Investigation: US green groups illegally operating as agents of Chinese regime

Environmental advocacy groups that take the Defense Department to court appear to operate as foreign agents working to help China and undermine the U.S. Navy and America’s military readiness in the Asia-Pacific region, congressional leaders suggest.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee,  called on two environmental groups to submit documents that “identify any policies or procedures” the groups took to ensure compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Bishop and Westerman last month wrote the two groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.

In a letter to Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the two Republican lawmakers expressed concern about China’s “extensive perception-management campaign” and the “NRDC’s role” in assisting these efforts.

The environmental group’s press releases and other written correspondence “consistently praise the Chinese government’s environmental initiatives and promote the image of China as a global environmental leader,” their letter says.

An aide to the House committee told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that there is “a significant level of engagement between the NRDC and Chinese government officials.”

And, the aide said, “the American people should know about the group’s relationship with foreign governments whether or not the connection is direct or indirect.”

The New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit advocacy group founded in 1970, has $306.2 million in net assets, according to tax records. The group’s website says it “works to safeguard the earth” and has more than 3 million members and “online activists.”

The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Arizona, was founded in 1989 and has $18.3 million in net assets, tax records show.  The group’s mission is “to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction,” and it has about 1.6 million members, according to its website.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires anyone who acts as an agent of foreign principals “in a political or quasi-political capacity” to disclose that relationship periodically, as well as all “activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities,” according to the Justice Department.

The law, which predates World War II, is the subject of legislation from Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., that he says “corrects long-standing loopholes exploited by lobbyists of foreign entities to conceal their work to influence U.S. government activities.” The bill also clarifies reporting requirements, authorizes investigative tools, and establishes enforcement safeguards, according to Johnson’s office.

Both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity complied with June deadlines set by Bishop’s House committee to submit information detailing compliance with the law.

Neither group is registered as a foreign agent, and both maintain they operate in America’s national interest despite their close ties to foreign governments and litigation against the U.S. military.

A second committee aide told The Daily Signal that up until now the requirements of the Foreign Agents Registration Act have not been as strictly enforced as they should be.

“Historically, the Justice Department has not utilized FARA, and there’s limited case law and a need for clarity,” the second aide said.

The House Judiciary Committee approved Johnson’s bill in January, but the full House has not taken it up. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced a companion bill.

Lawsuits Against Navy Draw Scrutiny

The political activism of the Natural Resources Defense Council continues to coincide with China’s geopolitical interests, while it regularly files lawsuits against the Pentagon aimed at constraining military exercises vital to national security, Bishop and Westerman say in their letter to the NRDC.

The organization “collaborates with Chinese government entities deeply involved in Chinese efforts to assert sovereignty over the South China Sea in contravention of international law,” the two Republicans say. It also works to “discredit those skeptical of China’s commitment to pollution reduction targets” who seek to report honestly on environmental data, their letter says:

When engaging on environmental issues concerning China, the NRDC appears to practice self-censorship, issue selection bias, and generally refrains from criticizing Chinese officials. … Of note, the NRDC collaborates with Chinese government entities that are deeply involved in Chinese efforts to assert sovereignty over the South China Sea in contravention of international law.

By contrast, the NRDC takes an adversarial approach to its advocacy practices in the United States. In fundraising materials, the NRDC claims to have ‘sued the [U.S. government] about once every 10 days’ since President Trump was inaugurated. Over the last two decades your organization has also sued the U.S. Navy multiple times to stop or drastically limited naval training exercises in the Pacific arguing that navy sonar and anti-submarine warfare drills harm marine life. We are unaware of the NRDC having made similar efforts to curtail naval exercises by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Although China is “actually the world’s top polluter,” the first committee aide told The Daily Signal, the NRDC goes to great lengths to avoid criticizing the Beijing government’s actual environmental record.

“The NRDC is totally in the tank for China, and they are the MSNBC news for China,” the aide said. “The NRDC is developing the notion that China is an environmental leader and promotes the idea that China can be trusted to reduce emissions. When you see the NRDC photos of China, they show how beautiful and clean China is, but they don’t say anything about all the pollution. Instead, we get this heavenly, angelic portrayal of China.”

The Republican lawmakers’ letter to Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, focuses on a lawsuit the group filed against the Defense Department in concert with a coalition of environmental groups in Japan and the U.S. The suit calls for halting the planned relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a less-populated part of the Japanese island of Okinawa.  

The Center for Biological Diversity “appears to have engaged in political activities within the United States on behalf of the government of the Japanese Prefecture of Okinawa and other foreign entities to influence plans regarding [Marine Corps Air Station] Futenma’s relocation,” the letter says.

Both the U.S. and the central government in Japan have made relocation of Futenma a priority, the letter explains.

“The committee seeks clarification about the nature of CBD’s close relationship with Okinawan government officials and foreign environmental groups,” the congressmen write.

Green Activists Deny Being Foreign Agents

In their letters to the two environmental groups, Bishop and Westerman make the point that the Foreign Agents Registration Act “is clear about registration requirements for a person or group acting in the political or public interests of a foreign entity, even when done through intermediaries.”

They also highlight the penalties attached to the law, which include fines that could reach as high as $10,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

The Daily Signal emailed both environmental groups to ask their response to the committee’s letters and seek comment on the allegations that they operate as foreign agents.

Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, released a statement lashing out at Bishop:

Rob Bishop is the one working against American interests, first by trashing our national monuments and now its democratic principles at the behest of the fossil fuel industry. He’s abusing his position, tarnishing the House of Representatives and making a fool of himself with these amateurish McCarthy tactics.

The green group also provided The Daily Signal with a copy of the letter it sent to the committee, disputing the allegations.

The letter focuses on the center’s efforts to conserve the Okinawa dugong, a sea creature closely related to the manatee. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the species as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.

The center’s efforts on behalf of the dugong are “controlled and directed” by its board of directors and executive director, not any foreign interest, the letter says. Thus its activities on Okinawa “are exempt” from the law, the letter argues.

“If Reps. Bishop and Westerman are truly confused about the center’s motivation and control, it is perhaps because they abuse their position of power so regularly, and are so deeply influenced by powerful corporate donors, that they are unable to conceive of people being motivated by empathy, public interest and respect for the rule of law and democracy.”

On its website, the Center for Biological Diversity describes how it has used “innovative legal tactics to secure new protections for the dugong,” which involves litigation against U.S. military operations.  

China’s Use of ‘Lawfare’

The Natural Resources Defense Council released two statements in response to the committee.

In the first, the NRDC says it works to advance American values, and that its activities in China are to ensure “a more sustainable future for everyone.”

In the second, the group addresses a June 13 letter Bishop and Westerman sent to Defense Secretary James Mattis asking for information about the impact of environmental litigation on military readiness.

The congressmen called Mattis’ attention to already-identified acts of Chinese espionage inside the U.S. They also pointed out that “China’s employment of lawfare is inherently more difficult to detect” because the Chinese can conceal political motives behind the actions of seemingly sympathetic causes such as environmentalism.

The Republican lawmakers suggested that China may be exploiting America’s legal system as part of a larger strategy to “erode” the U.S. military advantage in the Asia-Pacific region.

“For example, the impact of marine life from the U.S. Navy’s use of active sonar and underwater explosives has been the subject of several lawsuits led by the Natural Resources Defense Council dating back to the 1990s,” Bishop and Westerman wrote Mattis.

The congressmen also cited information from the Navy describing how environmental litigation “unreasonably restricted Navy training and testing activities.”

Although the Supreme Court has concluded there hasn’t been a “documented episode of harm to a marine mammal caused by naval sonar,” their letter to Mattis notes, lower courts continue to rule otherwise with decisions that restrict naval exercises.

‘Weaponization’ of Environmental Law

Green groups typically invoke the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 in legal actions against the U.S. military. That law requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact before implementing projects.

The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing in April on what it called “Weaponization of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Implications of Environmental Lawfare.”

The committee defines lawfare as “an attempt to use the courts to damage or delegitimize projects that litigants oppose, or to distract time and resources that would otherwise go to implementing the project, or to win a public relations victory.”

The environmental law was “originally intended to increase awareness regarding the effects of federal actions on the environment,” a committee memo says, but its “vague and ambiguous language has exposed the federal government to excessive litigation and resulted in perverse outcomes for agencies, the environment and taxpayers.”

The last time reforms were made to the National Environmental Policy Act was in 1986, committee aides told The Daily Signal. Since serious national security implications are attached to environmental lawsuits against the military that cite the law, lawmakers can make a strong case for a new round of reforms, they said.

“It would be a good idea to link NEPA reform with national security, but the Department of Defense has not been helpful here,” the first aide said. “Defense Department officials won’t come right out and say NEPA is a terrible law, they will just say it’s a problem that they can work around.”

“But the Defense Department has a lot to gain from NEPA reforms, the aide added. “They would not be so bogged down in court.”

Report by Kevin Mooney. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

How ‘Green’ Energy Subsidies Transfer Wealth to the Rich

When the Golden State Warriors, who won three of the last four NBA championships, signed All-Star Demarcus Cousins, sports pundits across the country offered the same opinion: The rich just got richer.

In many respects, the same holds true for energy subsidies.

Federal energy programs promise ambiguous policy goals such as abating climate change, spurring innovation, or reducing dependence on foreign sources of energy. But they often lead to situations that help the rich at the expense of middle- and lower-income Americans. That’s because when the federal government gets involved in the energy business, it transfers billions of dollars to the production and consumption of politically preferred sources and technologies—and many of those involve the poor transferring money to the rich.

For instance, a recent study by the Pacific Research Institute found that more than 99 percent of subsidies for electrical vehicles go to households with incomes of $50,000 or higher, and nearly three-quarters go to households with an annual income of $100,000 or more.

Poorer Americans can’t access the $7,500 tax credits because of the high prices of electric vehicles, even after accounting for the generous subsidies, which means they help pay for the subsidies through their taxes but can’t themselves get eligible for the subsidies or other benefits, such as carpool lanes.

To make matters worse, some major car companies are forced to sell electric vehicles at a loss to comply with state mandates and regulations. As Wayne Winegarden of the Pacific Research Institute explains:

California, along with the nine states that have adopted California’s policy, mandates that zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) comprise a set percentage of the automobile market. The mandated minimum market share for ZEVs is currently scheduled to grow from 4.5 percent of sales in 2018, to 22 percent of the market by 2025; and Gov. Jerry Brown is even contemplating a complete ban on sales of cars with internal combustion engines after 2040.

Complying with these mandates requires companies to maintain ZEV credits that equal their share of the mandate, based on the company’s specific sales. Acquiring sufficient credits requires manufacturers that do not sell enough ZEVs to either sell ZEVs in California at a loss, purchase credits from companies whose ZEV sales exceed their credit requirements, or pay a $5,000 fine per credit that the company is short.

Consequently, the sales mandate has become a subsidy to companies, such as Tesla, that sell more ZEV-qualified vehicles than required by the mandate; and, a penalty on companies whose ZEV sales fall short of the required mandate. The $700 million earned by Tesla via these credit sales, which does not even account for all the credits Tesla has amassed, exemplifies that these subsidies and penalties can be substantial.

Energy subsidies benefit not only wealthy individuals, but also wealthy companies in the form of blatant corporate welfare. The federal government’s loan guarantee program is another subsidy program where government-backed loans have, time and again, gone to companies that simply don’t need any support from the taxpayer.

You don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface to see that some of these projects have financial backing from giant tech firms, massive energy utilities, large investment banks, and other successful corporations.

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program granted more than $1 billion in loans for Nissan and Ford to retool their factories. This program is simply a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to these massive companies. These companies should have no trouble financing a project without government-backed loans if they find it is worth the investment.

Eliminating favoritism in markets will benefit all Americans—individuals and businesses alike—not just the privileged few.

Commentary by Nicolas Loris and Bryan Cosby. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Top enviro groups’ ties to Communist regimes aim to hurt US national security

Environmental advocacy groups that take the Defense Department to court appear to operate as foreign agents working to help China and undermine the U.S. Navy and America’s military readiness in the Asia-Pacific region, congressional leaders suggest.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., chairman of the oversight and investigations subcommittee,  called on two environmental groups to submit documents that “identify any policies or procedures” the groups took to ensure compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Bishop and Westerman last month wrote the two groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity.

In a letter to Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the two Republican lawmakers expressed concern about China’s “extensive perception-management campaign” and the “NRDC’s role” in assisting these efforts.

The environmental group’s press releases and other written correspondence “consistently praise the Chinese government’s environmental initiatives and promote the image of China as a global environmental leader,” their letter says.

An aide to the House committee told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that there is “a significant level of engagement between the NRDC and Chinese government officials.”

And, the aide said, “the American people should know about the group’s relationship with foreign governments whether or not the connection is direct or indirect.”

The New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit advocacy group founded in 1970, has $306.2 million in net assets, according to tax records. The group’s website says it “works to safeguard the earth” and has more than 3 million members and “online activists.”

The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity, based in Tucson, Arizona, was founded in 1989 and has $18.3 million in net assets, tax records show.  The group’s mission is “to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction,” and it has about 1.6 million members, according to its website.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires anyone who acts as an agent of foreign principals “in a political or quasi-political capacity” to disclose that relationship periodically, as well as all “activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities,” according to the Justice Department.

The law, which predates World War II, is the subject of legislation from Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., that he says “corrects long-standing loopholes exploited by lobbyists of foreign entities to conceal their work to influence U.S. government activities.” The bill also clarifies reporting requirements, authorizes investigative tools, and establishes enforcement safeguards, according to Johnson’s office.

Both the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity complied with June deadlines set by Bishop’s House committee to submit information detailing compliance with the law.

Neither group is registered as a foreign agent, and both maintain they operate in America’s national interest despite their close ties to foreign governments and litigation against the U.S. military.

A second committee aide told The Daily Signal that up until now the requirements of the Foreign Agents Registration Act have not been as strictly enforced as they should be.

“Historically, the Justice Department has not utilized FARA, and there’s limited case law and a need for clarity,” the second aide said.

The House Judiciary Committee approved Johnson’s bill in January, but the full House has not taken it up. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced a companion bill.

Lawsuits Against Navy Draw Scrutiny

The political activism of the Natural Resources Defense Council continues to coincide with China’s geopolitical interests, while it regularly files lawsuits against the Pentagon aimed at constraining military exercises vital to national security, Bishop and Westerman say in their letter to the NRDC.

The organization “collaborates with Chinese government entities deeply involved in Chinese efforts to assert sovereignty over the South China Sea in contravention of international law,” the two Republicans say. It also works to “discredit those skeptical of China’s commitment to pollution reduction targets” who seek to report honestly on environmental data, their letter says:

When engaging on environmental issues concerning China, the NRDC appears to practice self-censorship, issue selection bias, and generally refrains from criticizing Chinese officials. … Of note, the NRDC collaborates with Chinese government entities that are deeply involved in Chinese efforts to assert sovereignty over the South China Sea in contravention of international law.

By contrast, the NRDC takes an adversarial approach to its advocacy practices in the United States. In fundraising materials, the NRDC claims to have ‘sued the [U.S. government] about once every 10 days’ since President Trump was inaugurated. Over the last two decades your organization has also sued the U.S. Navy multiple times to stop or drastically limited naval training exercises in the Pacific arguing that navy sonar and anti-submarine warfare drills harm marine life. We are unaware of the NRDC having made similar efforts to curtail naval exercises by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Although China is “actually the world’s top polluter,” the first committee aide told The Daily Signal, the NRDC goes to great lengths to avoid criticizing the Beijing government’s actual environmental record.

“The NRDC is totally in the tank for China, and they are the MSNBC news for China,” the aide said. “The NRDC is developing the notion that China is an environmental leader and promotes the idea that China can be trusted to reduce emissions. When you see the NRDC photos of China, they show how beautiful and clean China is, but they don’t say anything about all the pollution. Instead, we get this heavenly, angelic portrayal of China.”

The Republican lawmakers’ letter to Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, focuses on a lawsuit the group filed against the Defense Department in concert with a coalition of environmental groups in Japan and the U.S. The suit calls for halting the planned relocation of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to a less-populated part of the Japanese island of Okinawa.

The Center for Biological Diversity “appears to have engaged in political activities within the United States on behalf of the government of the Japanese Prefecture of Okinawa and other foreign entities to influence plans regarding [Marine Corps Air Station] Futenma’s relocation,” the letter says.

Both the U.S. and the central government in Japan have made relocation of Futenma a priority, the letter explains.

“The committee seeks clarification about the nature of CBD’s close relationship with Okinawan government officials and foreign environmental groups,” the congressmen write.

Green Activists Deny Being Foreign Agents

In their letters to the two environmental groups, Bishop and Westerman make the point that the Foreign Agents Registration Act “is clear about registration requirements for a person or group acting in the political or public interests of a foreign entity, even when done through intermediaries.”

They also highlight the penalties attached to the law, which include fines that could reach as high as $10,000 and imprisonment of up to five years.

The Daily Signal emailed both environmental groups to ask their response to the committee’s letters and seek comment on the allegations that they operate as foreign agents.

Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, released a statement lashing out at Bishop:

Rob Bishop is the one working against American interests, first by trashing our national monuments and now its democratic principles at the behest of the fossil fuel industry. He’s abusing his position, tarnishing the House of Representatives and making a fool of himself with these amateurish McCarthy tactics.

The green group also provided The Daily Signal with a copy of the letter it sent to the committee, disputing the allegations.

The letter focuses on the center’s efforts to conserve the Okinawa dugong, a sea creature closely related to the manatee. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the species as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.

The center’s efforts on behalf of the dugong are “controlled and directed” by its board of directors and executive director, not any foreign interest, the letter says. Thus its activities on Okinawa “are exempt” from the law, the letter argues.

“If Reps. Bishop and Westerman are truly confused about the center’s motivation and control, it is perhaps because they abuse their position of power so regularly, and are so deeply influenced by powerful corporate donors, that they are unable to conceive of people being motivated by empathy, public interest and respect for the rule of law and democracy.”

On its website, the Center for Biological Diversity describes how it has used “innovative legal tactics to secure new protections for the dugong,” which involves litigation against U.S. military operations.

China’s Use of ‘Lawfare’

The Natural Resources Defense Council released two statements in response to the committee.

In the first, the NRDC says it works to advance American values, and that its activities in China are to ensure “a more sustainable future for everyone.”

In the second, the group addresses a June 13 letter Bishop and Westerman sent to Defense Secretary James Mattis asking for information about the impact of environmental litigation on military readiness.

The congressmen called Mattis’ attention to already-identified acts of Chinese espionage inside the U.S. They also pointed out that “China’s employment of lawfare is inherently more difficult to detect” because the Chinese can conceal political motives behind the actions of seemingly sympathetic causes such as environmentalism.

The Republican lawmakers suggested that China may be exploiting America’s legal system as part of a larger strategy to “erode” the U.S. military advantage in the Asia-Pacific region.

“For example, the impact of marine life from the U.S. Navy’s use of active sonar and underwater explosives has been the subject of several lawsuits led by the Natural Resources Defense Council dating back to the 1990s,” Bishop and Westerman wrote Mattis.

The congressmen also cited information from the Navy describing how environmental litigation “unreasonably restricted Navy training and testing activities.”

Although the Supreme Court has concluded there hasn’t been a “documented episode of harm to a marine mammal caused by naval sonar,” their letter to Mattis notes, lower courts continue to rule otherwise with decisions that restrict naval exercises.

‘Weaponization’ of Environmental Law

Green groups typically invoke the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 in legal actions against the U.S. military. That law requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact before implementing projects.

The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing in April on what it called “Weaponization of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Implications of Environmental Lawfare.”

The committee defines lawfare as “an attempt to use the courts to damage or delegitimize projects that litigants oppose, or to distract time and resources that would otherwise go to implementing the project, or to win a public relations victory.”

The environmental law was “originally intended to increase awareness regarding the effects of federal actions on the environment,” a committee memo says, but its “vague and ambiguous language has exposed the federal government to excessive litigation and resulted in perverse outcomes for agencies, the environment and taxpayers.”

The last time reforms were made to the National Environmental Policy Act was in 1986, committee aides told The Daily Signal. Since serious national security implications are attached to environmental lawsuits against the military that cite the law, lawmakers can make a strong case for a new round of reforms, they said.

“It would be a good idea to link NEPA reform with national security, but the Department of Defense has not been helpful here,” the first aide said. “Defense Department officials won’t come right out and say NEPA is a terrible law, they will just say it’s a problem that they can work around.”

“But the Defense Department has a lot to gain from NEPA reforms, the aide added. “They would not be so bogged down in court.”

Report by Kevin Mooney. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

18 Spectacularly Wrong Predictions Made Around the Time of the First Earth Day In 1970. Expect More This Year.

Today (Sunday, April 22) is Earth Day 2018 and time for my annual Earth Day post…..

In the May 2000 issue of Reason Magazine, award-winning science correspondent Ronald Bailey wrote an excellent article titled “Earth Day, Then and Now” to provide some historical perspective on the 30th anniversary of Earth Day. In that article, Bailey noted that around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970, and in the years following, there was a “torrent of apocalyptic predictions” and many of those predictions were featured in his Reason article. Well, it’s now the 48th anniversary of Earth Day, and a good time to ask the question again that Bailey asked 18 years ago: How accurate were the predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970? The answer: “The prophets of doom were not simply wrong, but spectacularly wrong,” according to Bailey. Here are 18 examples of the spectacularly wrong predictions made around 1970 when the “green holy day” (aka Earth Day) started:

1. Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

2. “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,” wrote Washington University biologist Barry Commoner in the Earth Day issue of the scholarly journal Environment.

3. The day after the first Earth Day, the New York Times editorial page warned, “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”

4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 issue of Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

5. “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born,” wrote Paul Ehrlich in a 1969 essay titled “Eco-Catastrophe! “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”

6. Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”

7. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” declared Denis Hayes, the chief organizer for Earth Day, in the Spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.

8. Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”

9. In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”

10. Ecologist Kenneth Watt told Time that, “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”

11. Barry Commoner predicted that decaying organic pollutants would use up all of the oxygen in America’s rivers, causing freshwater fish to suffocate.

12. Paul Ehrlich chimed in, predicting in 1970 that “air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” Ehrlich sketched a scenario in which 200,000 Americans would die in 1973 during “smog disasters” in New York and Los Angeles.

13. Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” Ehrlich warned that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and he predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out. (Note: According to the most recent CDC report, life expectancy in the US is 78.8 years).

14. Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”

15. Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated the humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.

16. Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look that, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”

17. In 1975, Paul Ehrlich predicted that “since more than nine-tenths of the original tropical rainforests will be removed in most areas within the next 30 years or so, it is expected that half of the organisms in these areas will vanish with it.”

18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

MP: Let’s keep those spectacularly wrong predictions from the first Earth Day 1970 in mind when we’re bombarded in the next few days with media hype, and claims like this from the Earth Day website:

Global sea levels are rising at an alarmingly fast rate — 6.7 inches in the last century alone and going higher. Surface temperatures are setting new heat records about each year. The ice sheets continue to decline, glaciers are in retreat globally, and our oceans are more acidic than ever. We could go on…which is a whole other problem.

The majority of scientists are in agreement that human contributions to the greenhouse effect are the root cause. Essentially, gases in the atmosphere – such as methane and CO2 – trap heat and block it from escaping our planet.

So what happens next? More droughts and heat waves, which can have devastating effects on the poorest countries and communities. Hurricanes will intensify and occur more frequently. Sea levels could rise up to four feet by 2100 – and that’s a conservative estimate among experts.

Reality Check/Inconvenient Fact:

What you probably won’t hear about from the Earth Day supporters is the amazing “decarbonization” of the United States over the last decade or so, as the falling CO2 emissions in the chart above illustrate, even as CO2 emissions from energy consumption have been rising throughout most of the rest of the world. Energy-related carbon emissions in the US have been falling since the 2007 peak, and were at their lowest level last year in a quarter century, going back to 1992. And the environmentalists and the “Earth Day” movement really had very little to do with this amazing “greening” of America. Rather, it’s mostly because of hydraulic fracturing and the increasing substitution of natural gas for coal as a fuel source for electric power, see related CD post here.

Finally, think about this question, posed by Ronald Bailey in 2000: What will Earth look like when Earth Day 60 rolls around in 2030? Bailey predicts a much cleaner, and much richer future world, with less hunger and malnutrition, less poverty, and longer life expectancy, and with lower mineral and metal prices. But he makes one final prediction about Earth Day 2030: “There will be a disproportionately influential group of doomsters predicting that the future–and the present–never looked so bleak.” In other words, the hype, hysteria and spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions will continue, promoted by the virtue signalling ”environmental grievance hustlers.”

Reprinted from AEI.

Mark J. Perry


Mark J. Perry

Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

So-called clean energy is fueled by rape, arson and child labor

A new report reveals the dirty truth about so-called “clean energy.”

The toxic heavy metals used to build electric car batteries are mined by child slave labor, who are often raped and die agonizing early deaths.

The Daily Mail reports:

Dorsen, just eight, is one of 40,000 children working daily in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The terrible price they will pay for our clean air is ruined health and a likely early death.

Almost every big motor manufacturer striving to produce millions of electric vehicles buys its cobalt from the impoverished central African state. It is the world’s biggest producer, with 60 per cent of the planet’s reserves.

The cobalt is mined by unregulated labour and transported to Asia where battery manufacturers use it to make their products lighter, longer-lasting and rechargeable.

The planned switch to clean energy vehicles has led to an extraordinary surge in demand. While a smartphone battery uses no more than 10 grams of refined cobalt, an electric car needs 15kg (33lb)…

…Cobalt is such a health hazard that it has a respiratory disease named after it – cobalt lung, a form of pneumonia which causes coughing and leads to permanent incapacity and even death.

Even simply eating vegetables grown in local soil can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, thyroid damage and fatal lung diseases, while birds and fish cannot survive in the area.

No one knows quite how many children have died mining cobalt in the Katanga region in the south-east of the country. The UN estimates 80 a year, but many more deaths go unregistered, with the bodies buried in the rubble of collapsed tunnels. Others survive but with chronic diseases which destroy their young lives. Girls as young as ten in the mines are subjected to sexual attacks and many become pregnant.

And, as The New York Times once reported:

According to the company’s proposal to join a United Nations clean-air program, the settlers living in this area left in a “peaceful” and “voluntary” manner.

People here remember it quite differently.

“I heard people being beaten, so I ran outside,” said Emmanuel Cyicyima, 33. “The houses were being burnt down.”

Other villagers described gun-toting soldiers and an 8-year-old child burning to death when his home was set ablaze by security officers.

“They said if we hesitated they would shoot us,” said William Bakeshisha, adding that he hid in his coffee plantation, watching his house burn down. “Smoke and fire.”…

…the government and the company said the settlers were illegal and evicted for a good cause: to protect the environment and help fight global warming.

The case twists around an emerging multibillion-dollar market trading carbon-credits under the Kyoto Protocol, which contains mechanisms for outsourcing environmental protection to developing nations.

The company involved, New Forests Company, grows forests in African countries with the purpose of selling credits from the carbon-dioxide its trees soak up to polluters abroad.

Who will save the Earth from environmentalists?

Anyone traveling along the roadways that run parallel to that part of the Delaware River where George Washington staged his famous Christmas night crossing in 1776 is sure to encounter signs that take aim at an energy project known as the PennEast Pipeline.

Some of those signs invoke revolutionary language with statements that claim “We the People Say No to PennEast.”

Other signs say: “Don’t Let them Poison Our Water! Stop PennEast,” “Pipeline Blast Zone, Stop PennEast,” “Just Say No! Stop PennEast,” and “Stop the Fracking Pipelines.”

The messages opposing the natural gas pipeline can be spotted along roadways on both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides of the river.

Any day now, the six energy companies that are part of the PennEast Pipeline project expect to get a green light to proceed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. That approval would come in the form of a certificate allowing construction and operation of the pipeline.

The anti-pipeline signs and mailings mention ReThink Energy NJ, a coalition of environmentalists who have received substantial funding from the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation.

Under current plans, the proposed 120-mile-long, 36-inch-diameter, underground pipeline would originate just north of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in an area that interconnects with other major interstate pipelines that serve markets on the East Coast, including New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Wilkes-Barre, the county seat of Luzerne County, sits on the outskirts of the Pocono Mountains in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania.

If the federal commission OKs it, a year from now a new pipeline will be poised to transport natural gas across Eastern Pennsylvania and the Delaware River into Mercer County, New Jersey, where it will interconnect with the Transco Pipeline in the borough of Pennington.

The PennEast Pipeline would draw from natural gas produced in the Marcellus shale formation that cuts across Pennsylvania, New York, and parts of Ohio and West Virginia.

‘The Least Cost Available’

Tony Cox, project manager for PennEast, told The Daily Signal in an interview that he expects energy consumers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to begin to see the benefits of the pipeline beginning in the winter of 2018-2019.

With approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expected this fall, the seven-month construction phase would begin next spring, and the pipeline would become operational in the second half of next year, according to PennEast’s projected timeline.

“September is what we call a ‘shoulder month’ in the gas industry, because you are past the summer months, but you are not yet in the winter. This means you are in a period of low energy consumption,” Cox said, adding:

But we still see a vast disparity between the price of gas in the Marcellus region and in New Jersey. These price differences around the country are one of the drivers for natural gas infrastructure, and one of the obligations that gas utilities have is to procure the least cost of gas available.

Right now, as it relates to New Jersey, that gas is located 100 miles away in Pennsylvania. But as we can see from the price difference, there is not ample infrastructure to get the gas to where it needs to go.

As of late September, Cox noted, the price for natural gas delivery in the Marcellus Shale region was $1.79 per dekatherm (a unit of energy measurement), compared with $3.16 per dekatherm in New Jersey, according to Gas Daily, a publication that provides the oil and gas industry with analytical reports on prices in the energy markets. That’s a difference of $1.37, or 76.5 percent higher, in New Jersey.

“Right now, there’s not enough capacity to meet the energy demands of New Jersey residents during peak periods, as evidenced by the large price differentials between these two areas,” Cox said. “With PennEast, we will have the ability to dampen the impact of high-demand periods and provide cost savings.”

When the $1.37 price difference for natural gas between the Marcellus area of Pennsylvania and New Jersey is “amplified by the capacity PennEast will have to transport natural gas,” Cox said, he anticipates “more than a half of a billion dollars in savings” to New Jersey consumers.

Sierra Club Disputes Figures

The PennEast project manager is not alone in projecting substantial savings.

PennEast proponents point to a study from Concentric Energy Advisors—which describes itself as an independent management consulting and financial advisory firm focused on the North American energy industry—that found PennEast would provide  savings of more than $500 million for electricity and natural gas consumers in Pennsylvania and savings of more than $400 million for consumers in New Jersey.

Despite the intense opposition of environmental activists, who view the pipeline as a danger to the region, PennEast appears set to secure the necessary regulatory approval to move forward.

In April, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a favorable final environmental impact statement for PennEast that said any potential impact would be “adequately minimized” through mitigation efforts.

In August, the U.S. Senate confirmed the Trump administration’s nominees to the commission, providing the agency with the quorum needed to approve projects such as PennEast.

But Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, disputes the figures PennEast has circulated that show energy consumers stand to benefit financially from the new infrastructure. Instead, he anticipates the pipeline actually would raise costs.

“Individually, these companies [that are part of PennEast] have been seeking rate hikes to pay for the pipelines, because they cost money,” Tittel said. “They have to pay back investors. How does this save people money?”

Tittel also cited a report from Stephanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, who has expressed reservations about the pipeline’s cost and utility. The division’s mission is to advocate for energy consumers.

“PennEast is dangerous and unnecessary, and the PennEast companies are just trying to make money for themselves. This has nothing to do with consumers and their energy needs,” the Sierra Club leader said. “Natural gas is a commodity, and the price is set by commodity markets, and it’s just not true to say that the pipeline will lower prices.”

“The other problem is that the pipeline will pass through environmentally sensitive and scenic areas, and pass through quaint, bucolic little towns that depend on ecotourism. This is also a historic area, where [George] Washington crossed the Delaware.

“Now you’re going to have this big, ugly pipeline cutting through, and it’s going to hurt the economy,” Tittel said.

‘Alternatives Are More Expensive’

In the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of its website, PennEast provides readers with detailed answers to questions about the project’s size and scope, potential economic benefits to consumers, environmental safeguards, and restoration efforts that will take place once the pipeline is completed. A separate report from PennEast describes how natural gas development will bring both economic and environmental benefits.

Pat Kornick, a spokeswoman for PennEast, said “well-funded” anti-pipeline activists who have maintained a constant presence in the public eye and in the media are not looking out for the best interests of the people they claim to represent.

“When people question the need for a new pipeline, they are not seeing the big price discrepancies that exist between the New Jersey marketplace and the Pennsylvania portions of the Marcellus, where natural gas is produced,” she said. “Pipelines are the cheapest, most effective way to bring natural gas to market. The alternatives to pipelines, which involve the trucking and transportation of liquefied natural gas, are much more expensive.”

The funding that stands behind the environmental activism directed against natural gas development is evident from the signs littering the roadways in New Jersey, and from mailings delivered to area residents.

Every member of the coalition called ReThink Energy, cited on the opposition materials, has received substantial funding from the William Penn Foundation, a private, nonprofit charity.

Grants the foundation distributed to ReThink Energy members in recent years include $395,000 in 2017 and $582,000 in 2015 to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, $82,500 in 2016 to the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, and $227,400 in 2016 to the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Tom Shepstone, who operates the Natural Gas Now blog, a product of his research firm based in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, told The Daily Signal that the William Penn Foundation is not permitted to do any lobbying as a private charity. But, he argued,  the organization is making an end run around the prohibition by distributing grants to environmental activists and compliant media outlets that do its bidding.

“As a private foundation, they shouldn’t be doing any lobbying, but when you think about it that’s all they do at the foundation,” Shepstone said. “When they pass out money year after year to certain groups, they are doing this to influence public policy.”

Foundation-Funded News Outlets Defend Coverage 

Shepstone said he also sees a connection between the William Penn Foundation and negative press coverage of PennEast.

Philadelphia-based WHYY Inc., which has TV, radio, and digital news operations, has received $660,000 from William Penn for its StateImpact Pennsylvania news service. Community Foundation of New Jersey, which supports the NJ Spotlight news service, has received $350,200 from William Penn.

“So much of the narrative against PennEast is written by the people who are on the same side as the people spinning the narrative,” Shepstone said. “The groups opposed to the pipeline have a shared funding source in the form of the William Penn Foundation, and you also have StateImpact Pennsylvania and NJ Spotlight, which are funded by the William Penn Foundation.

“So, when an environmental group has something negative to say about PennEast, that’s immediately picked up by these two news services to echo it and repeat it. It is so sad to see newspaper reporters not pick up on these blatant conflicts of interest,” he said.

Lee Keough, editor-in-chief of NJ Spotlight, defended his organization’s coverage in an email Wednesday to The Daily Signal.

“We receive financial support from all sides of this issue—utilities, environmental groups, the William Penn Foundation, as well as PennEast itself,” Keough wrote, adding:

Take a look at our site today … You may have to reload a few times to see all the ads. Nor do I think we have necessarily taken a critical view of the issue, although we have given it a lot of coverage. That reflects the passion that pipelines engender locally.

WHYY, the media company behind the StateImpact Pennsylvania news service, also responded to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.

“We strive to present balanced and factual information that takes into account all sides of the pipeline issue,” Sandra Clark, WHYY vice president for news and civic dialogue, said in an email.

“As with all of our reporting, no funder dictates our editorial coverage in any way and, as always, we’re sensitive to potential or perceived conflicts of interest. The issues raised about our coverage of the PennEast Pipeline have no basis in fact.”

Foundation Mum on Funding 

The Daily Signal repeatedly invited the William Penn Foundation to comment for this article on its funding of environmental groups and media organizations, and asked what its position is on PennEast. The foundation did not respond.

The Sierra Club Foundation received $300,000 from the William Penn Foundation in 2017 and $250,000 in 2016. But Tittel said his New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club and the Sierra Club Foundation are two separate organizations, and his New Jersey group has not received funding from the foundation.

Tom Gilbert, campaign director for energy, climate, and natural resources at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, declined to address his organization’s relationship with the William Penn Foundation, but explained why his group is opposed to the pipeline.

“We oppose PennEast because it would have significant impacts on thousands of acres of taxpayer preserved open space and farmland, some of the cleanest streams in the state, and habitat for threatened and endangered species,” Gilbert said in an email to The Daily Signal, adding:

Furthermore, energy experts and the N.J. Division of Rate Counsel have concluded that there is no evidence of need for the project, and it would be ‘unfair to ratepayers.’

PennEast faces tremendous opposition in New Jersey. Approximately two-thirds of the affected homeowners have refused to grant them survey access or easements.  Every town in the path of the pipeline opposes it. Thousands of citizens spoke out against it during the FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] process.

Real or Illusory Opposition?

The idea that there is a groundswell of opposition to the pipeline on the part of the public is highly suspect, Shepstone of the Natural Gas Now blog told The Daily Signal.

“When you see all these signs out there, you have to remember that the funding behind them comes from narrow special interests that do not speak for average citizens and from one rich family at the William Penn Foundation opposed to development,” he said.

“The public stands to benefit from the pipeline and from clean, affordable natural gas. These environmental groups are just shills for the William Penn Foundation, and with their echo chamber in the media, it makes the opposition seem bigger than it really is.”

Another key player is the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a nonprofit based in Bristol, Pennsylvania, which has been a persistent opponent of PennEast since the project was first announced.

The Riverkeeper Network has been sharply critical of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the agency’s positive environmental assessment of PennEast.

“There are very serious ramifications from PennEast for people’s health and safety,” Riverkeeper Network President Maya K. van Rossum said. “We are talking about devastation to very important habitats, wetlands, and forests, and increased pollution running off into our waterways, and this runoff contributing to erosion and the loss of habitat.”

The group released its own report on what it calls the economic costs of PennEast.

“The damage done by PennEast will far outpace any benefits,” van Rossum said. “The tradeoff is not worth it in terms of lives and livelihoods.”

The William Penn Foundation donated about $1.4 million to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network in 2017 and $914,000 in 2015. But van Rossum dismissed the idea that her organization takes direction from the foundation.

“That’s a false argument, a misrepresentation, and a red herring,” she said, adding:

We have multiple funding streams, and foundation funding is but one of them. When you apply for a foundation grant, you propose the work that you are going to do in the public interest, and the funder chooses whether or not to support that work. The funder does not give you money and then dictate what you are to do with it.

‘Held Hostage’

Jordan McGillis is a policy analyst with the Washington-based Institute for Energy Research, a nonprofit that  supports a free-market approach to energy policy. McGillis is highly critical of the role the Delaware Riverkeeper Network has played through the PennEast approval process.

“Despite their proximity to the Marcellus Shale, New Jersey and the rest of the northeastern states pay some of the highest electricity rates in the country,” McGillis said. “The reason is that they’re being held hostage by the ‘keep-it-in-the-ground’ movement. In the case of New Jersey, one of the main culprits is the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and its frivolous lawsuits.”

The energy policy analyst added:

The pernicious effect groups like this have isn’t trivial. Each pipeline delay results in New Jersey residents paying millions of dollars more than is necessary for energy. A study by Concentric Energy Advisors estimated that people in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania could have saved $900 million in the winter of 2013-2014 had something like the Penneast pipeline been operable.

When you look at the 990s [IRS tax forms], and you see that groups like the Delaware Riverkeeper aren’t the local, grass-roots movements they purport to be, but rather are funded by megadonors like the William Penn Foundation, it adds to the frustration you feel for the people who bear the costs of the seemingly endless legal delays.

Shepstone, the Natural Gas Now blogger, told The Daily Signal that the Delaware River Basin Commission’s authority over pipelines “is highly questionable,” and he expects PennEast to go forward.

PennEast is working to obtain approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Delaware River Basin Commission, a federal interstate agency.

But the ultimate authority rests with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Earlier this year, the New Jersey environmental agency returned PennEast’s application, saying it wanted more information.

“We are still working with all of these local agencies to obtain their approval,” Kornick, the PennEast spokeswoman, said. “With the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, they didn’t reject our application. They said it was incomplete and asked for more information, which we are providing.”

Report by Kevin Mooney. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Environmentalists Are Spreading Wildfires. It’s Time to Rethink Forest Management.

Massive wildfires continue to rage out of control in Northern California, causing historic loss of life and billions of dollars in damage.

The images coming out of California towns, which look like bombed-out cities from World War II, are a sobering reminder of man’s occasional futility in the face of nature unleashed.

Stopping these huge blazes is, of course, a priority. The firefighters who have been battling these infernos have at times done a miraculous job under extremely difficult circumstances.

However, policymakers should also look at ways to curtail the long-term trend of growing numbers of major wildfires. While some argue that climate change is to blame for the uptick in fires, it’s also worth grappling with the drastic alterations in forest management that have occurred over the last four decades.

Many have argued that this is driving the surge in huge fires.

As a Reason Foundation study noted, the U.S. Forest Service, which is tasked with managing public wildland, once had success in minimizing widespread fires in the early 20th century.

But many of these successful methods were abandoned in large part because of efforts by environmental activists.

The Forest Service became more costly and less effective as it increasingly “rewarded forest managers for losing money on environmentally questionable practices,” wrote Randal O’Toole, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute.

Spending on the Forest Service has risen drastically, but these additional resources have been misused and haven’t solved the underlying issues.

“Fire expenditures have grown from less than 15 percent of the Forest Service budget in [the] early 1990s to about 50 percent today. Forest Service fire expenditures have increased from less than $1 billion in the late 1990s to $3.5 billion in 2016,” O’Toole wrote.

Perhaps now, Americans will begin to re-evaluate forest management policies.

In a May congressional hearing, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said, “Forty-five years ago, we began imposing laws that have made the management of our forests all but impossible.”

He went on to say that federal authorities have done a poor job of implementing methods to reduce the number of deadly fires, and that this has been devastating for America’s wildlands.

“Time and again, we see vivid boundaries between the young, healthy, growing forests managed by state, local, and private landholders, and the choked, dying, or burned federal forests,” McClintock said. “The laws of the past 45 years have not only failed to protect the forest environment—they have done immeasurable harm to our forests.”

In a recent House address, McClintock pinned the blame of poor forest management on bad 1970s laws, like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. He said these laws “have resulted in endlessly time-consuming and cost-prohibitive restrictions and requirements that have made the scientific management of our forests virtually impossible.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has promoted a change to forest management policies, calling for a more aggressive approach to reduce the excess vegetation that has made the fires worse.

Congress is also moving to address the problem.

Members of the Western Caucus have proposed legislation to dramatically change the way forests are managed. If passed, this bill would give power back to local authorities and allow for more aggressive forest thinning without subjecting them to the most onerous of environmental reviews.

While state and federal governments can take measures to enhance forest and wilderness management, private management can also get involved to improve conditions.

One idea is to adopt a policy popularized by the school choice movement: create charter forests that are publicly owned, but privately managed. This would allow forest management to move away from top-down, bureaucratic control to a decentralized and varied system that may better conform with local realities.

As professor Robert H. Nelson wrote for The Wall Street Journal, the charter forest “would be exempt from current requirements for public land-use planning and the writing of environmental impact statements. These requirements long ago ceased to perform their ostensible function of improving public land decision making.”

Similar privatizing efforts have succeeded in the past.

No measure can truly prevent all fires, but reasonable steps can be taken to reduce the incidence of huge blazes like the ones currently engulfing California.

It’s time for lawmakers to redouble their efforts to protect American lives and property from nature’s most devastating ravages.

Commentary by Jarrett Stepman. Originally published at The Daily Signal.