“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society.” — James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 10, November 22, 1787.
When the New Constitution was being debated by members of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 three leading advocates for the adoption of a new constitution based on a federal form of government based on republican principles were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. To advance their arguments they published a series of essays, 85 in all, under the name of Publius. These Federalist Papers are used today, especially by the federal courts, to understand the intent of the framers of our Constitution. One of the most important of these Federalist Papers was Number 10 written by James Madison, considered by many to be one of the leading framers of our Constitution, decrying the dangers of factions that were existent in the Articles of Confederations.
In Federalist No. 10 Madison addresses the inherent dangers of “Factions.” He considered factions as a danger to a federalist form of republican government as they would be the basis of a tyranny of either the majority or minority depending how strong these factions were. In Federalist 10 Madison said:
“Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. He will not fail, therefore, to set a due value on any plan which, without violating the principles to which he is attached, provides a proper cure for it. The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished, as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations. The valuable improvements made by the American constitutions on the popular models, both ancient and modern, cannot certainly be too much admired; but it would be an unwarrantable partiality to contend that they have as effectually obviated the danger on this side, as was wished and expected. Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority. However anxiously we may wish that these complaints had no foundation, the evidence of known facts will not permit us to deny that they are in some degree true. It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements and alarm for private rights which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administration.”
“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well as speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities that where no substantial occasion presents itself the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of government.”
To mitigate the effects of factions of a federal republic Madison advocated a bicameral legislature where the lower house (House of Representatives) was more responsive to local and factional issues while the upper house (Senate) would be more responsive to the inserts of the various states and national as a whole. This why the members of the lower house were elected by direct popular vote in their various districts and served for a two-year term while members of the upper house were chosen by state legislatures, conventions or governors and serve for a six-year term. Members of the Senate could be recalled by their states. This changed when the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted in 1913. Now Senators are elected by direct popular vote in their respective states.
The Seventeenth Amendment states:
“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”
Critics of the Seventeenth Amendment claim that by altering the way senators are elected, the states lost any representation they had in the federal government and that this led to the gradual "slide into ignominy" of state legislatures, as well as an overextension of federal power and the rise of special interest groups (factions) to fill the power vacuum previously occupied by state legislatures. In addition, concerns have been raised about the power of governors to appoint temporary replacements to fill vacant senate seats, both in terms of how this provision should be interpreted and whether it should be permitted at all. Accordingly, noted public figures have expressed a desire to reform or even repeal the Seventeenth Amendment. The following states did not ratify the Seventeenth Amendment. It should be noted that Utah (explicitly rejected amendment). Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia did not ratify the Seventeenth Amendment due to the above stated reason.
You might consider that if we did not have the Seventeenth Amendment the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) might not have passed the Senate. Two borderline Senators were Mary Landau of Louisiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Both Senators were from states with Republican dominated legislatures with Republican governors opposed to the PPACA.
Today we are living in a nation controlled by factions. These factions, unlike in Madison’s day, are promulgated from the offices of lawyers, lobbyists, and political activists groups in Washington, D.C. with offices located on “K” Street. Some of the most influential and well financed of these factional groups are the environmentalists, pharmaceutical firms, manufactures, agribusiness, communications, and public service unions. These factions have brought us ObamaCare, Cable TV monopolies, the Environmental Protection Agency, Ethanol, and financial institutions to name a few. They supply the money and political muscle to elect politicians that will advance their cause to the detriment of the nation.
One of the most powerful of these groups is the environmentalist. Over the past 40 years, since the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, these groups have morphed from conservationists concerned with conserving our natural resources to radical left-wing groups bent on pushing an agenda that is more red than green. They have been able to ban DDT causing the deaths of millions of African children to the effects of Malaria and Dengue fever due to the inability to kill mosquitos, their primary carrier. They have destroyed the coal industry. They have even dictated the light bulbs you can use in your home.
One of the most egregious of their radical agenda is the “Green Energy” movement. We have all heard of scandalous boondoggles of Solyndra and their $500 billion dollar bankrupted solar panel facility. But how many of you have heard of the Ivanpah Solar Panel Facility and their $1.6 billion government investment from the Department of Energy or the brewing scandal over government financed wind farms?
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System will consist of three separate solar thermal power plants in south-eastern California. The facility will consist of fields of heliostat mirrors focusing sunlight on receivers located on centralized solar power towers. The receivers will generate steam to drive specially adapted steam turbines. For the first plant, the largest ever fully solar-powered steam turbine-generator set was ordered, using a 123 MW Siemens SST-900 dual-casing reheat turbine. Final approval was gained in October 2010. On October 27, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and other dignitaries gathered in the Mojave Desert to officially break ground on the project. The first phase of the Ivanpah facility is scheduled to be finished in 2013. The project has generated controversy because of BrightSource's decision to build it on ecologically intact desert habitat. Project construction was temporarily halted in the spring of 2011 due to the impacts on desert tortoises, although construction resumed.
The project will occupy about 4,000 acres near Interstate 15 near the California–Nevada border, north of Ivanpah, California, and will be visible from the adjacent Mojave National Preserve, Mesquite Wilderness, and Stateline Wilderness.
The project has received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy. The total cost of the project is about $2,180 million. BrightSource has contracts to sell about two-thirds of the power generated at Ivanpah to PG&E, and the rest to SCE.
The largest investor in the project is NRG Energy, a generating company based in Princeton, N.J., that has put in $300 million. The project has also received an investment of $168 million from Google, but in November 2011, Google announced that they would no longer invest in CSP due to the rapid price decline of photovoltaics, and stopped its research on the project.
While solar generated energy may be a very good thing — in fact I have solar panels on my roof — I should be left up to the private sector and utilities to make the investment as they have done coal-fired and natural gas generating plants. Why should the people in Arkansas or Nebraska contribute to federal dollars to guarantee loans for the generation of expensive and perhaps unreliable electricity for California and Nevada? This is really no different that the people of California and Nevada putting their as tax monies into a highway trust fund that finances the building of bike trails in Virginia or Delaware. If the states of California and Nevada want to invest in solar power the people of those states should have a say in the matter.
Wind Farms are another brewing scandal. You may have heard about the controversial Cape Wind project, the country’s first planned offshore wind farm off of the coast of Massachusetts. There are a lot of interests involved — fishermen, environmentalists, residents, aviation, the wind lobby, etcetera — and while the project has been digging around for some federal funding for some time, they did recently get at least the full permitting go-ahead from the Obama administration.
Opponents of the project, however, claim to have evidence that the Obama administration applied undue political “pressure” to the Federal Aviation Administration to get the project green-lighted. Their complaints have garnered the notice of Rep. Cliff Stearns, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee of Solyndra-crackdown fame. Fox News reports:
“The emails that came from the FAA that I have seen obviously shows the White House is pushing the FAA for political reasons,” said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Florida.
Audra Parker, the president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, an organization that’s working to prevent the wind farm’s development, said her organization has obtained documents she believes are proof the Federal Aviation Administration fast-tracked the project despite safety concerns for local aviation.
A PowerPoint presentation given in 2010 states: “The Secretary of the Interior has approved this project. The Administration is under pressure to promote green energy production. It would be very difficult politically to refuse approval of this project.”
“I think the Cape Wind project is something similar to Solyndra in the sense there’s a lot of pressure from the White House,” the congressman said.
The Fox report continues:
“The White House dismissed Stearns' latest accusations. And Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said that despite the concerns raised by opponents, the project has been heavily vetted.
"Cape Wind has been through the most comprehensive review of any power facility in the history of the Northeast U.S., and so if we're on any kind of fast track I'd hate to see the slow track," said Rodgers.
In fact, the FAA is again reviewing the project after a federal appeals court overturned the agency's ruling that 130 proposed turbines posed "no hazard" to aviation. Rodgers believes the FAA will once more rule in Cape Wind's favor despite political pressure from opponents.
"We know in the early years there was a lot of political pressure by project opponents to try to prevent the FAA from ever approving Cape Wind. But despite that negative political pressure the FAA has approved this three times after reviewing the full record -- twice during the Bush years, once now in the Obama years, and we're confident when they have this one more decision to make that we'll be approved again," Rodgers said.
Despite the latest efforts to fight the project, Cape Wind hopes to begin building next year. But they are facing multiple lawsuits and the possibility of further delays as both sides -- for and against the development -- charge that politics is playing a role in the battle.”
If you have ever driven across the country, especially in the Mohave Desert near Palm Springs, California you will see thousands of electric-generating wind farms with many of the wind mill blades not turning. In fact Palm Springs generates much of its electrical power from these wind farms. They stand like silent sentinels to a new age of environmentalism. Most of them were built by private investors who revived tax breaks for the construction. They were considered a capital investment — like any other investment in capital equipment and allowed accelerated depreciation. This is fine as the money was put up by investors that have since bailed out after their depreciation allowance ended and they became a maintenance burden with a negative return on the original investment and were sold to utilities and cities such a Palm Springs.
A few years ago T. Bone Pickens touted the advantages of wind farms across the central plains of Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado – the “Wind Belt” where once duct storms raved the landscape. Since then Pickens has bailed out of the wind farm technology for energy generation due to the lack of capital investment and the problems in obtaining rights of way for the construction of hundreds of miles of power lines. Pickens has now thrown his financial resources behind natural gas
On July 8, 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that T. Boone Pickens has postponed plans to build his Texas wind farm. He said the project was stopped partly because existing transmission line capacity wasn't available. His company had planned to build new lines, but couldn't get financing. On the same date, The New York Times, reported that Pickens is committed to purchasing 667 wind turbines and will develop wind projects for them. On his Mesa Power Group website, Pickens said he expected to continue development of the Pampa project, but not at the pace originally expected.
On December 15, 2010, Nathanael Baker, in an article for www.theenergycollective.com, wrote that Pickens has scrapped plans for wind farms and will instead focus exclusively on natural gas. According to the article, on December 10, 2010, MSNBC reported that "Pickens said low natural gas prices have made utility companies view wind power as too expensive." There are thousands of miles of existing natural gas pipelines across the nation and it is less expensive to build new ones than wind farms and their needed transmission lines. Also natural gas pipelines are underground and do clutter the landscape with thousands of giant windmills. Natural gas is also a clean, plentiful, and cheap fuel to fire electrical generating plants. The environmentalists should love this, but for some reason they do not.
I often bemoan the federal government’s green-energy agenda, not because I take any umbrage with the idea of non-conventional sources of energy, but because the federal government should not be in the business of choosing what those new forms of energy are going to be. The free market is perfectly capable of coming up with viable, affordable, efficient substitutes on its own, thank you very much (think about it — the car was initially an alternative to the horse, you know, and cars are a heck of a lot more environmentally friendly than horses).
The government is not a dispassionate bystander, but rather an entity with both political ambitions and ‘unlimited’ cash at its disposal — it’s too risky that they’ll just waste our money while aiding and abetting a form of energy that doesn’t hold real promise, or isn’t ready for mass production. Which, as we’ve seen with the Obama administration, they frequently do.
What’s worse, going full-on big-government to accomplish your political green agenda only sets up an environment for rent-seeking and crony capitalism, messing with market signals and leading to lord only knows what kinds of corruption. Given that the pro-wind movement has a notoriously powerful lobby, I wouldn’t say no to Rep. Stearns’ suggestion of a federal investigation.