Romney and Holdren Sittin’ In A Tree

Update: Somehow—I don’t know how—the beginning of this piece has disappeared. I’ll try to find it. Yeesh.

Mitt Romeny, when Governor:

Massachusetts continues to be committed to improving air quality for all our citizens.These carbon emission limits will provide real and immediate progress in the battle to improve our environment,” Romney said.

“They help us accomplish our environmental goals while protecting jobs and the economy.” Massachusetts is the first and only state to set CO2 emissions limits on power plants. The limits, which target the six largest and oldest power plants in the state, are the toughest in the nation and are designed to lower emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury from power plant smokestacks

Battle? As in bloody warfare? The belligerent rhetoric soars when he says his new laws are the “toughest in the nation.” And notice as with all let’s-make-the-government-larger bureaucrats, he claims that increasing the regulatory burden of business will “protect” jobs and boost the economy.

So, did it boost the economy and increase the electricity supply? According to HotAir:

So what has happened to Massachusetts’ electrical production since signing these regulations into law? According to the EIA, whose latest data is for 2009, it dropped 18% in four years, from over 46 billion megawatt hours to 38 billion. International imports, however, went from 697 million megawatt hours in 2006 to 4.177 billion megawatt hours two years later, and to almost 5 billion megawatt hours in 2009, more than twice the amount imported in any of the previous twenty years.

Unstated is that imported electricity is more costly than home-grown electricity, after adjusting for lost jobs, etc.. The power plants targeted by the new law lowered their outputs, sure enough, and the amount of effluvia released in the atmosphere was decreased in Massachusetts. But it was increased elsewhere, more or less balancing out. Mr Romney must have been shocked to learn that his policies had the opposite of their stated goals. John Holdren

John Holdren is Barack Obama’s, just as he was, and might yet be again, Mitt Romney’s Science Advisor. Holdren himself is a follower of Paul “The End Is Near—And This Time I Mean It” Ehrlich. He and his idol wrote a paper in 1969 in which they said that if “population control measures are not initiated immediately, and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come.”

Population control measures (except in China; keep reading) were not initiated. Yet the misery failed to arrive. This is what is known as a busted forecast, which says that the theory underlying the forecast was wrong. As in false. As in untrue. As in not to be trusted nor relied upon. Which is why, of course, Holdren has not changed his mind and still believes the theory.

He believes it so strongly that no amount of evidence can dissuade him. His textbook discusses the eugenical use of “forced sterilization” for women who have more kids than the government-alloted maximum. That’s China’s policy, of course.

For these views, he won a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” award in 1981. The folks at the American Association for the Advancement of Science thought so much of him they elected him President.

Holdren is sympatico with James Hansen and blames the rise of skepticism about global warming eschatology on communications professionals employed by oil companies to spread disinformation, etc.

The ideology-driven Holdren has been preaching “peak oil“—roughly the belief that we have now reached the peak in oil production, which means that tomorrow it must begin decreasing—since the late 1970s. Each year he makes this prediction, he somehow forgets that he made the same one last year, yet each year oil production rises.

The man will not abide critics. He especially loathes moderate Bjørn Lomborg, who, Holdren fumes, “needlessly muddled public understanding and wasted immense amounts of the time of capable people who have had to take on the task of rebutting him.”

Well! This argues for creating a new law which bans people saying things which Holdren believes are not true. If only we could silence critics, everything would function smoothly. Mankind would reach its true potential. This might require eliminating the odd undesirable through government-planned birth control, true. But you can’t make a Utopian omelette without breaking a few eggs.

This is the man President Obama chose to advise him on what is best scientifically. Will Mitt Romney continue Holdren’s tenure?


  1. Just as a note, because of restrictions it is actually less expensive in strictly monetary terms to import electricity from HydroQuebec than to manufacture it it Massachusetts, even after the cost of transmission. Mind you it, is unsustainable in the long run because HydroQuebec will not commit it’s excess capacity (very little emissions for HydroQuebec to produce more electricity with it’s existing facilities) for more than a few years at a time (they want to ensure that they can meet the increasing demands in Canada before they export any electricity). Also note that there is no room for expansion without a new transmission line from Quebec, which will probably take a minimum of 3 years of litigation before it can be built, if it even can be legally built ( a transmission line would come through NH or Vt, which makes it more likely it will be able to be built but the feds have to sign off which causes problems). Electricity economics 101, the major factor in the cost of electricity is the capital investment. If one could build a new power generation facility in Mass. especially without having to double the build cost due to litigation and regulation, it would be cheaper to use local electricity, but no one is foolish enough to think that is going to happen.

    As for Erlich, I believe he trying for the busted clock win. If he keeps saying that it is 3:27 the end is near long enough, he will eventually be close enough to right to claim vindication. The same with Holdren and peak oil, eventually Holdren will be right if he can just live long enough – although the concept of peak oil is no longer as critical as it was in the 1970s when we had only discovered enough oil for 20 years at the then current rate of use while today we have about 180 years worth of oil the at current rate of use even if never discover another drop of oil.

    (Peak Oil doesn’t occur when production exceeds demand, it occurs when the amount oil in newly discovered sources equals the depletion of already discovered sources. When we reach Peak Oil we can darn well stabilize at that level of demand and keep on until some other factor intervenes (like we start discovering less oil than we use, but that’s a different scenario). Peak oil was a more serious concern when only the US and parts of Europe were serious oil users and reaching Peak Oil implied telling 90% of the world that they weren’t going to get electric lights but the people who had them were keeping theirs, now the numbers are reversed with 90% of the world being serious oil users and Peak Oil is not global tranquility threatening have versus have-not threat that it was then. Not that Peak Oil wouldn’t be a bad thing, but stopping development of the oil-based economy at the level it is now would not be an existential tragedy for the nations of the world like it would have been in the 1970s. Sorry about the long distraction but I’ve been following Peak Oil for over 3 decades and it is a pet peeve of mine.)

  2. Wow. Thank you Professor. You, too, max. I wondered why I seemed more drawn to Cain than Romney but just couldn’t put my finger on it. Thought it was because one reminded me of an earnest and well-meaning entrepreneur and the other a snake-oil salesman. But I see it is deeper and more intuitive than that. One is logical and inquiring, the other fronts for slicksters and con artists.

  3. ANYONE will be better than Obama, so I suppose I will hold my nose and vote for Romney if it comes to it, but Romney’s past positions and refusal to admit to past error in things like this drain away any enthusiasm (which equals campaign contributioins).

    It just keeps amazing me, and it shouldn’t, how people will commit to a position and keep doubling down on it as more and more evidence piles up that it is wrong. The Democrats’ ideas about how to revive the economy are the most obviousl case in point right now, but Obama’s utterly failed foreign policy toward Iran, Israel-Palestinians, Europe also; the Afghan war that really is turning into a quagmire, now unites both Dems and GOPs in ignoring “the bleeding obvious” (as Basil Fawlty once put it).

    And environmental shrinkism, the felt need to crush progress rather than balance progress and its environmental consequences, should be high on the list.

    I wish someone would look seriously at what, exactly happened ca. 1969-71. By our best measures, that is when real per worker income peaked (subsequent increases in household income were due to increased labor force participation by women), it is also the birth of the EPA as a cabinet-level department, going off the international gold standard, enshrining affirmative action in case law, and several other things; it is about 5 years after the all-time peak in raw SAT scores (1964 iirc) so it is when those people graduated college. In hindsight it looks like a real inflection point.

  4. Briggs, you mention Holdren as Romney’s Science Advisor. What years did he serve in that position?

    Or is this just referring to the 2005 memo from the Governor’s office that indicates the administration had consulted Holdren (and others) in the process of putting together their environmental regulations?

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