Hybrid Tax Credits Promote Inefficiency

QuickPoint!

Companies buying hybrid gas-electric cars might be saving more on their taxes than on fuel. The State of Oregon now offers businesses tax credits worth thousands of dollars when they purchase hybrid vehicles. The underlying rationale has been to promote fuel-efficiency, yet cars with higher gas mileages are not rewarded with a larger tax credit. Instead, the size of the credit is based on the

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De-politicizing Science

Cascade CommentaryFred W. Decker

Politicians often use science as a source of statements to place their policy proposals beyond debate. One of their policy goals is to minimize risk. Nothing is without risk, but politicians and policy advocates often treat risk as an absolute hazard to eliminate at all costs, not as one factor to weigh with a proposal’s other detriments and rewards. A politician can gain greatly by uncovering a risk and lose greatly by championing a risky proposal, even if its benefits far outweigh its risks. When politicians can’t manipulate and exploit science to support their policy proposals, they will sometimes try to suppress its findings. Scientists can play the risk game, too, usually when writing proposals for government-funded research.

The new book, Politicizing Science: The Alchemy of Policymaking, contains essays by eleven scientists telling how political uses of science too often corrupt the scientific search for truth. The Hoover Institution and the George C. Marshall Institute published the book in the hope that its insights will promote the beneficial use of science and “discourage purely opportunistic behavior.”

Unproven assertions of risk are accepted as fact because it is impossible to prove the negative that contradicts them. Editor Michael Gough observes that, lacking a means of such verification, the “consensus” of some committee is often promoted to support eliminating a particular risk.

The most avid activists advance the “precautionary principle,” which reasons that if something’s dangers are unknown, it should be banned completely, just to be on the safe side. Believers in the precautionary principle ignore any potential benefits of a device or substance. DDT saved hundreds of millions of human lives by killing the mosquitoes that spread malaria, but was banned because of its potential to harm certain birds.

Politicizing Science includes many accounts of science-abusing processes in public policy and government regulation, covering issues ranging from nuclear power generation to “global warming.” A chapter on chemical use in Sweden tells how scientific guidance was displaced by the precautionary principle, resulting in significant over-regulation.

In his essay “Science or Political Science,” Patrick J. Michaels evaluates the U. S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA), the document that alleges the existence of ongoing “global warming” and which is so often used by alarmists to urge ratification of the Kyoto protocol. Prof. Michaels compared the USNA’s climate-change models with the actual observed temperatures during the 20th century and found the models did “worse than no model at all” in predicting temperatures. Because science consists of seeing whether predictions made from an asserted hypothesis do indeed happen, a true scientific model of climate change would actually predict climate change. Michaels observes that the present USNA is “clearly not science” and more like a “politically based polemic.” He recommends that a new USNA be created by a team of objective-minded scientists.

Other essays in Politicizing Science address such topics as spotted owls, lynx, wolves, DDT, dioxins, PCBs, endocrine disrupters, carcinogens, pharmaceuticals, herbicides, pesticides, Agent Orange, cold fusion and the competition for water. “Science Gored” recounts the bizarre claims and “unprecedented interference” by Al Gore in anti-technology actions.

The final essay rivals a detective story for suspense as Dr. S. Fred Singer reveals what was uncovered in pre-trial discovery when Dr. Singer found it necessary to defend himself and the late Dr. Roger Revelle by suing a Harvard scientist for libel. The very last page prints the retraction and apology statement from a scientist who had served as a political henchman against doctors Revelle and Singer. Dr. Singer’s account inspires the hope that legitimate science will meet worthy advocates in court and in public opinion.

Fred W. Decker, Ph.D. is a forensic meteorologist on the Emeritus Faculty of
Oregon State University; a Lt. Col., USAFR-Ret, from duty with the Air Weather
Service; was a senior education executive in the Reagan administration and is an
academic advisor to Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon think tank.

Attorney General begs for more federal regulation

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

On October 23 the Attorneys General for 12 states, including Oregon, joined with three cities and 14 environmental groups to sue the federal government for its failure to begin regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) as a “pollutant” under the Clean Air Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded earlier this year that it has no legal authority to regulate CO2.

That environmental groups are suing is no surprise; the question is

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The Mythical World of Transit-Oriented Development: Light Rail and the Orenco Neighborhood, Hillsboro, Oregon

John A. Charles, Jr.

Executive Summary

During the past decade, Portland-area planners have embraced Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) as the dominant land use/transportation strategy. They assert that TOD, especially based on light rail, will reduce traffic congestion, increase transit use, improve air quality, and attract private investment.

Dozens of TODs have been constructed in the Portland region since 1990, with several winning national acclaim. Most have received public subsidies, on the assumption that the public benefits of TOD outweigh the costs. However, little is known about how transit-oriented projects actually perform once they are built, in terms of transit use and auto dependency. The purpose of this analysis—the first in a series of Portland, Oregon TOD case studies—is to begin filling in that gap by analyzing one of the most well-known TODs in the country, Orenco Station.

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Paving the rails with gold

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Since the voter defeat of Measure 28, public officials in the Portland region have proposed numerous emergency tax plans to stave off service cuts such as shortened school years. Oddly, these same elected officials are warmly embracing the joint proposal of Metro and TriMet to spend $850 million building two new light rail lines.

According to Metro’s Environmental Impact Statement, each new trip on light rail will cost

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Sustainable development

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The United Nations conference on sustainable development is winding down after a week of hand-wringing in Johannesburg, South Africa. As expected, the United States served as an international piñata for many of the delegates from poor nations. In speech after speech, the U.S. was criticized for its level of affluence, especially relative to other nations. South African President Thabo Mbeki, opening the conference, claimed that “a global human society based on poverty for many and prosperity for a few, is unsustainable.”

However, the notion that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is

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Lesson from New Zealand: Plow under U.S. farm subsidies

QuickPoint!

President Bush showed his anti-consumer, anti-taxpayer side on Monday, May 13: he signed legislation that increased farm subsidies by $83 billion. This legislation, supported by Oregon’s U.S. Senators Smith and Wyden, and Representatives Wu, Walden and Hooley, shows corporate welfare is alive and kicking in Washington, DC with bi-partisan support.

U.S. farm subsidies were to have gradually ended with the

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