It ain’t right to charge a man for tryin’ to make a livin’

This is why we have government regulations. This is why some people think we shouldn’t:

“I got paid to do a job. And I was hired for money.”

“Granted, it was wrong. Hell, it would have taken an hour to cut it up, cut it up. And by that time, you done caused a big ruckus.” It takes longer and it costs more to do it right.

It’s pretty clear why they did it: “Honestly, I figured I could do it and not get caught.”

Which is why we have enforcement of government regulations (ideally, anyway).

But, you know, it’s just those big-guvmint regulations out of control, trying to keep the little business owner down: “Licensed and insured, no? I just do it just to do it. .. Nah, I ain’t no big time company man. I ain’t got none of that.  I’m just an individual trying to make a livin.’ ”

How do you try to evade responsibility for ignoring the law: “And we’re gonna get charged for trying cut down a tree to make money? That’s wrong. Don’t you think that’s wrong? Trying to get charged for making money? … Don’t you think that’s wrong at all? You do, don’t you? It ain’t right to blame a man for trying to make a livin?”

It’ would be wrong, the newscaster said, “If you do the job right.” They did not.

This is a funny little clip, but it also seems to exemplify a bigger problem. These two gentleman see government regulation as an impediment to making a living. And, to the extent that’s what they’re trying to do, it is. But it’s also about making sure that people more interested in making a dollar or getting to the lake with their girlfriends don’t take shortcuts that end up getting in everyone else’s way. Their attitude seems awfully similar to Republicans and Democrats alike who put the interests of industry – especially industries that donate – above the common good.

I’m reminded of the coal industry and its political supporters*. What industry are you reminded of?

It’s easy to see why these two guys are wrong. Can we apply this lesson more broadly?

*For the record, every coal miner I’ve met in my life is way smarter and more responsible than either of these guys. I’m talking about the folks running the operation and the politicians who support them. Their decisions, unlike these guys, are a result of applying the profit motive, not an underdeveloped intelligence.

Good riddance to the Glen Lyn plant

Word from AEP that it will most likely be shuttering its 90-plus year-old Glen Lyn plant is unequivocally good news. You wouldn’t know that by the reaction of some politicians, though, who complain that new EPA regulations behind the closure will cost jobs.

“When they spend billions of dollars, we’re going to pay every penny of that” in higher electricity bills, U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, told The Roanoke Times. “It’s a huge cost, and it’s all because of the EPA.” West Virginia’s Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, for instance, sent out a release complaining that West Virginia would lose more than 200 jobs because of plant closures announced there as part of AEP: “Today’s announcement by AEP reinforces the belief that the EPA is out of touch with the economic impact of their overreaching regulations,” Tomblin wrote.

Griffith and Tomblin act like the EPA is doing this just to be mean or to intentionally hurt the economy. But the fact is that closing the Glen Lyn plant will save lives. According to a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, pollution from the Glen Lyn plant is responsible for 31 deaths a year, as well as 47 heart attacks and 480 asthma attacks.

These new stricter nationwide standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic emissions will prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks and 12,000 emergency room visits. The EPA estimates the cost of compliance will be around $10 billion, but the economic benefit will be closer to $100 billion.

Griffith and Tomblin want to merely whine about the cost without considering the benefits, including lives saved.

The Glen Lyn plant is an ancient, dirty beast that has polluted Virginia’s air and sickened and killed those who live near it. Its demise should be celebrated and, if possible, hastened even further.


A quick, easy way to shave $4 billion off the deficit

If the United States government is truly as broke as Republicans insist, then this ought to be a no-brainer:

Boehner had stunned Washington on Monday when he told ABC Newsthat cutting the subsidies to oil companies is “certainly something we should be looking at.” … In all, the tax breaks, many designed to encourage more exploration, cost taxpayers more than $4 billion a year in lost revenue — enough for 1.4 million Americans to buy a tank full of gas every week for an entire year.

We’re broke, right (pssst – we’re not, but Republicans keep saying we are), so why are we letting Big Oil off the hook for $4 billion a year in taxes?


Throw the book at ’em

This is a potentially heartening development:

The FBI has informed families of the miners who died at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine that they may be the victims of a federal crime, the Gazette has learned.

If that disaster, which cost the lives of 29 miners, was the result of criminal safety violations, I hope Don Blankenship is the first S.O.B. charged, convicted and held accountable.

Using food for fuel is a really bad idea

Here’s a story from the New York Times that’s worth using up one of your 20 allotted free stories for the month:

The starchy cassava root has long been an important ingredient in everything from tapioca pudding and ice cream to paper and animal feed.

But last year, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to just one place and almost all for one purpose: to China to make biofuel. Driven by new demand, Thai exports of cassava chips have increased nearly fourfold since 2008, and the price of cassava has roughly doubled.

Across the globe, food prices are rising dramatically, even as developing nations adopt ever more ambitious goals for converting to nonfossil fuels. In the United States, the price of corn went up 73 percent in the last half of 2010 alone. According to The Times, “The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that its index of food prices was the highest in its more than 20 years of existence.”

Experts in the global food supply don’t argue for giving up on biofuels, but they think a more flexible approach is needed when prices increase. “The policy really has to be food first,” Hans Timmer, director of the Development Prospects Group of the World Bank told The Times. “The problems occur when you set targets for biofuels irrespective of the prices of other commodities.”

That, and encouraging more research into using non-food sources for biofuels – remember President Bush’s promise to boost research into using switch grass?