Public policies questionable, curious & debunked

Pittsburgh reportedly is overhauling its tax abatement programs for developers. As the Post-Gazette puts it, the idea is “to coax developers to take risks in neighborhoods that have been bypassed in the rush to build Downtown and in other hot markets.”

Economically, there’s a major problem with this theory.

First, if developers have bypassed certain areas, it’s a pretty good sign that they don’t see a profit potential. The marketplace is speaking.

Second, given that scenario, what right do government officials have to turn taxpayers into venture capitalists?

That said, make no mistake: it is laudable for city government to attempt to streamline programs that, for many, long have been regulatory nightmares.

But even in this context, there’s no economic efficiency in bribing developers with public money to build anything in areas that the marketplace has deemed to be not sustainable.

Worse, in Pittsburgh’s effort to “fix” these programs, the P-G reports a “social equity” component will be added.

As Kevin Acklin, chief of staff to Mayor Bill Peduto, put it:

“We would like to define and incentivize projects that address some of the certain set of social equity goods that we’re hoping to advance as a condition to that public money,” he said.

Ah, not only attempting to yet again pick winners and losers but engaging in government social re-engineering to boot.

“Social equity” has become a darling phrase for “progressives.” When “progressives” were “liberals,” they called it “social justice.” And it should continue to be a red-flag phrase for thinking people.

Indeed, as a commentator once put it, there is no social equity when an inherent right of all men applies only to a few.

But as he also noted, the “social equality” pushed by contemporary “’change agents’ … yields inequality.”

That is, “It creates ‘class-based’ rights and not ‘universal rights.’ It imparts an arbitrary ‘duty’ on a group of people. It balances a society on bias and not merit.”

And certainly not on any sound economic principle. Which is a poor foundation for formulating any public policy.

Government leaders in Pittsburgh are on the bandwagon to divest the city’s pension funds from any fossil fuel-related companies.

But as the Tribune-Review reported on June 19, the city’s already beleaguered pension funds could lose nearly $500,000 a year.

The potential pension-loss information comes from a new study by a Chicago economics consulting firm. It concludes that the nation’s top 11 public pension funds could lose trillions of dollars in such a divestiture.

There’s a curious public policy, eh? And to what end? The Trib adroitly reports such a move would have little effect on fossil-fuel companies. And it would have no effect on the climate.

Yet one Pittsburgh officials says there’s “good reason” and a “philosophical basis” to do so. Which, of course, given the facts on the ground, does not compute.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto continues to vow to transition the city to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2035. But he would be wise to review a new paper in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” debunking the notion that the U.S. can be powered exclusively with renewables.

Twenty-one top U.S. scientists have picked apart, piece by piece, 2015 research by a Stanford engineering professor and a University of California, Berkeley research engineer.

That 2015 study regularly has been cited by envirocrats; some of Peduto’s remarks resemble some of that study’s claims on a broad scale.

The bottom line of the debunkers is that the original study’s math doesn’t add up in a variety of critical areas. To wit, as just one example, two California-sized pieces of land covered with hundreds of thousands of wind turbines would be required to produce the amount of electricity claimed.

Thus, as Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute notes in a National Review commentary, the economic and technical viability of a 100 percent renewable-energy system were “wildly exaggerated.”

Bryce also recounts the astute point made by another scientist that Peduto should consider in his zeal to cast off fossil fuels, given the region’s shale gas revolution: Wind energy requires about 700 times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a shale fracking site.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (

Weekend essay: Ahhh, Warwood

Summer days were shady but muggy at Warwood, my paternal great-grandparents’ home, tucked into a mountainside whose natural springs fed Glenns Run in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

As kids in the 1960s, we’d visit often to keep the overbrush at bay, mow the grass and hear tales of Warwood’s past, including those of a coal mine, a mountaintop golf course, horseshoe courts and concrete-lined goldfish ponds long shuttered, long overgrown and long dry.

The work was hard but the rewards were sweet. There always was a tall Boston Cooler (root beer over vanilla ice cream). And if the work was to take the day, a fried-chicken dinner from Great Aunt Mary’s old iron skillets always left full bellies little and large.

The family’s Independence Day celebration moved to Warwood in the 1970s. Brother Shannon reintroduced pyrotechnics to the gathering. Family elders dusted off a blast from the past — two small homemade cannons from the 1930s.

Nobody’s ever said whether it was by sheer engineering genius or by serendipity, but the green apples of each July 4 were the perfectly sized ammunition. The creek across the road was the goal. But hitting a passing car was a prize, too.

Warwood is long gone; how troubling it remains on return visits to see only the slide of a mountainside where, at one point, five generations of Family McNickle so regularly gathered. There is an abject sadness in the silence of a place that once hosted such love, laughter and hijinx.

But there are two mementos.

There’s a small birdhouse made of shake siding from Grandma Nick and Pap Pap’s house that hangs from my front porch. It “attended” elder daughter Taylor’s Outer Banks wedding five years ago, representing her forefathers.

Then there’s one of those Independence Day cannons – with the July 4, 1933, date of its debut inked on the side – that graces my fireplace mantel each Fourth.

And if you put your ear to each just so, you can hear the voices of Warwood’s past, if not the “PLUNK!” and the “THUD!” of the apples connecting with their moving targets — one wet, others steel.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (

Head-scratching public policies

There’s a milk surplus in Western Pennsylvania. And we’re not alone. It’s a nationwide problem. Though there are many, many moving parts in the equation, it is not overly simplistic to lay the blame squarely at the front stoop of market perversion.

Think of the milk lobby that continually secures government propping up. Think of compliant elected officials perennially vowing to “save” the dairy industry – from itself.
The simple fact of the matter is that too much milk has been produced for too long. Milk routinely is being dumped on dairy farms. Government cheese stocks, purchased to “help” the industry, are at their highest levels in 33 years (800 million pounds); butter reserves – now 272 million pounds – are at their highest levels in 23 years.

Yet herd sizes seem to keep increasing. The number of dairy cows – 9.4 million as of March – represent a 20-year high, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports
Market Watch reports that “U.S. dairy farmers’ big bet on global demand for milk is souring.”

But even then, there’s a mindset in the industry and among far too many lawmakers that is antithetical to sound economics. To wit, this, from a June 15 Tribune-Review story:

“Pennsylvania Farm Bureau spokesman Mark O’Neill said the entire country, not just Pennsylvania, has experienced a milk surplus over the last two years. That oversupply drives prices down, which causes farmers to increase production.”

Come again? So, there’s too much milk. That depresses prices. So farmers flood the market with even more milk?

It is, of course, the product of more than a century of federal price supports/controls and marketing restrictions – federal and state –that just keep snowballing.

And until real marketplace principles are returned to the dairy industry, this mess will continue.

The Associated Press reports that $39 commercial flights between John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport and Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport will bow on July 17.

Rising gate fees at Dulles International Airport – that would make the flights “too expensive” — necessitated the change, officials at the Murtha airport said. The switch will cut $20 from each ticket.

There is, however, more to this story.

Do remember that flights out of Murtha, 60-odd miles east of Pittsburgh, are federally subsidized almost entirely by the federal Essential Air Services (EAS) program, as The Washington Examiner reminded in a March story.

Then, reporter Philip Wegmann booked a roundtrip flight from Dulles to Murtha and paid just under $150. But, he noted, the additional average taxpayer subsidy for each flight into and out of Murtha is $266.

“Considering that I was the only passenger” on the nine-seat turbo-prop, “my own subsidy probably was higher,” Wegmann wrote.

The Trump administration’s first budget seeks to defund the $175 million EAS program as fiscally irresponsible. No kidding.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development took out a full page ad in the Post-Gazette on June 16 to tout a “transformed, balanced and future-focused” Pittsburgh.

The main headline: “The Pittsburgh Story.” The secondary headline: “Three Primary Points.”

The first point was to “Build a balanced, knowledge-intensive economy.” There’s a reference to “balance(ing) our economy to GDP” in “5 key sectors” and “$3 billion annual funding to government, corporate and academic R&D.”

There’s also a reference to the city having the “third-highest proportion for young people with bachelor’s degrees or higher among 15 benchmark cities.”

But there was no mention of Pittsburgh’s abysmal public school system that redefines the word “disaster.”

The second point was to “Create a valuable energy portfolio.” There’s a reference to “$1 billion annual funding to energy R&D.” There’s also a reference to nearly 300 “LEED certified projects.” But that program long has been suspect for it gross economic inefficiencies and its “environmental” charlatanism.

And there’s a reference to “Marcellus Shale is the world’s 2nd largest natural gas play.” But what role did the conference and/or city officials really have in its creation? Nature did that millions of years ago. And if anything, the tapping of this incredible natural phenomenon comes despite the central planners, government regulators and envirocrats.

The third point cited in the Allegheny Conference ad was to “Invest in quality-of-life improvements.” Among those improvements cited – the city’s cultural institutions and Pittsburgh’s listing by an Internet website as the “#1 food city.” Another is a bike trail to Washington, D.C.


“We’re collaborating to create an economy that’s neither old nor new, but uniquely ours and a place that continues to evolve to become the best it can be for everyone who lives, works and visits here.”

How about, instead, collaborating to fix Pittsburgh’s lousy schools, solving a chronic public pension problem, saving a water system on the verge of collapse and lowering higher and higher barriers to economic development?

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (

An economics lesson in dissent

There’s an evergreen economics lesson to be found in a June 14 Commonwealth Court ruling. Unfortunately, it came in a soon-to-be-forgotten dissent to a majority ruling that rationalized illegal double taxation.

A panel of the intermediate appellate court, voting 5-2, upheld Philadelphia’s controversial 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks. The tax is levied on distributors.

The American Beverage Association and a number of Philadelphia retailers sued the city. They claimed the Philadelphia Beverage Tax (PBT) amounted to double taxation, which is prohibited by state law. Philadelphia Common Pleas Court previously upheld the statute. The plaintiffs say they’ll appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The appellate court panel, in a majority opinion written by Judge Michael Wojcik, the former Allegheny County solicitor, agreed with the trial court. He wrote, in part:

“The PBT is not imposed on the ownership of the sugar-sweetened beverage or on their sale; rather, it is only imposed if the beverages are supplied, acquired, delivered, or transported for purposes of holding them out for retail sale in the city.”

If that strikes eagle-eyed readers as jurisprudential hocus-pocus (yes, the oxymoron was intended), go to the head of the class. As should Commonwealth Judge Anne Covey. In a gobbledygook-eschewing dissent, joined by Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer, Covey argued that Philadelphia’s sweet-drink tax cannot be viewed in isolation. Neither, it should be added, can it be viewed in economics ignorance.

The evergreen economics lesson? While indeed Philly’s sweet-drink tax is levied on distributors, it continues to be the consumer – the general public buying the product, not the retailer buying from the distributer –that ultimately pays the tax.

Which indeed means the consumer is taxed twice on the same product, in violation of state law.

As Judge Covey put it: “While I acknowledge that the PBT does not appear to be duplicative of the sales tax because it is not explicitly labeled as a retail sales tax, the majority ignores that the PBT is only triggered when there is a retail sale involved.”

Consider it a loose version of the Bastiatian “seen and unseen”: The Commonwealth Court majority observes the seen – a tax on distributors. But the dissenters also observe the unseen – the same consumers who pay the sales tax pay the passed-through distribution tax.

That fact, by the way, is why such drink sales have fallen in Philadelphia. Consumers, faced with higher prices, are buying fewer sugary drinks (at least in Philadelphia proper). That has resulted in a number of jobs being lost at the distribution and retail level. And it’s why the city government’s projected receipts from the tax are falling quite short.

Referencing language of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, Covey writes “that the tax can only be imposed in relation to the retail sale of sugar-sweetened beverages.
“Accordingly, the PBT implicates both supply and sale at retail, making PBT a duplicative tax,” Covey wrote.

And she continues, again, citing the clear language of the Philly law:

“Contrary to the majority’s conclusion that the PBT is a ‘distribution’ tax, the PBT is a tax imposed only where the sugar-sweetened beverage is sold or intended to be sold at retail, and the PBT is imposed regardless of whether there is a distributor involved.”

Back to Bastiat. That would be Frederic Bastiat, the 19th century French economist, statesman and author. He reminded in the conclusion to his classic “Economic Sophisms”:

“To rob the public, it is necessary to deceive it.”

That is what the Philadelphia Beverage Tax does. It is what the majority of a Commonwealth Court panel has upheld. But it is what Judge Covey necessarily exposed.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (

Weekend essay: Gaining time

“Rest is not idleness,” reminded British essayist John Lubbock in 1894’s “The Use of Life.”

“And to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time,” he added.

Summer arrives in earnest Wednesday next. At 12:24 a.m. There will be no bells to herald it. It will sneak in unnoticed as most of us, a long day long done, enter the deepest of our slumbers.

Summer will slide in as easily as the new mamma deer grazes on a nearby bank of annuals. Her spotted baby is nearby. Only mamma knows where; she intends to keep it that way.

Summer will murmur in on the waterfall of a neighbor’s koi pond. And as that first summer dawn arrives, the resident bullfrog will greet it. “Brekekekek coax coax” is how one Internet poster reminded that ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote out the sound. It’s a sound far more comforting than its spelling would indicate.

Summer’s first clouds will float in on the harmonies of the mourning doves, nested in a recess in a neighbor’s front porch. It is from these doves that the coming sweet chorus of songbirds will take its cue.

And we will rise at summer’s first light, notice the height of the cool grass under the now full canopy of the silver maple and understand what a popular place it will be as the heat of each coming day reaches its zenith.

We all would be remiss to not avail ourselves of the reflective and lazing opportunities this coming new summer offers. For far from a waste of time, they will be lovely exercises in time gained.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (

Winners & losers

A number of Allegheny County officials will board a WOW Air jetliner Friday for the inaugural, taxpayer-subsidized, flight to Pittsburgh from Reykjavik, Iceland.

The service was set up only after the carrier secured an $800,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

As the Tribune-Review reports it, the airline will provide at least four round-trip flights per week between Pittsburgh and Iceland through June 2019.

The Allegheny Airport Authority CEO, Christina Cassotis, says if WOW air suspends service before the agreement ends, it would not receive the full subsidy.

“If this isn’t commercially viable, they don’t have to do the whole time,” Cassotis told the Trib. “The reason they picked us is not just the subsidy. … It’s not enough to make it worth it. So (the purpose of the trip) really is to promote the flights … and to make sure people are on them.”

Read that quote again. Now, take more than a minute to digest the market perversion it promotes.

Taxpayers have no business being WOW Air’s venture capitalists or its advertising agency. If WOW believes there’s a market for its services in Pittsburgh, then it should risk its own money, and that of private investors, in its quest to make a profit.

Government – and make no mistake, an authority is “government” – has no business engaging in such a speculative enterprise as lobbing public money at a private enterprise in an attempt to “pick a winner.”

Worse, such activity should be considered a violation of Article VIII, Section 8, of the Pennsylvania Constitution:

“The credit of the commonwealth shall not be pledged or loaned to any individual, company, corporation or association, nor shall the commonwealth become a joint owner or stockholder in any company, corporation of association.”

That said, these days there’s about as much fealty to Article VIII, Section 8, as there is to the fundamental precepts of market economics.

Economic perversions must be baptized then patronized to gain a foothold. Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Pennsylvania officials long ago performed the former and continue to practice the latter as they insist on picking the public purse to subsidize corporate wealthfare.

Simply put, it’s not the proper sphere of government to do so. And there’s no excuse for behaving otherwise.

Aquion Energy, the heavily taxpayer “incentivized” saltwater battery maker that sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April, is to be sold at auction on June 20, the Post-Gazette reports.

It says the Austrian battery firm BlueSky Energy appears to be the odds-on favorite to acquire Aquion for $2.8 million.

The question remains what will become of the $13 million in public subsidies that the state “invested” in the enterprise, which was based in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood and had a manufacturing facility in Westmoreland County. The state previously said it would seek to recover the money. There’s always a price for government attempting to pick winners and losers and usually failing. And it always seems to be taxpayers who get the bill.

Much is being written about the resurgence of coal. And, indeed, there has been some spotty good news around the country and in Western Pennsylvania.

But a recent story in The Washington Times put all that happy talk in perspective:

“Energy market analysts say the long-term forecast for coal (remains) bleak. Although Obama-era regulations had some effect, they say, the biggest impact on the coal sector has been the rise of cheap, abundant natural gas.”

And given the recent rise in shale gas production in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, that’s not likely to change anytime soon – if ever.

As Times reporter Ben Wolfgang further distilled it:

“Absent a major shake-up in the gas market – such as a massive, unexpected price hike – it’s difficult to imagine the coal sector regaining its past glory, especially with coal-fired power plants and utilities moving toward cheaper natural gas.”

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (

Notes on the state of things

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, in a June 7 New York Times op-ed, says the erstwhile Steel City’s air quality “remains among the worst in the nation.”

It appears he’s relying on the latest assessment from the American Lung Association (ALA). In an April report, it labeled the Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton area as the 17th most-polluted region in the nation.

But the ALA report for years has been criticized by newspaper editorial boards and think tanks alike (including the Allegheny Institute) for its lack of scientific oomph.

To wit, 10 years ago last month, institute scholars Jake Haulk and Frank Gamrat concluded, in a lengthy op-ed in the Tribune-Review, that the ALA’s study that year failed “to tell the real and accurate story about air quality” in Greater Pittsburgh. It cited “an analytical approach devoid of rigor.”

Subsequent reports were so suspect that the Trib either declined to write stories about them or truncated them and buried them on inside pages.

Sound public policy should be based on clean facts, not polluted fictions.

In the same New York Times commentary, noting that the majority of electricity in the state of Pennsylvania still is generated from fossil fuels, the mayor says “Pittsburgh will be 100 percent powered by renewable energy by 2035,” 18 years hence. But it’s unclear exactly what that means.

Does it mean government buildings will be 100 percent powered by renewable energy? Or does it mean even private buildings and homes will be forced to use renewable energy?

And if it’s the latter, how practical and how cost-effective would that be? The current state of renewables suggests neither.

And how in the world could such a diktat be legally enforced?

President Trump again has used Pittsburgh as an example to make a larger point. It came during a June 5 visit to Cincinnati to discuss America’s infrastructure needs. The Ports of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky are the busiest inland ports in the nation (based on 2014 statistics).

But his comments led to a modicum of head-scratching.

The president cited a backup of barges near Pittsburgh last December because of a damaged lock on the upper Ohio River. “We simply cannot tolerate a five-day shutdown of a major thoroughfare for American coal, American oil and American steel,” Trump said.

Indeed, we cannot. For the Port of Pittsburgh Region, which encompasses 12 Pennsylvania counties, is (based on 2014 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data) the fourth busiest inland port in the nation and the 23rd busiest port of any kind in the nation.

But as the Post-Gazette reminded, the administration’s latest budget funds only one lock project in the new fiscal year – in Kentucky. Observers note, however, that the last administration also zeroed out funding for local locks and dam upgrades but that funding still materialized.

Barge owners pay a premium – a tax on diesel fuel – to cover the cost of locks vital to American commerce. It’s past time they received a better and more consistent return on their investment.

An early draft of a new study on “The Hidden Costs of Stadium Subsidies” yet again concludes that public underwriting of sports stadiums is a bad deal for not only taxpayers but for the economy.

From the conclusion to the study by researchers at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center:

“In spite of the accelerating trend in stadium subsidies, and the support offered for them by private consultants, city officials, and sports fans, the body of academic literature consistently finds they have little or no economic impact.

“Nor do stadium subsidies pay for themselves via increased tax revenues. … We cannot find a situation wherein it makes sense for a community to subsidize professional sports because of the many better options that those same public funds could be used for.”

Sadly, it’s a lesson too few in public leadership positions have any interest in learning.


Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (

Weekend essay: Green bean blues

Many of this year’s tomato and pepper plants already are bearing multiple baby fruits. The onion sets grow more bulbous every day. And the cucumbers, not long sprouted, quickly have grown their third set of leaves; first tendrils are not far behind.

Over in the lettuce beds, there continue to be at least two harvests weekly. Herbs being herbs, the more they are harvested, the more they produce. And down in the celery patch — last year’s holdovers, kept under cover all winter – there are plenty of maturing stalks that have graced salads and soups and stews quite early.

Just don’t ask about this year’s green beans.

A combination of voles and birds have pretty much destroyed three plantings of four varieties of bush green beans this year. Frustration has set in.

The little rodents have had no trouble burrowing into the raised beds; they’ve paid traps “no never mind,” as a great grandma liked to say. As for the birds – marauding robins, jays and grackles — not even a cheesecloth cover has kept them at bay.

Yes, it’s enough to give a gardener a bad case of the green bean blues. But not force him to give up.

Such a dastardly, deadly and relentless green bean assault required a proportional response. Thus, an emergency has been declared and yet another sowing has taken place.

Only this time it’s in eight separate pots out of the garden proper, with frames that are wrapped tight with fiberglass screening. If planting No. 4 doesn’t survive, surely the green bean gods must be very angry. About something.

It once was written that there is no gardening without humility. And while gardeners are no strangers to occasionally swallowing their pride, this gardener would much rather be swallowing green beans.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (

So, we’re all envirocrats now?

That’s the impression a combination of 24 elected City of Pittsburgh, County of Allegheny, State of Pennsylvania officials (and one federal official) have foisted on the public in a local full-page newspaper ad paid for by – drum roll, please — an environmental group.
The ad is the latest salvo in retort to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the socialistic redistributionist deal known as the Paris climate accord.
In making his announcement, and to make his point, the president noted that he was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto lashed out publicly, repeatedly, arguing that withdrawing from the voluntary deal was not representative of Pittsburgh’s mindset on the matter.
The ad was signed by Peduto, Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the county controller, three county council members, seven city council members, two state senators, eight state representatives and one U.S. congressmen. All are Democrats.
The main thrust of the ad? “Pittsburghers overwhelmingly support action on climate change.” (bold in the original).
But do they, really?
That’s curious, considering a poll (published in the New York Times in March; poll done by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication) that suggested, in part, that only between 40 and 50 percent of Pittsburghers “believe global warming will harm me, personally.”
Not only is that not “overwhelming,” it’s not even a majority.
The ad was paid for by the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center and an undisclosed donor or donors. The amount was not disclosed. No taxpayer dollars were used, a center spokesman said, who added that his group approached the politicians about doing the ad. It and the mayor’s office worked in concert to design the ad.
PennEnvironment is a boilerplate environmental group, touting the dubious benefits of solar and wind energy while constantly raising alarms about fracking for shale gas and oil.
Which brings us to this salient point: Who represents the 60 percent to 50 percent of Pittsburghers who don’t believe global warming will harm them personally?
Certainly not the 24 city, county, state and federal leaders who signed the PennEnvironment-solicited ad.
Now, there is a nuance to all this – wiggle room created by the environmental group in comments made to a local newspaper. One spokesman said “we knew that most, if not all, the elected officials for the city really had a different view on energy and climate change.”
Added another: “We do a lot of work here in Pittsburgh. We talk to a lot of people across the area – a lot of elected officials – and overwhelmingly what we found is that Pittsburgh wants climate action. They want to remain part of the Paris agreement, and really oppose this action that was being taken in our name.”
The same spokesman said PennEnvironment wanted to demonstrate “that there are people who are representing Pittsburgh and are against this terrible decision.”
But, again, the main thrust of the ad claims that “Pittsburghers overwhelmingly support action on climate change.”
And if a majority of Pittsburghers don’t believe it will harm them personally, it’s difficult to make the claim that they overwhelmingly support action on climate change, is it not?


Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (

A mayor’s folly & ignorance

Buried in all the polemics of President Trump referencing Pittsburgh in his June 1 announcement that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord — think Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto taking great umbrage to the mention — are the simple and shocking facts of a climate deal that deserves to be scuttled.

The president reminded the world that he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Peduto countered with a diatribe about “sloppy” speechwriting that relied on outdated stereotypes and pledged fealty to the spirit, if not the letter, of the Paris deal.

“As the mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement for our people, our economy and future.”

Given the facts, that should be considered something of a declaration of war against all three.

And that should scare the bejeebers out of everyone. For the Paris accord has been described as, among other things, “a giant wealth-transference scheme,” “nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme” to pay for the “politically preferred energy sources” demanded by envirocrats.

Peduto, in a June 2 executive order, pledged to further reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable energy.

But at what cost to Pittsburgh’s economy in yet another in a long line of attempts to pick winners and losers in pursuit of “social justice”?

And what of Pittsburgh’s real problems – still woefully underfunded pensions, a static population that hardly endears itself to growth, a public school system that is an embarrassment, financially and academically, and a water system on the precipice of collapse?

One interesting aspects of Peduto’s executive order is that it reasserts calls for the “development of a fossil fuel-free fleet” by 2030. That means electric cars, supposedly. Charged by solar? Wind?

Considering that most electricity continues to be generated by natural gas and coal (33.8 percent and 30.4 percent, respectively, in 2016), and that heavily subsidized wind and solar energy generation barely registered (0.9 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively, last year), that’s an expensive pipe dream.

But it’s nothing that simply throwing more public money at won’t solve, right?

Additionally, Peduto calls for the “divestment of the city’s pension assets from fossil-based companies.” Political correctness meets fiscal irresponsibility. Why would any responsible leader further handicap the city’s already woefully underfunded and perennially struggling pension plans?

As a March 29, 2016, editorial in Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) noted:
“If they were honest, the climate alarmists would admit that they are not working feverishly to hold down global temperature – they would acknowledge that they instead are consumed with the goal of holding down capitalism and establishing a global welfare state.”

That’s not merely IBD’s opinon. It cites the words of Ottmar Edenhofer, a former United Nation’s climate official:

“One has to free oneself of the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy,” he said. “This has almost nothing to do with the environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation and the ozone hole.

“We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.”

This is Mayor Peduto’s model?

Shakespeare once wrote that that “the common curse of mankind” is “folly and ignorance.”

Or as Benjamin Franklin put it: “The first degree of folly is to conceit one’s self wise; the second to profess it; the third to despise counsel.”

Unfortunately, those quotes are fair summations of the current leadership deficit in the City of Pittsburgh.

Colin McNickle is a senior fellow and media specialist at the Allegheny Institute (