Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

Marita Noon and Robin Dozier Otten
Issue CC - July 11, 2009
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The news has been bleak for those of us who support energy freedom and free-market principles. With that in mind we must take solace in any small victory we can. They have been few and far between.

Recently, however, in one week in March, there were four bits of news worthy of celebration. Observed through the lens of the big picture, they bring encouragement for the battle and could signal a reversal in the flow of the tide that swept the current policies into a position of power. Though virtually overlooked by the media, the specifics highlighted below represent not just one community's opinion, but encapsulate thought from a national, Congressional, state, and local perspective.

Back in January Rasmussen released poll data showing that the tide of public opinion regarding global warming had turned—more people now believe that climate change is natural rather than man-made. This single event was found to be a cause célèbre by many, but by itself garnered few headlines. When paired with the recent Gallup Poll reported on March 11, it begins to feel like a trend. The March 18 issue of Time Magazine reported "...climate change may be receding from the public consciousness. A Gallup poll released last week found that a record-high 41% of Americans believe that the threat of global warming is exaggerated in the news media, up from 30% in 2006." These two polls give a glimpse into the thinking of Americans from coast-to-coast. Previous polls showed more people believed that global warming was man-made and now more think it is natural—meaning drastic, unjustified measures to prevent it are unwarranted.
Next, with Democrats in control, the Omnibus Public Lands Act was expected to pass easily. It would have locked up thousands of acres with known natural resources and prevented their exploration and extraction—including oil, gas, and uranium. Even potential geothermal sites—which can enable one of the few baseload renewable electricity sources—would have been off limits.  In January the Senate passed S 22. On March 11, it fell 2 votes short of passage in the US House. Three Democrats and most Republicans voted against it. Even though a similar bill was introduced the following week as HR 146—the fact that S 22 did not sail through could be an indicator of the turning tide.
Here in New Mexico, another victory was had, this time on March 11. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court essentially slapped down the Governor's anti-energy policies. The Supreme Court agreed with Marbob Energy Corporation that the Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) had over-stepped its authority in accessing civil penalties against operators for alleged violations of its rules, regulations, and orders. In essence, the OCC writes a ticket for a violation. If you disagreed, it was like arguing with the traffic cop who wrote you the ticket instead of being able to take the matter to court as you would to dispute a speeding ticket. Under the Court's ruling, someone other than the agency that accuses an operator of a violation determines if, in fact, the allegation is correct. If the Supreme Court did not rule as they had, the OCC’s bureaucrats would be in the position of turning process into law—with the accused unable to defend themselves. A victory for energy freedom!
On the local level, free-market grass roots activists won a battle against additional taxes. In Santa Fe, several groups worked together to defeat the transfer tax on March 10. The transfer tax was a proposed 1% excise tax that would have been imposed on the proceeds from sale of a home in excess of $750,000. Free-market advocates argued it would unnecessarily raise housing prices. The Chairman of Santa Fe's Friends of Capitalism group, said, "I hear City Hall is in shock over its loss on the transfer tax. Must be tough. The good guys won by about 700 votes out of 8,402 votes cast, so if 700 fewer people had voted, or if 350 had switched sides, we would have lost." Friends of Capitalism is just one of several groups that wrote letters to the editor, took out newspaper ads, and held rallies to hand over this free-market victory!
Whew! We've had a busy few days in mid-March. Individually, each event did not make headlines. But looking at all of them together in proximity to each other is like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, giving us hope that the tide might, in fact, be turning. 

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