Plastics and many other materials are made from petroleum. High oil prices raise costs of production and prices for everything from laptop computers to Patagonia vests to, perhaps of greatest current importance, fertilizers. High fertilizer prices, of course, raise food prices.
The consequences resulting from Biden’s restriction of U.S. natural gas production may be even worse. The price of natural gas price has tripled, from about $3 per million British thermal units in June 2021 to about $9 by May 2022. This has raised not only utility bills but also prices of goods manufactured by gas powered plants.
But higher prices may not be the worst of it. The longer-term climate campaign against natural gas use has resulted in utilities having less power-generating capacity. This, the Wall Street Journal recently reported, has led electric-grid operators to warn “that power-generating capacity is struggling to keep up with demand, a gap that could lead to rolling blackouts during heat waves or other peak periods as soon as this year.”
On the other hand, a longer-term view from the most recent U.S. National Climate Assessment report finds that while the frequency of heat waves has been increasing since the 1960s, they were more common and fiercer during the first third of the 20th century.
“It is true that if analysis of data begins in the 1960s, then an increase in heat waves can be shown. However, if the data analyses begins before the 1930s then there is no upwards trend, and a case can even be made for a decline. It is a fertile field for cherry pickers,” observes University of Colorado climate policy researcher Roger Pielke Jr. over at his invaluable Honest Broker Substack. Pielke does note that ongoing man-made climate change will tend to make future heat waves more frequent and last longer.
The falling trends in U.S. heat mortality are associated with increased air conditioning, less work outdoors, and better weather warning systems.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Todd Henderson explains how a proposed change in the operation of futures markets is likely to be beneficial – and why this change is opposed by some players. Here’s his conclusion:
If the FTX model proves more efficient, and is eventually cleared for use in agricultural products, these farmers, with the help of intermediaries if they want, are well-equipped to navigate any change to the incumbent exchanges outmoded way of doing things. The incumbent exchanges (the bootleggers) clearly benefit from maintaining the status quo, but their self-interest won’t sell on Capitol Hill or the CFTC. Instead, they cloak private gains in public terms, hoping the Agriculture Committee and farming advocates (the Baptists) play along.
In 2000, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman commented on a story about apartment seekers in San Francisco who spent months making apartment searches a full-time job, dressing up in suits and ties and bringing resumes to open houses where landlords expected them to act enthusiastic. As Krugman pointed out, “Landlords don’t want groveling—they would rather have money. In uncontrolled markets the question of who gets an apartment is settled quickly by the question of who is able and willing to pay the most.” Sure enough, San Francisco was not an uncontrolled market, but rather one where “a technology-fueled housing boom has collided with a draconian rent-control law.” In rent-controlled markets, landlords can repel most prospective tenants by making absurd demands—or by being prejudiced—and still have plenty of prospects willing to pay the maximum legal rent.
Economists almost all agree on the evils of rent control. It discourages housing maintenance, spurs black markets, reduces supply and increases prices on the open market, and removes the incentive for people who don’t need to live near job centers, such as retirees, to move and make way for active workers who need the economic opportunity more. My old professor Edward Glaeser likes telling the story of a corporate executive, who, when asked whether it was unfair that he paid so little for a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan, said that it was perfectly fair because he almost never lived there. Without rent control, he might have decided that keeping a desirable apartment empty wasn’t a good use of his money.
Remember that CDC study purporting to show that school masking was effective? Did you wonder what the results would have been if someone had conducted a higher quality study over a greater sample size and period of time? Ambarish Chandra of University of Toronto and Dr. Tracy Hoeg of University of California, Davis did exactly that with this Lancet study titled, “Revisiting Pediatric COVID-19 Cases in Counties With and Without School Mask Requirements—United States, July 1—October 20 2021.” Their results: “… no significant relationship between mask mandates and case rates.”
What no one at the time knew was that, behind the scenes, a retired epidemiologist had won his first battle. Seventy-year-old Johan Giesecke had been Sweden’s state epidemiologist between 1995 and 2005, and had a good relationship with Anders Tegnell, the man who now held the title. Decades earlier, Giesecke had hired Tegnell because he appreciated what appeared to be Tegnell’s complete indifference to what other people thought of him. Now, Giesecke referred to Tegnell as “his son”.
Both men, at the start of the pandemic, advocated for keeping schools open.
They did this for a number of reasons. Firstly, no one knew if school closures worked. On the one hand, there was some historic support for the policy: experiences from school holidays during influenza outbreaks in France, and the varying responses to the 1918 pandemic in the US, suggested that the number of cases could “maybe” be reduced by 15% by closures, in an optimistic scenario. But it also suggested that those gains would likely be lost if the children weren’t completely isolated when staying home from school.
The Swedes monitored the course of events unfurling on the rest of the continent. The countries closing their schools and preschools were growing more and more numerous. Tegnell couldn’t understand what they were doing.
His confidantes at the agency agreed with his assessment: the rest of the world was rushing headlong into a dangerous experiment with unforeseen consequences. The head of analysis at the agency explained that Spanish school closures had pushed the virus from the cities to the coasts, as wealthy families fled to their holiday homes. And school closures would force many key workers, including doctors and nurses, to stay home from their jobs.
“The world has gone mad,” Tegnell wrote to two colleagues.
The House of Commons is suspending COVID-19 vaccine mandates for MPs, staff and visitors next week.
Proof of vaccination will no longer required to attend sessions, meetings starting June 20.