The Outstater

July 1, 2024

Reality Makes a Comeback

WE ARE SUSTAINED by the hope there will be a day when reality overcomes romance in guiding our civic affairs. That is, the romantic notion that everyone can live in harmony and abundance regardless of culture, system or effort will eventually be modified by the need for secure borders, safe streets and running water. Joe Biden’s debate performance says that day has come.

For three years the mainstream media told us that Biden was conducting staff meetings in seven languages while making notes on the margins of Einstein’s Grand Unified Theory. Reality came last week, live on national television of all places, at the first and perhaps last presidential debate. More than one of us turned off the television that night praying that Biden had forgotten the launch code.

Reality is cropping up locally as well. A white-on-black police shooting at a traffic stop in our city, a fatal one, is testimony. It should have resulted in massive riots activated by BLM and Antifa agitators streaming in from both coasts. Instead, thanks to a police body camera, we saw the unfortunate young man repeatedly ignore orders to keep his hands on the dashboard. Instead, after two shouted warnings he chose to move one hand toward . . . well, toward mortal reality, a Draco AK semi-automatic pistol.

More examples? We once thought that attracting investment required the difficult political work of building coalitions to lower taxes and reduce regulations. But the last three Indiana governors, Republicans at that, convinced themselves they could waive a magic eco-devo wand to leverage tax-financed bonds, abatements, grants, etc., and  . . . poof  . . . better jobs would materialize.

Didn’t happen. State Affairs, a newsletter on state government, challenged that strategy as it was first outlined in a 2006 news release announcing the newly created Indiana Economic Development Commission (IEDC). The commission’s stated goal — promise? — was for Indiana by 2020 to exceed the national average in per capita income and average annual wages. From the State Affairs report:

“According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis within the U.S. Department of Commerce, Indiana’s wages have remained largely unchanged since the IEDC’s founding when compared with the national average. In 2005, Hoosiers made $31,376 per capita, about 88 percent of the $35,699 earned nationally. Indiana workers averaged $60,038 in 2023, or 88 percent of the national average ($68,531).”

That is in spite of tens of millions of dollars in investment incentives made available by the IEDC to politically selected corporations over two decades. Again, reality.

Remember the Green Revolution and transferring to the cheap power of carbon-free resources in order to save the world from problematic weather changes? Bjorn Lomborg, writing in the Wall Street Journal, has some bad news: Globally we spent almost $2 trillion last year alone trying to force this energy transition. It hasn’t worked. Indeed, fossil-fuel use has increased.

Lomborg, a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, notes that civilization has only shifted to new energy sources when there were better or cheaper alternatives, e.g., plowing with internal combustion rather than mule muscle, lighting with electricity rather than whale oil.

“Solar and wind fail on both counts,” he argues. “They aren’t better, because unlike fossil fuels, which can produce electricity whenever we need it, they can produce energy only according to the vagaries of daylight and weather. At best, they are cheaper only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing at just the right speed. The rest of the time they are expensive and mostly useless.” 

Lomborg reminds us that when you add in the cost of storage, wind and solar energy solutions become uncompetitive except with lavish subsidies. In sum, achieving a sustainable transition to solar or wind would require orders of magnitude more storage at impossible expense.

How impossible? McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm, estimates that achieving a transition to green energy would cost more than $5 trillion annually, slowing economic growth and making the real cost five times as high. Vaclav Smil, an energy researcher at the University of Manitoba, Canada, estimates the cost per U.S. voter could be more than $13,000 a year.

Reality is a bitch. — tcl


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