Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Lack Of Trash Challenges Waste-To-Energy Plants"

It appears that eco-minded individuals in Maine created a waste-to-energy plant, but with the economy flailing, there's less waste!

Trash collectors aren't the only ones noticing the lightened load in garbage trucks. Employees of ecomaine, the waste management facility in Portland where O'Donnell's truck will dump its load, have also observed the decline in trash. And while less trash might seem like a good thing, it's a worrying trend for Kevin Roche, ecomaine's General Manager.

"So we were definitely concerned that we were going to run out of waste and have to shut down the waste to energy facility because we didn't have enough fuel-trash in our case-to keep the waste to energy facility going full time,", said Roche.

The waste to energy facility is essentially a trash burning power plant that incinerates 170,000 tons of waste a year, generating electricity and reducing the volume of that waste by 90% in the process. Normally, ecomaine has no problem getting the amount of trash it needs. But in the past two years, says Roche, the amount of waste generated by ecomaine's member communities has fallen over 20%.

"When businesses aren't doing well they're not making enough waste," said Roche.

You see, they wanted to treat waste as any other capital good -- an input to a production process. But garbage is, as we see here, a very tricky energy source and, thus, unsuitable for making energy intended for anything important. In that respect it's like wind and solar power.

The only dependable capital is that which is contracted for with another person. He hopes to make a profit from his sale and is therefore motivated to work hard to maintain the supply. It's not easy to do business with Gaia -- she's sort of flighty that way.

The left detests the laws of economics, though, and tries constantly to ignore them or bend them to its will. It never works, and the rest of us always have to step in and bail them out -- usually with our taxes.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Samizdata on the famed air show:

The A380 did a slow motion impersonation of a plane doing trick flying, going up too steeply and then down too steeply, and then tilting itself too steeply and cornering too much, all with the stately grace of the white elephant that I assume it to be. Beautiful.

The Chevy Volt - Obama's Edsel

An op-ed in the New York Times today called it G.M.'s Electric Lemon.

[…] the Volt appears to be exactly the kind of green-at-all-costs car that some opponents of the bailout feared the government might order G.M. to build.

It's a $41,000 car with the space and performance of one you can buy for $17,000 -- and its true price is closer to $50,000. The buyer will shell out the $41 thou and we taxpayers will pay him $7,500 more as thanks. $48,500 of wealth spent on a vehicle that won't use any less energy than a conventionally-powered car and will still lose money for GM.

This is the new, green economy: very expensive and impractical goods which deliver less than what they're supposed to replace wrapped up in magic-planet-saving goodness. The Volt will remain forever engraved in our minds as the symbol of Obama's smug, economic ignorance.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Health Care Free Markets

Another example of how entrepreneurs could remake the American health system -- if only we'd let them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Let's say that the government taxes me $20.

It then sends you a stimulus check for $20.

You turn around and pay me $20 to mow your lawn.

At the end of all this, everything is as it was but GDP has gone up $40.

GDP is a lousy way to measure the health of the economy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Saving Big Business

One of the ironies of the elites' supposed dislike of big business is that all their attempts to rein it in result in damage to small business. We've seen it with requirements that toy manufacturers submit their products for rigorous testing. The big toymakers are allowed to do it in their own in-house labs; small companies must fork over big bucks to have it done. This has virtually eliminated small companies and individuals from the toy market.

The new health care plan was welcomed by big companies like Wal-Mart -- they can afford it. Their mom-and-pop competition, on the other hand, may well be wiped out or have to eliminate health care insurance for their employees. Starbucks can pay the bucks the regulations San Francisco has placed on restaurants demand -- the small guys can't.

The latest example? Small oil drilling companies.

One of the biggest of the big oil companies may be responsible for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, but Washington's response to the BP PLC spill would give an advantage to such major oil companies while threatening to put their small competitors out of business.

Energy legislation that Senate leaders said they may take up this week would sharply raise or eliminate a $75 million cap on oil company liability for economic damage from spills — a change that poses no great threat to giants like BP, which is setting aside $10 billion out of its huge profits and assets to pay for claims related to the spill and has already paid out billions.

But opening up smaller companies to large or unlimited liability would make it prohibitively expensive for them to get the insurance they need to drill and would force many of them out of the deep-water drilling business, analysts say.

It has finally seeped into the public consciousness that it is small business that drives the economy and creates most new jobs; but every attempt by Congress to make us safer and more has the effect of hurting those same small businesses. We're in danger of becoming a a country where working for yourself is too expensive and the regulations too onerous to bother.

It's an unintended consequence of the zeal to regulate, but you'd think the current administration would be more sensitive to its effects. Wouldn't you?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sloop Tax Free


Dropping Dealerships A Dumb And Damaging Move

Back when the government took over General Motors and Chrysler, it inexplicably insisted that the companies drop hundreds of dealers -- it really made no sense. We were told, over and over, that this move would save the companies money, but no one ever explained how.

Now, finally, a federal government inspector general is questioning the move.

Barofsky says the administration insisted on the closings even though a GM official told him

that GM would usually save 'not one damn cent' by closing any particular dealership. ... Furthermore, a GM official stated that removing a dealership from the network does not save money for GM -- it might even cost GM money -- and that savings cannot be attributed or assigned to any one dealership.

Car dealers are independent businesses. They buy cars from the manufacturer and attempt to sell and service them at a profit. How could shutting them down save the manufacturer money? Simple. It couldn't.

I suspect this is just one more example of the Obama team's complete ignorance of how business works. To them, a bunch of small-town dealerships with relatively low sales must be a drag on the corporations' performance, though, in reality, they could only help.

Those rural outlets helped maintain American market-share because there are few foreign dealers in small towns; and they had the extra fringe benefit of creating well-paying jobs, something increasingly lacking in rural areas. And something Obama's stimuli haven't been able to accomplish.

In addition to killing jobs, the closings will have resulted in the destruction of tens of millions of dollars of capital. Buildings will sit empty and specialized tools and equipment will be worthless. Skilled mechanics will have to commute to larger towns for work now and parts houses, accountants and advertising firms will have lost an important chunk of their business.

All for what?