Posts

Don’t Jeopardize Montana’s Energy Security

By: Carl Graham, President, Montana Policy Institute

Tom Mullikin, Senior Partner, Moore & Van Allen PLLC

 

Energy. It is the lifeblood of the American economy. For this reason, it is no surprise that energy policy discussions receive a great deal of attention. Done wrong, energy policy can significantly harm the economy. That is a real concern as the U.S. Congress and individual states debate legislation that aims to address climate change and potentially overhaul our country’s energy system.

Montana is blessed with abundant natural resources that help fuel the economy. As a provider of North American energy sources, Montana contributes to our nation’s energy security. Increasing our energy security should be a central goal of any energy policy. However, policy proposals being considered in Congress and by the Western Climate Initiative (of which Montana is a member) would put our energy security and our economic prosperity at risk.

One such policy proposal is called a Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), which targets transportation fuels. The LCFS is being billed as a way to ensure development of clean, secure energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Here’s how it works. Under an LCFS, fuels are assigned a carbon intensity “score” based on the energy required to bring them to market. Fuels with a high score are discouraged while lower scoring fuels are encouraged. In the end, proponents argue, we will have fewer greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and an incentive for industry to develop cleaner forms of transportation energy. But LSFS proponents only tell one side of the story and ignore significant long term negative impacts on our environment and our economy.

Here’s what LCFS proponents fail to tell you. First, the LCFS is an unproven standard relying on undeveloped technology. In Montana, this policy will put the entire region’s energy security at risk. According to the Energy Information Agency, crude oil from Canada makes up over 90 percent of the crude oil refined in Montana. Canada is the top importer of crude oil into the U.S., and an increasing amount of Canadian crude is coming from Alberta’s oil sands. Because this oil is heavier, it will receive a higher carbon intensity score under an LCFS, which will discourage its use.

If this happens, Montana and other states that use Canadian crude, particularly in the Upper Midwest, will be forced to rely on lighter crude from the Middle East instead of crude oil from a friendly, neighboring country. An LCFS will also guarantee volatile gas and commodity prices, the loss of U.S. refinery and pipeline jobs, and, ironically, an increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s right, an LCFS will actually increase greenhouse gas emissions. If we don’t buy crude oil from Canada, the crude will be shipped overseas, greatly increasing transportation emissions. Then it will be processed in countries like China and India which have weaker environmental regulations. China recently demonstrated its intent to use oil sands crude with a major investment in a Canadian oil sands project by a Chinese oil company. It defies common sense to send Canadian crude oil 6,000 miles to China, instead of sending it next door to Montana.

Our elected officials have an opportunity to look beyond “feel good” knee-jerk policy reactions and consider the real implications to Montanans of LCFS. This policy is bad for national energy security, bad for consumers, bad for the environment and bad for Montana.

 

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An Open Letter to President Obama as You Visit Our Great State

By Carl Graham

President, Montana Policy Institute

 

Dear President Obama,

I just heard that you’re coming to Bozeman.  It’s great that you’re willing to get out of the D.C. echo chamber and come out to where us regular folks live.  And I think most Montanans will take pride in a Presidential visit regardless of political affiliations or policy differences.

It’s been rumored that you might also hold a health care town hall while in Bozeman.  If so, may I make a suggestion?  Both political Parties have pretty much turned town halls into fawn-fests with packed audiences and planted questions that result in little more than preaching to the choir and sound bites for the 24 hour news cycle.  I’d like to offer you an alternative, and a way to reach the very people who I assume you’d like to convince that your health care reform proposals are worthwhile.  I mean, of course, those of us who do not think that your proposals would fix the current problems with health care, and that they would even create another whole set of problems that will have to be addressed down the road.

As it turns out, our little nonpartisan think tank – the Montana Policy Institute – has been planning a Free Market Health Care Reform forum in Bozeman since June, and it happens to fall on the very day you’ll be here.  We’ll have national health care policy experts and statewide health and insurance industry leaders talking about what needs reforming, and how we can do it in a way that tackles what’s wrong with health care without harming what’s right with it.  And frankly, I think they’d like to hear from you as well.  We’d be more than happy to make room in our agenda if you want to drop by.

This is a serious forum with expert panels and policy discussions.  Participants are concerned that what’s being proposed is nothing more than the nationalization of one-sixth of our economy and the removal of individual choice from one of the most important aspects of our lives.  You could tell us why we’re wrong by addressing some pretty basic questions:

–          You say that people can keep their own insurance if they like it, as the overwhelming majority of Americans do.  But why would people stick with their current plans if the public plan is cheaper, and what’s the point of a public plan if it’s not?  Isn’t this really just a ruse to get people out of private insurance and into a government-run system?

–          How will private insurers compete with a public option that gets taxpayer startup funding, doesn’t have to show a profit, has the ability to literally print money, and can regulate competitors to increase their costs and decrease their profits?  Can you help us understand by providing another example of a taxpayer-owned enterprise that competes on a level playing field with private sector companies?

–          Nearly 85% of Americans are satisfied with their current coverage.  Do we really need to overhaul or nationalize one-sixth of our economy to address the 15% of Americans who are not satisfied?  Couldn’t we just help the 15% and preserve everyone’s ability to pick the coverage that’s best for them by allowing more innovation in insurance products, or even by just providing a voucher for those who really can’t afford insurance?

–          The government already accounts for nearly 50% of all medical spending, as compared to about 25% in 1960.  Isn’t it reasonable to argue that costs have gone up pretty much in proportion to the government’s increased involvement already?

–          Medicare waste, fraud and abuse are estimated to account for as much as 30% of its costs.  That was $700 billion dollars in 2007, or about $2,300 for every legal U.S. resident.  Can we expect that 30% figure to continue as government-run medical spending goes into trillions upon trillions of dollars?  If not, what will be the new incentive for bureaucrats whose salaries are tied to hours worked rather than customers satisfied to cut costs, innovate, and increase efficiency and customer satisfaction?

–          The Congressional Budget Office says plans currently under consideration will increase the deficit by around $200-$300 billion over the first ten years and then really start picking up after that.  Who gets that bill, and how are they going to pay it?

This is just the beginning of what is a long list of our very serious concerns with the approach the Congress and you are taking in reforming our health care system. We’ll have a convention center full of Montanans.   We may not agree with your plan, but we’re prepared to listen.

 

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By Carl Graham

President, Montana Policy Institute

 

 

Dear President Obama,

I just heard that you’re coming to Bozeman.  It’s great that you’re willing to get out of the D.C. echo chamber and come out to where us regular folks live.  And I think most Montanans will take pride in a Presidential visit regardless of political affiliations or policy differences.

It’s been rumored that you might also hold a health care town hall while in Bozeman.  If so, may I make a suggestion?  Both political Parties have pretty much turned town halls into fawn-fests with packed audiences and planted questions that result in little more than preaching to the choir and sound bites for the 24 hour news cycle.  I’d like to offer you an alternative, and a way to reach the very people who I assume you’d like to convince that your health care reform proposals are worthwhile.  I mean, of course, those of us who do not think that your proposals would fix the current problems with health care, and that they would even create another whole set of problems that will have to be addressed down the road.

As it turns out, our little nonpartisan think tank – the Montana Policy Institute – has been planning a Free Market Health Care Reform forum in Bozeman since June, and it happens to fall on the very day you’ll be here.  We’ll have national health care policy experts and statewide health and insurance industry leaders talking about what needs reforming, and how we can do it in a way that tackles what’s wrong with health care without harming what’s right with it.  And frankly, I think they’d like to hear from you as well.  We’d be more than happy to make room in our agenda if you want to drop by.

This is a serious forum with expert panels and policy discussions.  Participants are concerned that what’s being proposed is nothing more than the nationalization of one-sixth of our economy and the removal of individual choice from one of the most important aspects of our lives.  You could tell us why we’re wrong by addressing some pretty basic questions:

–          You say that people can keep their own insurance if they like it, as the overwhelming majority of Americans do.  But why would people stick with their current plans if the public plan is cheaper, and what’s the point of a public plan if it’s not?  Isn’t this really just a ruse to get people out of private insurance and into a government-run system?

–          How will private insurers compete with a public option that gets taxpayer startup funding, doesn’t have to show a profit, has the ability to literally print money, and can regulate competitors to increase their costs and decrease their profits?  Can you help us understand by providing another example of a taxpayer-owned enterprise that competes on a level playing field with private sector companies?

–          Nearly 85% of Americans are satisfied with their current coverage.  Do we really need to overhaul or nationalize one-sixth of our economy to address the 15% of Americans who are not satisfied?  Couldn’t we just help the 15% and preserve everyone’s ability to pick the coverage that’s best for them by allowing more innovation in insurance products, or even by just providing a voucher for those who really can’t afford insurance?

–          The government already accounts for nearly 50% of all medical spending, as compared to about 25% in 1960.  Isn’t it reasonable to argue that costs have gone up pretty much in proportion to the government’s increased involvement already?

–          Medicare waste, fraud and abuse are estimated to account for as much as 30% of its costs.  That was $700 billion dollars in 2007, or about $2,300 for every legal U.S. resident.  Can we expect that 30% figure to continue as government-run medical spending goes into trillions upon trillions of dollars?  If not, what will be the new incentive for bureaucrats whose salaries are tied to hours worked rather than customers satisfied to cut costs, innovate, and increase efficiency and customer satisfaction?

–          The Congressional Budget Office says plans currently under consideration will increase the deficit by around $200-$300 billion over the first ten years and then really start picking up after that.  Who gets that bill, and how are they going to pay it?

This is just the beginning of what is a long list of our very serious concerns with the approach the Congress and you are taking in reforming our health care system. We’ll have a convention center full of Montanans.   We may not agree with your plan, but we’re prepared to listen.

 

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Fiscal Accountability Press Release

Press Release

Lawmakers Asked to Target Stimulus Spending

With Montana on tap to receive around $600 million in federal stimulus dollars, a nonprofit Bozeman policy watchdog is asking lawmakers to pledge that one-time federal stimulus dollars will only be used on one-time spending projects.

“The danger,” according to Montana Policy Institute (MPI) president Carl Graham “is that these one-time stimulus dollars will come into the state budget and be used to create spending requirements that won’t end when the initial federal money has dried up.” He cited several potential examples, including hiring new full time employees, creating new subsidy or entitlement programs, or even permanent tax relief – something the fiscally conservative organization would normally applaud. If any of these things happen, according to Graham, future lawmakers will be put in a position of either having to raise taxes to support the new spending or making painful cuts to people and programs; something that MPI says is an unfair burden for current legislators to place on future generations.

MPI mailed the pledge, which can be found at www.montanapolicy.org, to lawmakers on February 10th. It notes that if this one-time money is spent wisely on one-time projects within the state it has the potential to address serious maintenance and infrastructure backlogs while injecting jobs and money into our economy. However, according to a letter accompanying the pledge, if the one-time dollars are spent in ways that create ongoing programs and obligations or in ways that don’t create jobs or increase productivity, it will just create hard decisions down the road without helping Montanans who are truly in need today. “That’s not fair to our citizens, to our children, or to our future lawmakers.” according to Graham.

MPI hopes to gain broad bipartisan support for the pledge and will publish results in early March.

 

 

The Montana Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research center based in Bozeman. To find out more visit us on the web at www.montanapolicy.org.

 

Montana Climate Change Data

This is a study conducted by the Science and Public Policy Institute that details Montana’s climate information over the past century or so:

MT Climate Change Data

Here are a couple of snippets:

“…even a complete cessation of all CO2 emissions in Montana will be completely subsumed by global emissions growth in just 2 weeks time! A fortiori, regulations prescribing a reduction far less than a complete cessation of Montana’s CO2 emissions would produce no detectable or scientifically meaningful impact on local, regional, or global climate.”

“Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the economic consequences of greenhouse gas emissions’ legislation…” and it goes on to list those consequences in a quantifiable, i.e. scientific way.
One of the problems we cited in our peer review of the Montana Climate Change Action Plan was that it didn’t even try to quantify the costs or the benefits of reducing greenhouse gases. All it did was assume that any decrease in gases was worth any cost of reducing them. That’s just, as Jonah Goldberg often says, silly on stilts.
The whole point of public policy is to measure costs and benefits – tangible and intangible – and to craft policies (or leave policies alone) that result in the good outweighing the bad. I would add that staying out of the way is generally a pretty good option, too, but that’s a different argument.
We’re about to get a nationally planned and coordinated climate control agenda shoved down our collective throats that’s long on rhetoric and alarmism and remarkably short on science and logic. MPI’s got a couple of products in the pipeline addressing this fast moving train, but candidly, with less than a year of operations under our belt, we don’t have nearly the resources yet to, as William F. Buckley said, stand athward history on this one. We’re going to need your help.
We’ll do our best to get real science and real data out there. You need to let your local legislators and media know that you want them to recognize there’s another side to this story and that they should make their decisions and write their stories based on the full set of facts.

Montana Taxpayer Bill of Rights (2008)

The following links examine how Montana would benefit from a more effective tax and expenditure limit. MPI is advocating policies that would: 1) limit the growth in state spending to the growth of population plus inflation, 2) ensure surplus revenue above this amount is invested in emergency and budget stabilization funds or returned to taxpayers, and 3) require voter approval for tax increases or any weakening of the amendment’s limits.

MT Taxpayer Bill of Rights 2008 MPI Policy Note

For Full TABOR Study: Montana TABOR Full Study 2008

Montana Policy Institute Website Seeks Tips on Government Waste

October 3, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Bozeman, Montana–Citizens can now report government waste, fraud, and abuse at the new Montana Policy Institute website, www.montanapolicy.org.

The Montana Policy Institute, based in Bozeman, is a member-based 501c(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to making state and local governments more accountable to the people they serve.

All citizen tips will be researched by the MPI staff, which now includes an investigative journalist.

In addition to tracking government waste, fraud, and abuse, MPI is also advocating policies to promote the liberty, prosperity, and quality of life for all Montanans by increasing government transparency and accountability. These policies would result in significant tax and spending reform, as well as provide Montanans with the ability to see where their tax dollars go and what’s being done by their government in their name.

MPI’s tax reform proposals would stop the systematic ratcheting up of spending and the growing role of government spending in the state’s economy by placing reasonable limits on spending growth. It would also build reserves during strong economic times and draw on those reserves when the economy slows and revenues decline. Excess revenues would then be returned to taxpayers in the form of rebates or permanent tax relief. Studies show that Montanans would have had over $3 billion dollars returned to them over the past 15 years under a system like the one MPI is proposing.

MPI’s Montana Transparency Project would have the state place all state and local spending on a fully searchable, downloadable, web-enabled database. Citizens and legislators could see exactly where budgeted money is spent for every department, every county, locality and school board. Government entities could easily justify funding requests based on their open, transparent, and demonstrated budgetary requirements. Contractors could see who won bids and why. Citizens could see where their hard earned tax dollars end up.

And MPI’s Objectives Based Budgeting proposals would provide a means for legislators to objectively measure Agency and Department performance in light of mutually agreed upon goals, and then to allocate tax dollars according to citizens’ needs and agencies’ performance. This would reduce or eliminate duplicative and wasteful spending, and ensure that Montanans’ hard earned money is spent on priorities rather than legacies.

MPI is Montana’s premier resource for free market, individual liberty educational and informational products. Citizens can also join MPI and donate to these projects at the website, www.montanapolicy.org.

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Contact:

Carl Graham, CEO, Montana Policy Institute: 406.600.1139

John Q. Murray, Investigative Reporter: 406.721.1129, johnqmurray@gmail.com

Montana Policy Institute, 1627 W. Main St #354, Bozeman, MT 59715