Our Media Trusts “The Smart Ones”

by Steve Haner

Not every policy imposed by government is subject to public hearings or votes. That’s one reason to vote for smart candidates who have the country’s best interests at heart and not for those who rant about personal liberty without accepting any social responsibility for individual decisions.

That was part of a response I received by email from somebody who read Friday’s post on the Air Pollution Control Board’s new regulation which ties Virginia’s auto market to emissions rules promulgated by California. I had noted how the state’s usual and statutory requirements for notice and comment had been bypassed on the orders of the General Assembly.

Clearly this reader thought that was just fine, which floored me. My respondent was a member of the working news media. If anybody should be standing up for transparency and public participation, it would be news reporters, editors and producers, right? Not this person, not on this issue. (I’ll withhold the name.)

The comments from a “journalist” about “smart candidates” versus “those who rant about personal liberty” speak for themselves. Note they would apply equally to COVID mitigations and efforts to eliminate carbon dioxide, with disdain poured on skeptics in either case. It was a refreshingly honest admission that explains the selective coverage we must wade through on so many issues. It came at a time when I was already shaking my head over the media coverage of Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s proposal to exit the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

One problem there was the fault of the Youngkin team, which still has not really explained its plans for accomplishing this goal, and frankly doesn’t have to show us their cards now. But in using the vague phrase “executive action” the Youngkin team opened the door for reporters to jump straight to the specific tool of an “executive order.”

That became the headline just about everywhere, followed by thoughtful pundits explaining how an executive order could not by itself extract Virginia from an interstate contract or neutralize the regulation that requires electricity producers to buy carbon allowances from the RGGI auction. Readers of my story would have seen references to the contract and the regulation and an expectation this might take “a struggle.” The Washington Post story got into those details, as well.

If the Youngkin Administration does try to railroad this through, expect cries of outrage from the individual quoted above, the reporter so unconcerned that notice and comment were avoided on the auto emission rules and the “smart people” who decided that one for us.

Also concerning were print or broadcast reports which implied that exiting RGGI meant that coal and gas plants would double down and carbon dioxide emissions could roar back up, speeding the end of civilization. The end of RGGI would not increase (or reduce) emissions at all. No impact. Other laws and regulations with far more stringent CO2 goals than RGGI ever imposed are still in place.

Yet we get this utter fabrication from Democratic leaders of the Virginia Senate, picked up in that same Mercury story:

(Exiting RGGI) would be incredibly harmful to the health of Virginians, protection of our natural spaces, and preparation for a clean energy economy … would be catastrophic to our commonwealth, region, and nation’s efforts to ensure a habitable world for future generations. … We only have one world — with Hampton Roads perpetually flooded, the Chesapeake Bay’s future at risk, and Virginians’ health declining, there is no time left to play politics with Mother Nature.

Wow. That’s one powerful $4.37 tax on every 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.  If we move it up to $8 or $10, will it bring world peace, cure COVID and end inflation? With the passage of the other bills dealing with electricity generation, RGGI became just a way to skim money off consumers to spend on constituents while the power producers did what they were going to do anyway.

What is true (and a story at Hampton Road’s WHRO got this right) is that the RGGI tax dollars are in part dedicated to various flood mitigation efforts. Taking them away could mean less for the program. Another revenue source can be found, however, and those efforts might not miss a beat at all. The Post report noted that Youngkin promised efforts to prepare for flooding in the same speech.

All the floodwalls and drainage improvements and zoning changes you might imagine won’t change the relative sea level rise facing Hampton Roads. Those steps won’t “end climate change” and it is idiotic to claim that they will. But as the battle opens to maintain this tax, which extracted $228 million this year from Virginians and could grow to $340 million next year (with further increases coming), expect exactly that claim to dominate one side’s rhetoric.

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36 responses to “Our Media Trusts “The Smart Ones””

  1. Climate “science” is not. It is a Leftist religion. As Youngkin is only Governor-elect, I doubt he is subject to FOIA. But he should explain the basis for the decision, which actually can be based on science because the assumptions behind climate “change” are as many and as varying as the Covid virus. Man cannot control the climate. Man cannot control the virus. And, most importantly, we do not know all the variables. A little humility to admit that one does not know all that one does not know, and that maybe you could be wrong would be a good thing.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      I’m sorry, what is it you seek an explanation for? I have no idea what Youngkin’s actual attitude is toward the general topic. He just wants to end the RGGI tax.

      1. Nothing. If we had a media that actually had an independent desire to pursue the truth of a story instead of the narrative, it could pursue the why, but it won’t because that would require doing work and a brain and the courage to oppose the dominant narrative. So instead, much easier to report the end of the world.

        1. James Kiser Avatar
          James Kiser

          The media lacks all three.

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    I appreciate your explanation of this issue.

    This is indeed another one of those complex issues that do not lend themselves well to Tweets or thirty-second TV news sound bites. The reporters, already stretched thin due to the decimating of newsrooms, intare also expected to file instant reports for the never-satisfied Internet. There is seldom enough time to get all the background and details needed. Those details and nuances get lost. And the public is most often not willing to take the time to listen to, or read, the details.

    That is where blogs like this are valuable. People are willing to take the time to delve into the details and the complexity of issues and report them and there are readers who appreciate that.

    There is no question that RGGI is a carbon tax. Not so long ago, conservative economists were advocating a carbon tax as the best method of lowering levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    As you point out, a significant portion of the Commonwealth’s revenue from the RGGI auctions will be used to address coastal flooding. I have not heard of anyone objecting to this use of the funds. However, you suggest that another source of revenue could be made available for this purpose. What is wrong with using a carbon tax, rather than some other tax? You are right in that these revenues will not themselves affect climate change, but they will be used to address one of the demonstrable effects of climate change. Normally, conservatives like to the use of tax revenue to the source of the tax.

    As an afterthought, ever since I studied under a professor who was one of the experts on interstate compacts, I have been intrigued about them. There is some suggestion that RGGI is not a true interstate compact and, if challenged, it might not stand up under the Supreme Court’s current tests for interstate compacts. However, there could be alternative ways of viewing it. For those interested in such matters, here is a good discussion of both RGGI and interstate compacts. https://harvardlawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/the_compact_clause.pd

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    taxes to pay for environmental issues both to prevent damage and mitigate it are not uncommon. All of us, for instance, pay a tax on gasoline to deal with leaking or abandoned gasoline tanks from service stations. we pay taxes to dispose of tires and used motor oil. We pay taxes to subsidized FEMA flood insurance.

    These days, some of us do the equivalent of doubting there may well be environmental consequences for global warming.

    You may not believe it but even the US Military DOES and are actively planning to deal with the issue in Hampton Roads:


    So does that make DOD a bunch of ‘leftists” and Hitler wanna-be s?

    one thing about climate deniers. it appears and good percentage of them are also COVID skeptics and deniers, no?

    AND yes, they believe Smart People who often have little or no actual academic knowledge in the field – climate or epidemiology more so than they do believe people who actually do have specific academic knowledge and credentials.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Plenty of PhD’s and published research in the relevant fields on both sides of the argument, some in chairs at major universities, but you and the Ad Hominem Crowd have to attack their credentials because you cannot dispute their data.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Folks with academic credentials IN THE FIELD can and do disagree but they also can and do reach consensus on some even if they don’t agree 100%. That’s DIFFERENT that someone who does not have the academic credentials IN THE FIELD who “disagrees”. It’s like asking a Urologist for his opinion on a heart procedure yet some folks do this all the time with Climate Science. When you say “data”, where is it coming from? Who collected it and who is “interpreting” it. if someone is “interpreting” data that they did not collect nor do they even have academic credentials in the field that collected the data … do you see the problem?

        Do you want your urologist “interpreting’ the data collected by a cardiologist? Is it Ad Hominem to point that out?

        1. Matt Adams Avatar

          “Folks with academic credentials IN THE FIELD can and do disagree but they also can and do reach consensus on some even if they don’t agree 100%.”

          For the umpteenth time, science doesn’t operate under a consensus. You’ve been provided that information more times than I can count, yet you still repeat it.

        2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
          Eric the half a troll

          Larry, in case you have Matt blocked, I’ll tell you what he said: “Wah, wah, wah, whabbly, wah, wah…”. In case you were wondering…

  4. tmtfairfax Avatar

    So, when do the feds end subsidized flood insurance. When do state and local governments draw new flood zone boundaries, based on expected flooding from expected sea level rise; grandfather existing structures; and prohibit all new construction or major reconstruction in those zones? If one truly believes in climate change, one would expect those changes to occur. Since they haven’t and won’t, this is just one more piece of legalized theft from the government.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      I agree with you. However, there are legal ramifications with the government telling a property owner that he can’t build anything on his land; especially when he acquired the land before any prohibitions were put into place. (“Taking” considerations. At the least, however, property owners should know that they are on their own with respect to building in areas subject to sea level rise.

      There are new measures being put into place to discourage development in these areas:

      Flood insurance premiums are increasing. https://www.npr.org/2021/10/15/1044031508/flood-insurance-rates-are-spiking-for-many-to-account-for-climate-risk; https://www.pilotonline.com/news/environment/vp-nw-flood-insurance-changes-20210930-4uoimeme6vagbg7qe5tlc2q7ja-story.html

      FEMA has updated its floodplain maps. However, they are based on historic data and do not take into consideration future sea level rise. But, there is a private organization, the First Street Foundation, that has developed maps and flooding models that factor in 30-year climate change models. Perhaps localities could use that model in developing their floodplain regulations. https://firststreet.org/research-lab/published-research/flood-model-methodology_overview/

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        had not heard of First Street but it looks like they use govt-produced models.

        But as long as FEMA (taxpayers) are providing the insurance instead of the private sector, it’s problematical.

        What some folks may not realize is that in areas that may flood , you may not be able to get a loan on a property – and that also means on existing mortgages which can be called in if risk circumstances change.

        Subsistence is cited for the Chesapeake region but flood risk issues are in many other places in the US – like Houston and even though FEMA is moving to a “2.0” version – Congress is restricting how high premiums can go.

        Here’s the thing.

        People can and do argue about climate change and how much or if any at all it affects flooding – both inland from rivers but also coastal tide surges – but if the insurance got totally turned over to the private sector – chances are that most all but the rich could afford to live in these areas that are, in fact, high risk, and getting riskier.

        One might think that most Conservatives would staunchly oppose FEMA subsidized flood insurance… but few do… it’s mostly crickets. (not counting TMT).

        1. “…it looks like they use govt-produced models”

          Not really.

          ADCIRC was originally developed by Drs. Rick Luettich and Joannes Westerink. It has been adopted by the government, and it is currently maintained by a partnership among UNC, Notre Dame and the Corps of Engineers, but it was not produced by the government.

          SWAN was was developed at Delft University of Technology. It has also been adopted for use by several governments but was not developed by the government.

          LISFLOOD-FP was developed at the University of Bristol. Once again, it has been adopted by several governments, but was not produced by the government.

          First Street Foundation dis use government-produced data (who doesn’t?) for their model, but they did not use government-produced computer models.

      2. Interesting stuff.

        I have opinions on a lot of things, but flood modeling is one area where I have academic credentials, as well as real-world knowledge and experience. I have performed flood plain studies and hydrologic models on numerous streams and rivers in Virginia. I have also taken more than my share of flood plain map revisions through the FEMA process. Additionally, I have a great deal of experience with hydrologic and hydraulic computer modeling in general. With that out of the way, here are my thoughts on the First Street Foundation’s nationwide probabilistic flood model based on my initial reading of the overview at their website:

        Creating nationwide flood maps, even at 3-meter resolution is a huge undertaking. First Street Foundation has made several simplifications in their assumptions and their input data relative to other predictive flood models. Of course, without some level of simplification, a nationwide model would be nearly impossible to develop. Based on what I have gleaned of their methodology so far, most of their compromises appear to be reasonable and well thought-out. Their 30-year predictive model appears to have used “middle-of-the-road” predictions for increases in rainfall amounts, intensity and duration, so I would call that reasonable as well.

        There is one item in the “Fluvial Flooding” section which bothered me. They model river and stream channels using “a one-dimensional representation that enables river width to be decoupled from the model grid scale”, stating that it allows any river size, whether wider or narrower than the native scale to be represented within the model. They say this methodology allows modeling without the need for detailed cross-sections specific to each river. This bothers me from a geometric standpoint.

        Without knowing the boundaries of a river’s banks, I do not see how one can make assumptions regarding when flow will exceed the capacity within those riverbanks. I understand that topographic information of sufficient detail to negate the need for river cross-sections does not exist for a large part of the country and would be cumbersome to utilize even if it was, but I do not see how a one-dimensional representation of a river channel can be used to accurately model that river’s flood characteristics.

        There are a couple of other items for which I’d like some clarification, but the one-dimensional representation of river channels is the biggest. I hope to have my questions answered when I read their “Full Detail Methodology”, which I have not yet had the time to do.

        The First Street Foundation have taken on a huge task – one which should offer us a good overall picture of flood risks across the country, and seemingly reasonable predictions of potential risks in the future. They should be commended for their efforts. With that said, I hope that local modeling with channel-specific information, and better resolution than 3-meters, will be utilized by the government when determining and enforcing construction restrictions on private properties.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      who is responsible for drawing those flood zones? And do we rely on scientists and science to determine them?

      Who’s responsibility is it to deal with climate change impacts or if we deny that it’s due to climate change then no one is responsible?

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    “Not every policy imposed by government is subject to public hearings or votes.”

    Certainly true. Expediency may preclude it. But everything government does should be subject to very public postmortems… and vivisections for some involved.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Most legislation that results in regulation IS subject to public hearings and other opportunities for citizens and others to comment. MOST regulations also provide opportunity to comment.

    2. I agree, but in this case the “smart” people in the government did not even follow their own rules. They should at least do that.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Hey! Glad I ran into you. Harley-EV. You gonna buy one? Or rather, would you?

        1. I would seriously consider buying a Harley EV if they were not so damned expensive.

          I have been been looking at a couple of electric bikes made by a company called Zero. They are based in California and have been making electric dirt bikes for over ten years. They recently (in the last 5 years or so) started offering some street-bikes. The Zero SR/F is getting good reviews and is $10,000 less than a Harley EV.

          I’ve also been checking out a company called Lightning whose “Strike” sport bike runs about the same cost as a Zero SR/F. They’re also based in California and have been around about as long as Zero. The Strike goes from 0-60 in 3.0 seconds which is comparable to the performance of a mid-range 600 cc sport bike.

          Truth be told, my next bike will probably be a lightly used Ducati Multistrada. I will get a lot more serious about electric bike when they are a bit more cost effective.

        2. how_it_works Avatar

          The biggest problem with the Harley-EV is that it is far too quiet for the “loud pipes” crowd that typically rides Harleys…

          It also doesn’t stink like a lawnmower badly in need of a tune-up.

  6. DJRippert Avatar

    Why should the vast majority of Virginians who do not live in flood prone areas be taxed to support the minority of Virginians who choose to live in flood prone areas? This is especially important as the localities in the flood prone areas continue issuing building permits as if nothing is happening.

    I doubt that the majority of the problems in Hampton Roads are currently being caused by climate change caused sea-level rise. The more likely culprit is subsidence. Sharpe’s Island, in the Middle of the Chesapeake was 700 acres in the 1650s, 94 acres in 1914 and is about 10 feet underwater today. Sorry lefties, but that is not the result of climate change and associated sea level rise.

    Subsidence is a fact of life all around the Chesapeake Bay. It is a good reason not to own property near the water or on lowlands. However, if you do own such property you should self-insure rather than crying for other people’s money to shore up your poor decisions.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      so are taxpayers responsibility for publically-owned infrastructure – like Naval bases, roads, water/sewer, etc?

      1. how_it_works Avatar

        Water/sewer infrastructure is almost always paid for by user fees, not taxes.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          they are but they function a lot like taxes in terms of how they get funded, built and paid for and water/sewer does requires govt support for the loans as well as eminent domain for the pipes and govt approval for sewage treatment plants – which often require govt loan guarantees for the funding.

          water/sewer often also follow public rights-of-ways for things like roads. If a localitiy can no longer maintain a road because it is underwater, then water/sewer using those rights-of-ways are also imperiled.

          1. how_it_works Avatar

            The real “sticky” issue with using taxes to fund water/sewer infrastructure is when the government-owned water/sewer utility provides service in a place where it’s parent government does not have taxing authority. Like, for example, a city-owned water/sewer system that provides service to some parts of the adjacent county.

            The only equitable way to fund such a system is via user fees. And those user fees had best not be used by the city for non water/sewer related costs.

            I believe there was a court case where a city used their user fees for unrelated expenses and customers in the adjacent county sued. The city lost.

          2. Some publicly-owned water and sewer utilities address that issue by assessing a surcharge on the user fees of customers located outside their normal service area.

          3. how_it_works Avatar

            I know of one that actually had employees who were split between water/sewer and general functions, and it wasn’t being accurately reflected in the corresponding budgets, so they figured out how many hours each employee worked on water/sewer. The result was that an employee might be assigned to water/sewer for 30% of their hours and general functions for the remaining 70% of their hours. As I recall it was phrased as the employee was 0.3 FTE (full time equivalent) for water/sewer and 0.7 FTE for general.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            yes – water/sewer infrastructure is often co-located with other govt infrastructure – like roads… If the road starts flooding, it means the water/sewer is also and if the road abandoned, then access to water/sewer perhaps no longer accessible either.

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            I concur that water/sewer is fee-based, not taxes. And that sometimes one jurisdiction provides some to an adjacent. And even beyond that, there are private water and sewer systems.

            But none are usually designed to function underwater in flooded areas and especially so the treatment plants that often sit in low-lying areas adjacent to a water body.

            water/sewer infrastructure that floods often, may not be viable longer term.

            I’m not clear on the how of wastewater treatment plants but in Va, DEQ permits them and also issues sanctions against them when they fail standards.

            If plants get flooded and have to be rebuilt, those costs get borne by all the customers and in the end, just like with roads that flood much more frequently, they may well have to abandon the flooded parts – and customers – to preserve the remaining system

            Homes and businesses that lose water/sewer will have to close and the property no longer habitable – AND – the final point here – is the local govt ALSO then loses tax revenues on those abandoned properties.

  7. Yeah, I’ve been really impressed by the “smart” people who run this country and brought us everything from COVID lockdowns to a 6.8% inflation rate. Some of the so-called smart people may have higher IQs and may have gone to more prestigious universities, but a high IQ doesn’t exempt a person from group think, confirmation bias, dividing humanity between “us” and “them,” and the proclivity for cloaking the pursuit of raw self interest with rhetoric about the common good. Indeed, so-called smarts tends to inflate peoples’ sense of superiority and hubris. Smart people can do more damage than ordinary souls. Examples:

    Adolf Hitler supposedly had a genius IQ. https://www.quora.com/What-was-Adolf-Hitler-s-estimated-IQ

    Josef Stalin supposedly had a high (but sub-genius) IQ https://www.quora.com/What-was-Stalins-IQ

  8. James Kiser Avatar
    James Kiser

    Nothing would be more fatal than for the government of
    states to get into the hands of the experts. Expert knowledge is limited
    knowledge: and the unlimited ignorance of the plain man who knows only
    what hurts is a safer guide, than any vigorous direction of a
    specialised character. Why should you assume that all except doctors,
    engineers, etc. are drones or worse? . . . If the Ruler is to be an
    expert in anything he should be an expert in everything; and that is
    plainly impossible. Winston Churchill in a letter to H.G. Wells.

  9. For your journalist acquaintance, a “smart” person is probably just someone who agrees with his/her ideas, thoughts and preconceived notions.

  10. Paul Sweet Avatar

    Wasn’t it “the best and brightest” who got us involved in the Vietnam quagmire?

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