for launch weather satellites.

It appears there was some heavy political maneuvering involved with this bill, as there was a late switch of language that changed its focus.

The new text has a strong focus on the private sector. In the policy section, for example, it explicitly states that “space weather observation and forecasting are not exclusive functions of the Federal Government” and the government “should, as practicable, obtain space weather data and services through contracts with the commercial sector, when the data and services are available, cost-effective, and add value.” The bill requires the Secretary of Commerce to establish a pilot program for obtaining space weather data from the private sector that appears analogous to NOAA’s commercial weather data pilot program.

The Senate will still have to review and approve this new bill.

Share

Changes to big August 3 commercial crew announcement do not bode well

On August 3 NASA is planning on making a big announcement concerning its commercial crew program. Yesterday the agency revealed that the NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, will reveal the names of the crew for the first commercial crew flight.

The changes in how that announcement will be made however suggest that they had hoped to make a bigger announcement and have been forced to back off. Initially, vice president Mike Pence was to have made the announcement. He has now canceled his participation. Also, there had previously been rumors that the announcement would have included the launch dates for both SpaceX’s and Boeing’s first flights. That the new press release makes no mention of dates suggests the dates have been delayed.

I hope I am wrong.

Share

Santa Barbara requires jail time for giving out plastic straws

Fascist California: The city of Santa Barbara has now passed a law that will impose jail time to any restaurant employee who hands out plastic straws.

The city of Santa Barbara has passed an ordinance that will allow restaurant employees to be punished with up to six months of jail time or a $1,000 fine for giving plastic straws to their customers.

The bill was passed unanimously last Tuesday, and covers bars, restaurants, and other food-service businesses. Establishments will still be allowed to hand out plastic stirrers, but only if customers request them.

This is always how fascist states begin, by passing what seems to be very innocuous laws that have golden and pure good intentions. They they pass more laws, and more laws, and impose stricter rules, and demand more and more from everyone, until the only individuals who are free are those in charge, since none of these rules are ever applied to them.

California has been traveling this road already for many years. They are right now about a decade behind Venezuela. I would not move there, at this time, if I were you. You will regret it.

Share

Trump administration proposes revisions to Endangered Species Act

The Trump administration has proposed some regulatory revisions to Endangered Species Act that would scale back somewhat its sometime draconian powers.

The proposed regulatory changes are both technical and consequential. One, for instance, bears the deceptively dull title of “elimination of blanket 4(d) rule” (E&E News PM, 4 April). The ESA prohibits the “take” of species designated as endangered, while Section 4(d) of the law allows the agency to establish special regulations for threatened species. In 1978, FWS used this authority to extend the prohibition of take to all threatened species. This is known as the “blanket 4(d) rule.”

Take covers a wide range of actions, including those that “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect” a threatened or endangered species. This blanket 4(d) rule for threatened species can be modified by a species-specific 4(d) rule.

Conservatives and private-property advocates have previously sought to scale back the blanket 4(d) rule, which they say erases what should be a meaningful distinction between threatened and endangered species. The proposal would cover only future listings. “Some of our regulations were promulgated back in 1986, and frankly, a great deal has been learned by the agencies administering the act and by the public,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters today.

Another change would establish that the “foreseeable future” definition used in making ESA listing decisions extends only so far as officials “can reasonably determine that the conditions posing the potential danger of extinction are probable.”

A potentially key change involves critical habitats, which are areas important for recovery of a species. Sometimes an area can be considered important for recovery even when it is not currently occupied by the species in question. Under the new proposal, FWS and NOAA Fisheries will designate unoccupied critical habitat only when the occupied areas are inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species or if inclusion of unoccupied areas would yield certain other specified benefits.

In some “rare” cases, officials say, there may be no critical habitat designated.

The article above, from the journal Science, shocked me by its reasonable discussion of these proposed changes. I had expected an anti-Trump screed, similar to the original version of this Daily Mail article from yesterday. Today it reads more reasonably, but yesterday the article was far more devoted to airing opposition to the Trump proposals.

No matter. There is madness out there, it has taken possession of the entire anti-Trump community. It won’t make a difference how reasonable the administration’s proposals might be, there will be over-the-top declarations about the evils of these proposals and how they will destroy everything.

Share

SpaceX’s first test crew Dragon capsule arrives in Florida

Capitalism in space: The first man-rated Dragon capsule set to fly has arrived in Florida to be prepped for launch.

Even though the vehicle is called a “Crew Dragon,” this Dragon won’t carry crew on its first flight. Instead, it’s due to make an uncrewed practice run to the space station during what’s known as Demonstration Mission 1, or DM-1.

Before this week’s shipment to Florida, the Dragon underwent thermal vacuum tests as well as acoustic tests at NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. Today SpaceX showed off a picture of the Crew Dragon, which is a redesigned, beefed-up version of its robotic cargo-carrying Dragon, via Twitter and Instagram.

NASA’s current schedule calls for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to launch the DM-1 mission next month from Kennedy Space Center. However, that schedule is dependent not only on the pace of preparations, but also on the timetable for station arrivals and departures.

SpaceX is clearly on schedule to fly the first unmanned test flight in September, and the first manned flight in January 2019. And once that manned flight take place, I can see no reason why operational flights shouldn’t follow soon thereafter.

Yet, NASA said earlier this week that those operational flights will almost certainly be delayed until 2020, mainly because SpaceX might not be able to get the paperwork filled out fast enough.

Here’s my prediction: If SpaceX flies that manned mission in early 2019, expect their operational flights to begin soon thereafter, not in 2020. NASA will have no choice but to accept the capsule and begin flights.

Share

A science journal describes how evil Trump is destroying EPA

Link here.

If you have no idea why we have Trump, and why we are likely to get more of him, read this article from the science journal Nature. It is a carefully written screed, written entirely from the point of view of those hostile to Trump and his effort to rein in the EPA’s regulatory culture. No one is interviewed to give the Trump perspective, and even if some had been, the author is so certain that Trump is evil and wrong in his efforts that I am sure the Trump perspective would have been misinterpreted, or even slandered. (This I am sure is why the article says that EPA management did not “respond to requests to comment on the article’s allegations.” The allegations were already set. Nothing anyone said from the administration would change those conclusions.)

Still, I am certain the author could have gotten opinions from some of the skeptical scientists whom the Trump administration has brought in to advise EPA. None however were interviewed.

What is most embarrassing about the article is its description of two of the main changes the Trump administration has imposed on EPA to widen and make more transparent the scientific work it does. First,
» Read more

Share

Israel considers a loosening of its gun laws

The Israeli government is considering a relaxing of its gun laws in order to allow more ordinary citizens the ability to own and carry guns for self defense.

Israel is mulling relaxing gun rules that will allow up to 40,000 more people to get weapons, the local media reports. Gun-lobbying politicians hope the measure will help ordinary citizens to neutralize “terrorists.”

The Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan proposed to allow any Israeli citizen who passed rifle training in the IDF to apply for a gun license, Tel-Aviv-based daily Haartez reported on Sunday. According to the paper, the required level of training for the license will be equivalent to the one of an IDF combat infantry soldier. If introduced, the measure will be a win for Israel’s gun lobby that had been fighting to lower the bar for gun ownership in order to help regular citizens defend themselves during terror attacks.

“Sending the citizens of Israel to protect themselves with pizza trays, selfie sticks, guitars and umbrellas is a crime of the state against its citizens,” politician Amir Ohana, who leads the gun lobby caucus in the nation’s parliament told Haaretz. “A law abiding citizen, who has the basic skill required, is entitled to be able to defend himself and his surroundings.”

It is simple common sense. It is the same common sense the required all citizens in the American west to know how to use a gun or rifle, and to be armed. Unfortunately, Israel does not have a second amendment, so the right to bear arms is something that the government can give or take, depending on who wins elections.

Share

Billions to replace or decommission thousands of wind turbines

The unintended consequences of good intentions: The tens of thousands of wind turbines installed in the last two decades are wearing out, and no one has the billions it will cost to either replace them or decommission them.

The life span of a wind turbine, power companies say, is between 20 and 25 years. But in Europe, with a much longer history of wind power generation, the life of a turbine appears to be somewhat less. “We don’t know with certainty the life spans of current turbines,” said Lisa Linowes, executive director of WindAction Group, a nonprofit which studies landowner rights and the impact of the wind energy industry. Its funding, according to its website, comes from environmentalists, energy experts and public donations and not the fossil fuel industry.

Linowes said most of the wind turbines operating within the United States have been put in place within the past 10 years. In Texas, most have become operational since 2005. “So we’re coming in on 10 years of life and we’re seeing blades need to be replaced, cells need to be replaced, so it’s unlikely they’re going to get 20 years out of these turbines,” she said.

Estimates put the tear-down cost of a single modern wind turbine, which can rise from 250 to 500 feet above the ground, at $200,000. With more than 50,000 wind turbines spinning in the United States, decommissioning costs are estimated at around $10 billion.

In Texas, there are approximately 12,000 turbines operational in the state. Decommissioning these turbines could cost as much as $2.3 billion. Which means landowners and counties in Texas could be on the hook for tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars if officials determine non-functional wind turbines need to be removed.

Or if that proves to be too costly, as seems likely, some areas of the state could become post-apocalyptic wastelands steepled with teetering and fallen wind turbines, locked in a rigor mortis of obsolescence.

The key here is that wind power is simply not profitable. The turbines were built almost exclusively because of giant federal subsidies — increased significantly during the Obama administration — that are expected to cost taxpayers almost $24 billion from 2016 to 2020.

Those subsidies might disappear under the Trump administration, but even if they don’t, they aren’t there to remove turbines but to build them. The companies that built the turbines aren’t making enough to pay for their replacement.

Share

Trump replaces Obama’s oceans policy

President Trump yesterday issued an executive order replacing the oceans policy Obama had established with a policy that emphasizes “…the economy, security, global competitiveness, and well-being of the United States.”

The full executive order is here. The Science article at the link above not surprisingly provides quotes from a number of Trump opponents, including the head of NOAA during Obama’s administration, to express their opposition to this change.

One author of the Obama oceans policy is disappointed. The Trump policy “represents a significant step backward, a throwback to the 1960s when the primary focus was on aggressively expanding the use of the ocean with the assumption that it is so immense, so bountiful that it must be inexhaustible,” marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco, who led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Obama, tells ScienceInsider. “We learned through painful experience that the ocean is indeed exhaustible, but we also learned that if we are smart about how we use the ocean, it can provide a wealth of benefits for decades and decades.”

Obama’s policy had emphasized “stewardship,” she notes—a word not used in the new order. Trump “blatantly rejects this all-important focus on stewardship,” Lubchenco says. “Put another way, the policy reflects a shift from ‘use it without using it up’ to a very short-sighted and cavalier ‘use it aggressively and irresponsibly.’”

Lubchenco is significantly overstating the negatives of Trump’s new policy. Its language is hardly “aggressive” or “irresponsible.” It does shift the focus from restricting the use of the oceans by regulation to encouraging their use for the “economic, security, and environmental benefits for present and future generations of Americans.” It that context the policy recognizes that “clean, healthy waters” are essential to provide those benefits.

I suspect that little will really change with this order. It will take years, if ever, to get the federal bureaucracy to shift its culture from controlling what Americans do to working with them. Nonetheless, this order demonstrates that Trump, unlike the past two Republican presidents, is serious about shifting federal policy in a conservative and less intrusive direction. The Bushes mouthed conservative ideas, but did little to stop the over-regulation imposed by the federal government. Bush Jr was especially worthless, as he did practically nothing to overturn the regulations that Clinton imposed, and in many ways supplemented or encouraged more regulation.

Share

S7 Space wants to build Soviet era rocket engines

The private Russian company S7 Space, which recently took over Sea Launch, wants to buy the blueprints and resume building the Soviet era rocket engines developed for the N1 heavy-lift rocket.

Russia’s S7 Space, part of the S7 Group, plans to build a plant in Samara to produce Soviet-designed NK-33 and NK-43 rocket engines for super heavy-lift launch vehicles and intends to purchase production capacities from the state-owned United Engine Corporation (UEC) for this purpose, S7 Space General Director Sergey Sopov said in an interview.

“We would like to buy from the state the well-known engines NK-33 and NK-43, produced earlier by the Samara-based Kuznetsov plant, as well as the documentation, equipment, technical backlog. In general, everything that has survived on this theme from the Soviet program. We intend to restore production and build our own rocket engine plant in Samara,” Sopov said in an interview to be published in the Vedomosti newspaper.

As with everything now in Russia, this company not only needs to buy the rights to these engines, it needs to get government permission to do this. Also, because it will take five to six years to get the new engine plant up and running, they plan in the interim to use the available engines left over from the 1960s. Considering the launch failure caused by one of these engines in an Orbital ATK Antares launch, I am not sure this is wise.

Overall, S7 Space has the right idea. The company wants to compete, and it wants to innovate. Whether it can do so in the top-down culture of Russia remains the unanswered question.

Share

Proposal to split California into three states makes ballot

A proposal to split California into three states has obtained sufficient signatures to be placed on the ballot in November.

Adding the proposal to the ballot is the first in a long number of steps that would be required to actually split the country’s largest state. Even if California voters supported the proposal in November, the California legislature would still have to vote in favor of it. The breakup would also likely be challenged in court and would need congressional approval, a tough get in today’s hyperpartisan Washington.

The initiative proposes the state to be split into three new states: California, Northern California and Southern California. Each state, though different in size, would have roughly the same population, according to the proposal.

I would not be surprised if the voters approve this proposal, as the state’s fascist and leftist urban areas along the coast have been making life miserable for the rest of the state. And when you treat people badly, they tend to vote against you.

Whether it can make it through the state legislature, dominated by the left, is more doubtful. It is likely the split would reduce the left’s power, and since the legislature is controlled by the left, I suspect they will not go along.

Share

California police raid home, confiscate guns, from man who tried to register AR-15

Fascist California: Police raided the home and confiscated the guns of a man who had made a sincere effort to follow new California laws requiring the registration of his AR-15.

The man also now faces a dozen felony charges.

Jeffrey Scott Kirschenmann attempted to register an AR-15 with the California Department of Justice last month but instead found himself in significant legal trouble. The California DOJ accused Kirschenmann of illegally modifying the rifle he attempted to register. Law enforcement officials raided his home in Bakersfield before ultimately confiscating a dozen firearms and a few hundred rounds of ammunition, then charging him with a dozen felonies, KGET reports. Kirschenmann was accused of possession of assault weapons, two silencers, and something referred to as a “multi-burst trigger activator.” He does not appear to have been charged with any violent crimes.

All this does is drive decent ordinary gun-owners underground. It makes them criminals for doing nothing morally wrong, and thus a target that the state can now oppress.

Share

China cracks down on corrupt science

The Chinese government has instituted new policies aimed at shutting down corrupt practices in journal peer review and funding that have previously encouraged scientific misconduct.

The country’s most powerful bodies, the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council, introduced a raft of reforms on 30 May aimed at improving integrity across the research spectrum, from funding and job applications to peer-review and publications.

Under the new policy, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) will be responsible for managing investigations and ruling on cases of scientific misconduct, a role previously performed by individual institutions. And for the first time, misconduct cases will be logged in a national database that is currently being designed by MOST.

Inclusion in the list could disqualify researchers from future funding or research positions, and might also affect their ability to get jobs outside academia. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences will oversee the same process for social scientists. The policy also states that MOST will establish a blacklist of ‘poor quality’ scientific journals, including domestic and international titles. Scientists who publish in these journals will receive a warning, and those papers will not be considered in assessments for promotions, jobs and grants. A couple of such blacklists already exist, but rarely are they run formally by a government agency.

In recent years China has been the source of many examples of blatant scientific misconduct, from faking data in papers to getting them peer reviewed by non-existent reviewers. This policy change is aimed at stopping this misconduct, and is likely happening because much of China’s leadership comes from its space industry, which requires honesty in its work or the rockets will crash.

At the same time, the policy gives the government great power over all scientific work, and we all know what happens eventually when you give the government great power. While the goals here are laudable, and will likely in the near future produce positive results, the long term consequences will likely end up stifling independent research.

Share

Northrop Grumman purchase of Orbital ATK approved

Capitalism in space: Northrop Grumman’s acquisition of Orbital ATK has been approved by the Federal Trade Commission.

With this purchase, the name Orbital ATK will recede into history. This division of Northrop Grumman will now be called Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. Here at Behind the Black I will simple call it Northrop Grumman.

The FTC ruling carried with it one caveat:

As a condition for the approval of the merger, the company will have to supply solid rocket motors “on a non-discriminatory basis under specified circumstances,” the FTC ruled.

Ensuring competition in the solid rocket motors industry is a key issue for the Defense Department because only two manufacturers remain in the business, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The Air Force plans to acquire a new strategic intercontinental ballistic missile, the so-called Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, with Northrop Grumman and Boeing competing for the award. The intent was for both Orbital ATK and Aerojet to supply both prime contractors. The FTC decision requires Northrop Grumman to separate its solid rocket motors business with a firewall so it can continue to support Boeing.

It will be up to the Defense Department to ensure compliance with the firewall mandate.

It is unclear from the press report what this firewall accomplishes. It sounds like there was fear that Northrop Grumman would not have sold its solid rocket boosters to competitor Boeing, but I don’t see that happening. This acquisition was designed to put Northrop Grumman back in the rocket business just as that business is booming. Part of that business is selling solid rockets.

Either way, the company that David Thompson started in the early 1980s to challenge the big space companies, Orbital Sciences, has now completely vanished into one of those big space companies.

Share

California outlaws same day laundry and showers

Fascist California: A new draconian law in California makes it a crime to shower and do laundry on the same day.

Essentially, the law limits water use to levels that make it impossible to shower/bathe and do laundry on the same day. It also threatens fines of $1,000 and $10,000 per day, and requires water utilities to track customer use to find violators. And not surprisingly for a fascist state, it provides a method for allowing waivers to its inner circle:

Oh, and don’t worry, rich people. There will be “provisions for swimming pools, spas, and other water features.” So you can still have your pretty fountains and pools while the rest of the peons take 2 showers a week. One might wonder if ‘variances” will apply to the wealthy for their landscaping needs. “The State Water Resources Control Board, which will oversee local agencies’ progress, will also consider possible ‘variances’ for some districts that need additional allowances due to specific local circumstances.”

There’s more. Read it all. The author also makes the important point that this law will likely raise the cost of food nationwide, or cause some shortages because it will make life hell for California’s farmers.

More and more, it appears that the leftist Democrats in control in California are working to turn the Golden State into Venezuela.

Share

Customs steals $58K, a man’s life savings

Theft by government: U.S. Customs stole $58,000 from a man traveling to Albania, his life savings, though they charged him with no crime.

“This is to notify you that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) seized the property described below at Cleveland, OH on October 24, 2017: $57,330 in U.S. Currency,” the notice states. “Enforcement activity indicates that the currency was involved in a smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering operation.”

The first thing the Kazazis noticed was that the dollar amount listed was $770 less than the amount that Kazazi said he took with him. The family said that the cash was all in $100 bills, making it impossible for it to add up to $57,330.

Customs might claim this had to do with “smuggling/drug trafficking/money laundering” but they found no evidence of such when they strip-searched the man, and have followed up with no charges. And that $770 of the cash that appears missing suggests strongly that several Customs agents pocketed the difference, a nice illegal bonus for these despicable thieves.

Civil forfeiture on its face violates the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which clearly states that citizens are not to “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” These Customs agents, the Custom managers, and everyone else involved with this crime should be fired immediately.

It won’t happen, unfortunately. Our corrupt federal government no longer follows the Constitution. It follows its own corrupt power games, for its own benefit. And the people who should act to stop this, our elected officials, are part of the game.

Share

Proposed new FCC regulations would shut out student cubesats

We’re here to help you! Proposed new FCC regulations on the licensing of smallsats would raise the licensing cost for student-built cubesats so much that universities would likely have to shut down the programs.

In a move that threatens U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math, and could have repercussions throughout the country’s aerospace industry, the FCC is proposing regulations that may license some educational satellite programs as commercial enterprises. That could force schools to pay a US$135,350 annual fee – plus a $30,000 application fee for the first year – to get the federal license required for a U.S. organization to operate satellite communications.

It would be a dramatic increase in costs. The most common type of small satellite used in education is the U.S.-developed CubeSat. Each is about 10 inches on a side and weighs 2 or 3 pounds. A working CubeSat that can take pictures of the Earth can be developed for only $5,000 in parts. They’re assembled by volunteer students and launched by NASA at no charge to the school or college. Currently, most missions pay under $100 to the FCC for an experimental license, as well as several hundred dollars to the International Telecommunications Union, which coordinates satellite positions and frequencies. [emphasis mine]

If these new and very high licensing fees are correct I find them shocking. As noted in the quote, building a cubesat costs practically nothing, only about $5,000. The new fees thus add gigantic costs to the satellite’s development, and could literally wipe the market out entirely. They certainly will end most university programs that have students build cubesats as a first step towards learning how to build satellites.

These new regulations appear to be part of the Trump administration’s effort to streamline and update the regulatory process for commercial space. It also appears that the FCC has fumbled badly here in its part of this process.

Share

Chinese regulations sends recycling into the trash

New Chinese regulations on what is acceptable recycled trash is causing trash companies throughout the U.S. to send the recyclables into the trash heap.

In the past, the municipalities would have shipped much of their used paper, plastics and other scrap materials to China for processing. But as part of a broad antipollution campaign, China announced last summer that it no longer wanted to import “foreign garbage.” Since Jan. 1 it has banned imports of various types of plastic and paper, and tightened standards for materials it does accept.

While some waste managers already send their recyclable materials to be processed domestically, or are shipping more to other countries, others have been unable to find a substitute for the Chinese market. “All of a sudden, material being collected on the street doesn’t have a place to go,” said Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services, one of the largest waste managers in the country.

In other words, there is no market for recycled trash. It has no value. No one wants it. Thus, even though it sounds good and allows people to make believe they are saving the environment by recycling, it is an inefficient waste of resources, as the article notes:

Recycling companies “used to get paid” by selling off recyclable materials, said Peter Spendelow, a policy analyst for the Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon. “Now they’re paying to have someone take it away.”

In some places, including parts of Idaho, Maine and Pennsylvania, waste managers are continuing to recycle but are passing higher costs on to customers, or are considering doing so. “There are some states and some markets where mixed paper is at a negative value,” said Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, which handles 10 million tons of recycling per year. “We’ll let our customers make that decision, if they’d like to pay more and continue to recycle or to pay less and have it go to landfill.”

Economic realities always rule. The problem is when people create fantasies that have no connection with those rules.

Share
1 2 3 52