Rational Capitalist on Facebook

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Hollywood's Carbon Footprint

From their mansions high atop Malibu and Beverly Hills, Sheryl Crow, Laurie David, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ed Begley, et. al are constantly admonishing us little people to do without in order to save the environment or lessen our "carbon footprint". Now, I'm sure that they would not want to be considered hypocrites, and so I have a suggestion for Hollywood.

But first, it should be pointed out that movies and the entertainment industry in general are a recent phenomena. They are a by-product of the enormous wealth created by capitalism. Specifically, movies are an American creation. Not only is the technology and ingenuity of movie making distinctly American, but the concept of the "Hollywood ending" could only have been created in a benevolent and optimistic culture which in turn depends on the prosperity, wealth, and freedom of a capitalist culture. Twentieth century socialism gave the world Mao, Hitler, and Stalin. Capitalism and Hollywood gave the world Fred Astaire, Lucy and Mickey Mouse.

Could anyone even one hundred years ago imagine that we would have a society with so much wealth that it could afford an entire "entertainment" industry? Would they have imagined that actors and musicians considered by most at that time to be rogues (I guess not much has changed) could make enormous fortunes plying their seemingly insignificant trades? You would think that those who make their living in the entertainment industry today would have the most profound gratitude for capitalism, technology, industrial civilization and those who make that civilization possible: the scientists and businessmen. Wouldn't they understand that their profession could only exist in the most advanced, most sophisticated and wealthiest of societies? Could you imagine the Sheryl Crow's, Eddie Vedder's and Laurie David's of the world left to their own devices existing in a pre-industrial society? Yet, isn't it ironic that the A-list celebrities who benefit the most are the first ones to damn technology, capitalism and industrial civilization and to tell the rest of us to live without.

We have heard in the past from various environmental groups that we should not deliver flowers (gas), use toilet paper (trees), drive SUV's (gas), build homes (trees) etc. etc. and these things are kind of essential, right? Well, can you think of any industry less necessary and more wasteful than the entertainment industry?

Imagine how much energy is used in the making of a film? There is pre-production travel to scout locations and meetings between producers, directors and actors which surely necessitates travel locally and globally. Then the production itself entails hundreds if not thousands of people carting all manner of people and equipment from site to site by truck, bus, and airplane. There are trailers for the actors and crew during the filming. There is electricity to run the lights, cameras and equipment. The costumes use fabrics possibly made through third world exploitation. The cosmetics they use may have been tested on animals and were made by chemical companies who generate waste. Then these films must be shown in theaters which use power to light, air condition and show the film all which takes place in a giant building (which alone kills thousands of trees during construction). Then there is all the plastic in the dvd cases and the shrinkwrap on the new cases which are sold in stores which again must be lit and powered. Then there are the people at home who must travel to the video store or buy from netflix which necessitates even more travel not to mention the power being used by the millions of people watching TVs and dvd players. What about the music industry with the studios, dvds, touring buses, stadium productions, etc etc. I am just scratching the surface here and all for what - a little entertainment?

Surely, Earth Mother is very angry or sick or something and surely the air is August or July color (someone must get Talking Hawk to evaluate this).

Certainly, Hollywood of all places must do it's part in lessening man's carbon footprint on Earth Mother. So, no more movies. No more lights. No more power usage. No more travel and especially no more toilet paper. I submit that actors should simply go into the woods and pretend to be other people. They can not advertise this because that too would be wasteful so must rely on word of mouth as long as they do not drive cars or use any form of transportation to tell others. Also, they can not have wardrobe or cosmetics. They must not even burn wood to keep warm since that would harm trees (and maybe even "virgin" trees.) They can not kill other animals for food, and I think it is debatable whether they should even be allowed to pick fruit and berries off of trees as the effect of this picking may have an unknown impact on the health of the trees and therefore on the ecosystem.

Musicians must not record any more music in power gobbling studios nor travel anywhere to play unless they can carry the equipment on their person. The instruments can not be made of plastic or wood. Guitar strings must be made out of natural fibers not found or harvested from any living plant. Written music uses paper so that is out. Music will once again be handed down from one generation to the next as it once was (back when things were ideal - remember that?). They are under the same restrictions as the actors so they must simply go into the woods and play, and if anyone happens to hear them then that is fine. They must not play too loud as that might also disturb the animals and therefore have an unknown impact on the ecosystem. If anyone gets sick they must simply die and be returned to nature.

And to all those who argue that environmentalists really want to help man and not save nature for its own sake - you can see from my proposal how much better off man will be.

Earth Mother Angry say Talking Idiots


Talking Hawk, a Mohawk Indian who asked to be identified by his Indian name, pointed to the river's tea-colored water as proof that the overwhelming amount of pollution humans have produced has caused changes around the globe.

"It's August color. It's not normal," he said.

"Earth Mother is fighting back - not only from the four winds, but also from underneath," he said. "Scientists call it global warming. We call it Earth Mother getting angry."

Now, I'm sure Talking Hawk's work has been peer reviewed but I swear I learned somewhere that there was one wind and that it was one of the four elements along with earth, fire, and water. I should have paid more attention in science class.


Meanwhile, not to be outdone, Sheryl Crow or Talking Hot Chick Rocker as I prefer to call her is busy displaying her expertise on climatology:

"Mother Earth is a living organism and when she gets sick we get sick," Crow told a crowd at Southern Methodist University in Dallas during her kick-off performance Monday.

Maybe Earth Mother is sick because she had to listen to another extended jam version of "All I Wanna Do" at her concert. But seriously, it looks like Talking Hawk and Talking Hot Chick Rocker have been studying hard. And critics says Americans are falling behind in science...

Well, if you think this is not serious think again.

At a United Nations meeting last month, several American Indian leaders spoke at a session called "Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change." Also in May, tribal representatives from Alaska and northern Canada - where pack ice has vanished earlier and earlier each spring - traveled to Washington to press their case.

Atter reading a collection of writings by North American Indians (and no they were not guides to playing Blackjack) Lincoln's town manager Ted Sutton opines:

"American Natives have been telling us all along that this was going to happen to the earth," Sutton said. "They were telling us hundreds of years ago that what we were doing (to the environment) would come back and haunt us. They have been proven right. But hopefully we've started to listen to them and move back to some better management of our lives."
They have been proven right? About what? Are we being "haunted"? (I don't think I'm being haunted, and despite Crow's claims - I do not feel sick.)

Meanwhile, because of industrial civilization there are more people on earth living longer, happier lives than ever before. In fact, we have created so much wealth we can afford to pay people to conduct meetings called "Indigenous Perspectives on Climate Change" held at a giant building complex in the middle of the greatest testament to human ingenuity and man's usage of nature: New York City.

So, what is the criteria that Sutton and others use when they make these claims? Are they measuring relative to human life expectancy? Are they measuring relative to the quality of human life absent pestilence, poverty, and the daily grind of subsisting in merciless nature? Should we trade life expectancy and standard of living all in order to avoid "August color"?

I can only thank the Four Winds that we did not listen to them then and can only hope we do not go back to living in tepees, hunting buffalo and the vagaries of tribal warfare. I would have no time to blog.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Here It Comes


Says John Healy of the Seattle office of sustainability and environment: "Now the era of denial is over and we're entering the era of action."

Did I miss the Era of Proof? Oh wait, that never happened.

But if we were to pretend to live in the Era of Proof we may want to start here: 9 of the 12 warmest years in Denver occured before 1955! Out of the 10 coldest years on record, the most recent was 1997. Out of the 10 warmest years on record, the most recent was 1994. Before that, the warmest year was 1981.

But wait, didn't 502,383,290 scientists sign a letter saying they are convinced it is warming? Man, I'm so confused. I guess I'll go back to sorting the junk in my garbage and working on a way to turn recycled diapers into fuel. Also, I better go find my wallet.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Probe of Probes

I'm calling for a "probe" of the various "probes" that have been called for by politicians allegedly concerned about the high price of gasoline. Let's dub this a "meta-probe."


As I will show, the government does everything in its power to increase the price of gasoline, yet every time gas increases in price it is greeted as a shocking occurence - a Machiavellian conspiracy which can only be unravelled by a panel of government bureacrats. The bureacrats castigate the oil companies and Wall Street (naturally) and threaten them with "windfall profit" taxes among other punishments. Yet, it is the government's own policies which are driving gas prices higher. (And as always, supply and demand can have nothing to do with it.)

So what is causing recent increases in the price of gasoline?

Here is a link demonstrating how the government's push for biofuels is causing domestic producers to scale back plans for expanding refining capacity. Note, that biofuels is one of the campaign promises that Edwards puts forth in his "plan" to solve high gas prices!!!http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/24/business/24refinery.html?ei=5065&en=88a4750c6b8de113&ex=1180584000&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print

Given the cost and onerous regulations involved in increasing refinery capacity or building new refineries, a company would need decades of recovery time in order to even consider undertaking such an investment. This alone has led to no new net refinery capacity since the early 1980s. Now, given the uncertainty of government policy in pushing and forcing alternative fuels, companies will simply not increase capacity which will result in decreased supply and higher costs.

Another obvious cause is local, state, and federal taxes on the purchase of gas which account for a significant portion of the price of a gallon. Depending on the state, it can run as much as 40 cents per gallon or more.

Of course sales taxes are obvious. Regulations and taxes on refiners are a hidden tax. The government has erected a byzantine web of environmental regulations which make it difficult or impossible to create new refineries.


The combination of high taxes and complicated regulations have prevented the construction of refineries in the United States since 1976. Aramco, an oil company owned by Saudi Arabia, has even offered to build two new refineries in the United States; but only if "someone else obtains all the necessary environmental permits first." It is not surprising that America's refining capacity hasn't increased since the early eighties.

If this is not enough, the government imposes tariffs on imports of refined gasoline to give domestic refiners an advantage. This naturally leads to inefficient domestic production and higher prices.

Protectionism such as this allows inefficient refineries to continue to operate within the United States, while competitors are prevented from importing gas at market prices. From the consumers' perspective, the extra one cent on the gallon translates into 42 cents on the barrel, and at 20 million barrels per day the American consumer spends an extra $8.4 million each day to support domestic refineries.

So, if taxes, regulations, tariffs, and government policy promoting alternative fuels are not enough what about the raw price of crude oil which as gone from about $10 a barrel 7 years ago to about $64 a barrel today. Government restrictions on domestic and off-shore drilling inspired by the ecology movement has led to a massive decrease in domestic drilling and further increased our reliance on the Middle East and other rogue foreign exporters (like the corrupt despots of Venezuela and Nigeria...). Naturally, this reliance on the Middle East and others has obvious geopolitical implications as you may have noticed.


Along with high taxes, environmental regulations--justified in the name of protecting nature from human activity--have dramatically increased the production costs, and thus the price, of oil and gasoline.

The government, for example, has closed huge areas to oil drilling, including the uninhabited wilderness of ANWR and the out-of-sight waters over the Atlantic and Pacific continental shelves. This of course significantly reduces the domestic supply of oil.

The government has also passed onerous environmental regulations that make it uneconomical for many old refineries to keep producing (50 out of 194 refineries were shut down from 1990 to 2004) and discourage new refineries from being built (no major refinery has been built in the last 30 years).


After an intense four-year struggle, Australian energy company BHP Billiton's attempt to build a Liquefied Natural Gas facility off the coast of California has been effectively killed by the state's Lands Commission, which voted 2-1 that its "Environmental Impact Report" was unsatisfactory.

If all of this is not enough to cause outrage over the government's role in increasing the price of gas - consider the effect of inflation! Inflation is an increase in the money supply caused by the government. The effect of "too many dollars chasing too few goods" is an across the board increase in the price of everything. Inflation is a hidden tax on everybody and is caused by government policy, namely the federal reserve printing money either to "stimulate" the economy or to fund the government's massive budget deficits. (see George Reisman at www.capitalism.net for a treatise on this topic.)

So please join me in calling for a meta-probe of the government's probes to demand that the government stop probing oil companies and begin to probe its own policies which cause the price of gasoline to be significantly higher than it should be and that increases our dependence on maniacal sheiks and dictators throughout the world.