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Comment Re:$50 billion seems quite cheap (Score 1) 712

I wonder where they $50 billion number came from. The market cap of the top ten US coal companies is $25 billion. To get control would only take half that, maybe less depending on how concentrated the shareholdings are.

The bigger problem is that these companies all have entered into multi-year supply agreements. Either the new owners willfully violate those agreements and suffer the financial consequences, or they stay in the coal business.

The market cap of these companies is less than total assets, suggesting that the markets value the fixed assets at less than the book value, and that the return on assets and equity is modest.

Comment Re:This is more than a little bit naive. (Score 3, Informative) 712

> when it comes to talk about cutting these subsidies, the "big oil" boyz are all against it.

I don't know what "subsidies" you're referring to. I've never seen this in any formal statement from a major oil company. Exxon remains one of the world's biggest taxpayers, with an effective tax rate of 46% of gross margin. In 2013, they paid $30.6 billion in sales-based taxes, $33.2 billion in other taxes, and $24.3 billion in income taxes. (That is, those taxes were included in the price of Exxon's products.)

But the fact is that no business really pays taxes. They're passed along to customers in higher prices, to shareholders in reduced returns, to employees in lower wages. The net effect is a reduction in wealth for all three constituencies.

Comment Re:This is more than a little bit naive. (Score 3, Interesting) 712

Absolutely right. It's so-called "green" energy that gets real taxpayer subsidies, with capital contributions, taxpayer-funded rebates, loan guarantees, accelerated depreciation, purchase mandates, and (to name just one egregious example) the insane Zero Emission Vehicle credit system that creates a situation where electric cars actually increase net CO2 emissions (not that that matters).

And how will we heat our homes on a cold, dark, windless winter night? And get hot water?

The idea that $50 billion in capital would be squandered in this way boggles the mind. The people who came up with this press release probably have never run more than the $50 in their checking accounts.

Comment Re:Steyn is Slime (Score 1) 393

There have been two judges so far... In any case, the essential question of fact to be determined at trial is whether it is libelous to use the word "torture" to describe the adjustments made to the various data series, and the parameter choices used for the PCA, and the various choices in the final graphical presentation. I spent two years feeding repeated PCA runs into a general optimization model. With the right parameter choices I could pretty much get any answer I wanted.

Comment Re:Actually he is debating Steyn in court (Score 4, Informative) 393

Actually, one of the most interesting effects of this trial is that Mann must comply with Steyn's discovery demands, to see whether indeed he "tortured" the data... Mann and others have still refused to disclose the details of their models, saying (astoundingly) that people just wanted to prove them wrong. Trying to prove a model wrong is the usual way of science... So whether you think this is "settled science" or not, you should welcome this open disclosure and wonder why it takes a court proceeding to achieve it.

As for the notion of "settled science", which presumably means you should stop questioning something - this is a very disturbing concept which in my opinion has no place at all on slashdot, of all one forums. slashdot is one place where people discuss new ways of looking at old ideas - experiments test Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, studies about whether cutting salt from your diet reduces hypertension, the value of dietary suppliements, and other bits of uncommon knowledge. Almost every interesting post here challenges some "settled" idea.

Comment Re:Steyn is Slime (Score 3, Informative) 393

Steyn didn't assert that Mann is a fraud, but rather that Mann "tortured" the data. You may recall that Principal Component Analysis was used on a limited and secretly-adjusted data set to come up with the alarming "hockey stick" chart.

It's pretty much indisputable that there was significant warming from like 1930-1996, but very little since then in spite of more or less linear increases in CO2 concentrations since like 1850. The anthropogenic component of global warming is poorly understood, and the appropriate interventions even less so. But diverting taxpayer dollars so wealthy people can get a Tesla as their third or fourth auto is probably suboptimal.

The actual source code is this, from - you can decide for yourself whether this is "torture" or not, and whether this particular debate should be squelched:

; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,-0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,'Oooops!'


Comment Re:Benedict Saverin (Score 1) 911

The trope that a successful businessperson should "give back" as if they've taken something is an evil perversion of the American economic system and of capitalism itself.

A thief? A country that worked hard to give him a chance at his dreams of success - are you kidding? It worked just as hard for you - why don't you pay a few hundred million dollars in taxes, as Saverin will? The "country" didn't work any harder for him than it did for you.

Facebook created billions of dollars of wealth - $96 billion or so - out of nothing, and created thousands of jobs and far greater pleasure and wealth and utility for its millions of users and customers and affiliates. Facebook and its founders have no need to "give back" - they've already done the giving with their great ideas and brilliant execution, and $96 billion is very precisely a measure of how much they've given.

You mention all that infrastructure - but that infrastructure was not bought with income or capital gains taxes. Gasoline excise taxes pay for the roads (except when they're looted for blackhole "green" projects). Airports are funded by airlines and concessions and gate fees. The mail system is mostly paid for by user fees, and should be entirely so. Public education is paid for by property taxes which have nothing to do with Saverin.

Don't confuse taxes with social good. Warren Buffett and indeed Mark Zuckerberg (if not Steve Jobs) are giving large pieces of their fortunes to charities not because they want to "give back", but because charitable gifts allow them to decide how to spend it, and allow them to keep politicians from squandering it. You happen to mention fire departments. Not too long ago, fire departments were funded by insurance companies or by annual subscription. And in those days, the local fire chief didn't make $250,000/year (as one nearby chief does) or get $700,000 annual pensions (as another does).

Comment Re:Unfair taxes ! (Score 1) 911

These programs deserve a more thoughtful response... Social Security is a transfer from the young to the old. My mother (who didn't really need it) thought it was the greatest thing in the world until I pointed out that what she received was roughly what her three sons were paying in taxes - while we struggled to pay the bills and make homes for her grandchildren. Now I am about to receive my own Social Security payments, but I hope to be able to give all that money back to my own children. We can afford to help the needy elderly - but do we need this blind transfer from young people to old? As for Medicare and Medicaid - again, we need a system that helps the truly needy. But we also need a system that puts a price tag on health - it can't be free, and the consequences of bad life choices should also have financial consequences. Why should taxpayers pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for LVADs? They'll buy granny a few weeks in agony, sedated in the hospital... You have to say yes if it's "free" but what if the hospital asks you for a $100,000 cashier's check in advance? We need skin in the game, not bureaucrats deciding for us.

Comment Re:Eduardo Saverin, a traitor and scumbag (Score 1) 911

Do you think people who left East Germany in the 1960s - or North Korea today - should be "lynched as traitors"? If you believe in freedom in the tiniest way, you the you will believe that people are free to leave. The United States does charge an enormous exit tax - you have to pay capital gains taxes on the market value of all your assets, even if you leave them behind. But don't you agree that a key factor of freedom is the freedom to leave? And not be vilified for it?

Comment Re:To be banned in 2020 (Score 2) 743

But... very few light bulbs are turned on that many hours per month. Sixty cent incandescents are the most energy-efficient solutions for closets, laundry rooms, attics, and other spaces that are lit rarely. CFLs and LEDs have a higher manufacturing energy content... Sure, many consumers make bad decisions -- but we're all worse off when heavy-handed government tries to make good decisions for everyone. Do you think you're smart enough to do that?

Comment Re:There is a bigger question here. (Score 1) 743

I have a couple of $40 light bulbs, provided by the local (City of Palo Alto government-owned) electrical utility. They're on a timer-controlled circuit and burn about 1,000 hours/year. They replaced a couple of CFLs - which means they save about 10kWh/year or $1.50/year. In my opinion, the exercise was a stupid waste of money. Jevons Paradox tells us that with more efficient light bulbs, we'll want to use more electricity for lighting.

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