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Rediscovering An Anthropic Genius

Michael Kaarhus
01:13 Friday, May 10, AD 2019 GMT
Shangri La

I make two related arguments here, a penultimate and an ultimate:

My penultimate argument is that, once our State and Federal governments get on the stick, and prevent and extinguish forest fires, we will not need cap-n-trade legislation to reduce CO₂. In particular, Oregon will not need H.B.2020. We will reduce CO₂ without such draconian or destructive changes to our way of life.

My ultimate argument is that, in order to do so, our State and Federal governments need to drop Marxist ideology, and pick up the anthropic genius that was at work prior to the 1970’s. When they do, we will accomplish more than protecting our forests and improving our atmosphere.

The Penultimate Argument

For those of you that think that forest fires do not contribute significantly to atmospheric CO₂, here is some evidence to the contrary:

According to a 2007 National Science Foundation study:

Overall, the study estimates that U.S. fires release about 290 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of 4 to 6 percent of the nation's carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning.

"A striking implication of very large wildfires is that a severe fire season lasting only one or two months can release as much carbon as the annual emissions from the entire transportation or energy sector of an individual state," the paper states.

Fires contribute a higher proportion of carbon dioxide in several western and southeastern states, especially Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Washington, Arkansas, Mississippi and Arizona. Particularly large fires can release enormous pulses of carbon dioxide rapidly into the atmosphere. (NSF Study)

In 2017, fires in British Columbia alone “produced about 150 (plus/minus 30) million tons of carbon dioxide. This is two to three times the emissions from fossil fuel burning from all other sectors in B.C.” (www.cbc.ca).

In 2016, Canada’s The Fort McMurray wildfire produced an estimated 10% of the entire yearly CO₂ output of Canada, before it was under control:

Werner Kurz, is a senior research scientist at the Canadian Forest Service and heads its carbon accounting team. He said he generally estimates that for every hectare of forest land consumed in a fire like this one, about 170 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions – so dubbed because they actually include not only carbon dioxide, but also methane and nitrous oxide, two additional greenhouse gases – head into the atmosphere. (National Post).

According to the NY Daily News:

In total, the 2018 [California] wildfires released equal to about 68 million tons of carbon dioxide, or 15% of all emissions throughout the state. The two most recent blazes, the Camp Fire and the Woolsey Fire, combined for about 5.5 million tons of greenhouse gases. (NY Daily News)

When, instead of passing cap-n-trade legislation, such as Oregon’s H.B.2020, State and Federal governments declare war on wildfires, and prevent and suppress them, we will not need drastic CO₂ caps; we will decrease CO₂ significantly without cap-n-trade.

The total of Oregon’s 2016 unadjusted, energy-related CO₂ production was 38.0 million metric tons (USEIA Study). How much CO₂ does one typical season of forest fires in Oregon produce?

Stats on how much CO₂ a forest fire produces seem to vary according to the political leaning of the people doing the calculations and studies. I use Werner Kurz’s statistic, 170 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per hectare of forest burned, because it’s the most intelligent one that I have found. Most articles give you disembodied stats: a number of metric tons produced, but not the number of acres or hectares burned. Or the acres burned, but not the metric tons produced. It’s typical, careless journalism. The word wildfire and the phrase forest fire do not appear in Oregon’s H.B.2020. It’s typical, careless legislation. Climate legislation that omits any mention of wildfire-produced CO₂ is certainly not comprehensive; it needs to go back to square one, and from there to the round file. H.B.2020 essentially says to we the people, “Not only are we ruling class Democrats going to continue to let catastrophic fires destroy your O₂-producing forests, we are also going to make it expensive for you to drive trucks and SUV’s. Better buy a Prius, like the State does.”

Using Kurz’s ratio, and from this climatetrust.org article, 630,000 acres burned in Oregon in 2016, we have:

630000 ac / 2.471052 ac/hc = 254952.1 hc.
   254952.1 hc × 170 mt/hc = 43,341,857 mt.
       43.3 mmt − 38.0 mmt = 5.3 mmt.

So, in 2016, wildfires in Oregon produced 5,300,000 more metric tons of CO₂ than the total of Oregon’s 2016 energy-related CO₂ production. H.B.2020 seeks by draconian changes to reduce the latter, and doesn’t even mention the former. The stats that I used to get that number are not right-wing: climatetrust.org, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and the Canadian Forest Service’s carbon accounting team.

When our State and Federal governments get serious about preventing and extinguishing forest fires, they will accomplish everything that H.B.2020 seeks to accomplish and more, without enacting it, without further polarizing Oregonians, without establishing a carbon credit bureaucracy, without destroying our way of life, etc. Of course, some argue that H.B.2020 is more climate fraud, and that we don’t need it in any case.

That is a different subject. Here I am merely arguing for fire prevention, fire fighting and good forest management, instead of cap-n-trade; and more generally, for anthropic industry and genius, instead of Marxist ideology.

For at least 20 years now, U.S. forest fires have been larger and more catastrophic than ever. They pour hundreds of megatons of CO₂ into our atmosphere every fire season. Fires are both preventable and extinguishable. Yet, our Oregon State government spends its time and effort trying to establish a carbon credit bureaucracy to tax our use of fossil fuel. Why doesn’t the State government do something helpful and charitable instead, like save our forests? Part of the reason is that governments have an economic disincentive to do so.

Forests are non-players in the CO₂ taxation game. They have no wallets, credit cards or bank accounts; they are penniless. The State cannot tax a penniless entity, or charge one for fire protection. According to the logic of economic disincentive, forests are less than worthless; it costs governments revenue to manage them properly. So, why not manage them improperly? Why not just let them burn down? Wouldn’t that must be the most cost-effective way to manage forests? Who needs penniless forests?

Following the logic of economic disincentive, governments typically do not do much to prevent our forests from burning down. Instead, they focus on taxing entities that have wallets, credit cards and bank accounts: businesses and companies that pass such costs on to you and me: consumers that buy their products and services. We are supposed to behold the logic of economic disincentive, and say, “Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s the State! Saving us from CO₂! Aren’t they wonderful? How could anyone not love the State, legislating and taxing anthropic industries out of business, and bringing climate justice to America?” What’s missing here?

For one thing, an economic incentive is missing.

Let’s say that a brilliant inventor invented an invention that would break down CO₂, and produce building material, food and O₂ at the same time. Such an invention would be a miracle. Nations that acquired and maintained these inventions in large numbers would enhance the atmosphere for the whole world. Providentially, we have really cool inventions that do just that:

And he said : Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done. And the earth brought forth the green herb, and such as yieldeth seed according to its kind, and the tree that beareth fruit, having seed each one according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day. (Genesis 1: 11-13)

When God prepared a home for humans to live in, plants were the first thing that He created on the dry land that appeared, after He created light and the firmament, and separated the waters. Plants rank high on the list of inventions important for human life. But Departments of Revenue don’t hand out tax credits for maintaining them. On the contrary, governments, both State and Federal, let them burn down when they catch fire.

Governments are grossly negligent in this matter. We trusted them to preserve and protect our forests and wildlife. But they let fire destroy them. What happened?

The Ultimate Argument

The short answer is, Marxism happened. For instance, one of the more recent pieces of hip, cool and Marxist propaganda from the academy is that plants and phytoplankton are carbon-neutral. That means that, considering both their lives and deaths, plants and phytoplankton produce zero net O₂, and fix, that is, break down, zero net CO₂. How could that be?

When they are alive, plants and phytoplankton do this:

Light + 6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2

They use light to break down water and CO₂, and produce glucose (sugar) and O₂. But when they die, their decay consumes O₂ and produces CO₂. So, the argument is that there is no net O₂ gain, and no net CO₂ fixing from plants and phytoplankton, and that consequently, we cannot depend on plants or phytoplankton to consume our energy-related CO₂, or produce extra O₂ for us. It’s a false argument.

Plants live for a long time, some for hundreds of years, but they die and decay only once. For all the time that they are alive, plants and phytoplankton break down CO₂ and produce O₂ and glucose. They consume O₂ and produce CO₂ only once: when they die and decay. So, on the contrary, plants and phytoplankton consume our energy-related CO₂ and produce extra O₂ for us. Still, some might disagree:

“Mike, you are wrong. Plants can live a long time, but their foliage is always dieing and decaying. Plant foliage decay is always producing CO₂ and consuming O₂.”

It is true that the foliage of plants does not last for the whole life of the plant. Deciduous foliage lasts for less than one year, evergreen foliage longer. But both kinds fix CO₂, and produce O₂ and sugar for the whole time that they are alive. Foliage dies only once. So there is still a large net fixing of CO₂ and production of O₂ and sugar. And incidentally we consume sugars and seeds that plants produce; they provide food and oils for us, not only O₂.

Marxist propaganda also says that, to preserve our beautiful forests, we must prohibit almost all logging in them, and governments, not private concerns must manage them.

I argue on the contrary that we would do well to let timber companies make a profit by logging in our national forests, and that the same would manage our forests better than governments do.

Timber companies do not want forests to burn down. To them, timber is a valuable resource; it represents profit. One doesn’t let one’s resource burn down. When they were still in business, timber companies had their own fire-fighting equipment, and aggressively fought fires on timbered lands that they managed. They had an economic incentive to do so. When they harvested and sold trees, they had an economic incentive to plant more, so that they could harvest trees in the future, and make more profit. The academy didn’t like that.

The academy developed novel, Marxist propaganda to the effect that people that profit from forests are evil. Their propaganda became hip; governments accepted it, and still do. Ideologically, that’s where we are today. But there are two annoying bugs in the Marxist propaganda that few pay attention to, and no one has bothered to fix.

The first is that governments don’t produce wood products. They do not have an economic incentive to do anything with forests, except decide whether to spend government revenue to manage them, or let them burn down, so that they don’t have to spend revenue on them. Unfortunately for us that breathe, governments have an economic disincentive to protect forests; it is cheaper for governments if they let fires destroy forests. The miraculous inventions that sequester CO₂, and produce O₂ for us to breathe are thus at risk, and the soulless eyes of the State watch the spectacles of their destruction every summer and fall.

The second annoying bug is the falsehood that anyone that profits from logging is evil, and by extension, that any economic incentive to use the forest is evil. On the contrary, inasmuch as governments refuse to let timber be the marketable product that it naturally is, forests would suffer the vagaries of having no economic value. Forests are good for many things, just like people. But governments don’t want unprofitable people; they have no money to tax. Nor do governments have much use for forests that people cannot profit from; again, where there are no profits, there is no tax revenue. Inasmuch as governments do not let people profit from logging, governments have an economic disincentive concerning forests. Maybe some will disagree:

“Mike you are mistaken. Governments love forests, and have an aesthetic interest in them. We get water from forests. Hunters, fishermen, hikers, backpackers and horse packers use and need forests. As you said, we get O₂ from forests. And they sequester CO₂. Governments have all kinds of interests in forests.”

Governments have many interests in forests, just like we the people, but no economic incentive to care for them. The hip, academy-produced, Marxist propaganda of the 1960’s and ‘70’s destroyed the economic incentive. Economic interest is the one that people, governments, wildlife and forests need first. That’s because it’s the only interest capable of displacing the State’s economic disincentive to protect and manage forests.

Of course we have an aesthetic interest in forests. But it doesn’t produce much revenue. Governments can charge forest pass fees and campground fees. Those might not even cover the costs of administering the forest pass bureaucracy, and maintaining campgrounds. Fees generate nowhere near enough revenue to pay for fire crews, forest law enforcement, and fire equipment.

We have an interest in water from forests. But water customers are already paying for the infrastructure and labor necessary to get and distribute good water. If a city’s water supply is from ground water, then a forest or grassland is involved in producing it. Maybe governments could force water customers to also pay for fire fighting and prevention for their watershed. But wouldn’t it be nice if water were inexpensive and abundant? Why is the solution always to make people that are already hurting pay more for necessities? Where is the fatness in that? Where the charity?

Today’s State thinks that it does not need to be charitable toward the people. This, too, is a Marxist error. States have a Christian obligation to be charitable toward the people. In theory, States exist solely for the benefit of the people, not for that of a politburo and of one party, to the detriment of all others.

Maybe some in government want wildlife to do well. But deer, elk and rainbow trout do not carry MasterCards; States cannot obtain revenue from them, except by selling tags and licenses to kill them. Governments have no economic incentive to care about wildlife.

There are not enough fishermen and hunters to buy the number of tags and licenses that would fund good forest management, and fire prevention and fighting. I know, some on the left might disagree:

“Mike, all that we have to do is raise the prices of tags, licenses, forest passes and campground spaces, until we have enough revenue to fund forest management. Problem solved! No logging needed!”

You need to take Laffer 101. It is on the general subject of government revenue, which I am writing about here, so here comes the Laffer Curve:

Revenue from taxation, fees and passes is not linear. It is a curve, and if governments get greedy, they put their revenue on the wrong side of it. Governments can obtain more revenue by increasing low taxes and fees, but only to a certain point, which is the top of the revenue curve. If a government increases taxes and fees beyond that, its revenue decreases, because people value their money; they will find better uses for it than paying confiscatory taxes, or in this case, buying overpriced licenses, tags, passes and campground spaces.

[laffer curve]

Even more fundamental than the Laffer Curve is the fact that, if governments were to implement Marxist imperatives that destroy anthropic industries, people wouldn’t have money to spend on anything, not even low-priced items. We would become as Venezuelans; governments would get no revenue whatsoever from us.

If fishing and hunting is to be of benefit to communities, fishermen and hunters have to have some money left to spend in the towns that they travel through or stay in. It’s the same with backpackers and recreationalists, except that they don’t need hunting or fishing licenses, and so are contributing even less revenue to governments. And when forests burn down, all of these low-revenue uses are destroyed. So is tourism, and the tax revenue that comes from it. So is wildlife; under our present, Marxist-inspired paradigm, God’s creatures have no economic value to governments. When forests burn, wildlife perishes in the flames. It’s hideous.

[saving a fawn]
Firefighter saves a fawn from the Prescott Fire in 2017. (Stephen Rhine - USFS photo)

I hate to say this, but it would make more sense if fishermen and hunters managed our forests. They want there to be fish to catch and game to hunt. They would therefore be in favor of preventing and fighting forest fires. State and Federal governments aren’t.

State and Federal governments want us to believe that they love and care for our forests, and for wildlife, but their track record in actually protecting forests and wildlife from catastrophic destruction is abysmal, making their claim ridiculous.

It is a serious problem when forests become economically useless. An anthropic genius used to kick in and solve it. Prior to the 1970’s, Americans would say, “Okay, we have huge forests. We want industries that produce and sell forest products. The State controls the forests, so the State will get a cut from the profits of each industry. That way, everyone will be happy: the State will have an interest in preserving and protecting forests, and preventing and extinguishing fires; it will get revenue for its programs, forest products industries will thrive and employ people, and forests will be considered a valuable resource, worth protecting, along with the wildlife that lives in them. It’s a win-win-win-win!”

What’s wrong with that?

There is nothing wrong with that, and it worked really well for a long time. Then came the 1960’s and ‘70’s, and from the academy, Marxist propaganda to the effect that it was no longer good or cool to make money from forests. It wasn’t hip. One could not trust private enterprise in the least. One had to remove from the midst of our forests the evil of anthropic industry. We had to make it so that only State and Federal governments, and those that they permitted, could tread on the forest floor; governments were the only entities that one could trust; they were the guardians and saviors of our forests.

On the contrary, State and Federal governments have for the past 20 years repeatedly demonstrated that they are such poor managers of our forests, that they don’t care if they burn down, wildlife and all. Marxist ideology was and continues to be worse than mistaken; it is hideous. We humans need to re-acquire that anthropic genius that permits forests to become economic assets, and humans to develop industries that profit from them.

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