Wouldn't it be wonderful if for one brief shining moment in Washington, Congress put good policy over politics -- and passed a bill that would benefit American workers, investors and businesses?
We haven't had a true bipartisan victory in Washington for seemingly ages, but we are tantalizingly close to getting there. This would be the passage of the U.S. Mexico Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).
Both parties want this modernized version of the North American Free Trade Agreement to pass. It is the legacy of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. But this latest modernized trilateral trade deal for North America hasn't happened yet because of an endless parade of stall tactics by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
She is blockading a vote of the 435 members of the House of Representatives. The odds are very favorable that Democrats and Republicans would provide enough yays to pass it and move it on to the Senate, where the trade deal would be approved by a wide margin. The whispering campaign on Capitol Hill is that Pelosi is worried about giving Donald Trump a "win," so she's inventing flimsy excuses for endlessly delaying a vote.
Her strategy might have some credibility if she had credible objections to this modernized trade deal, which Trump carefully crafted with trade negotiators from our neighbors Canada and Mexico. First, Pelosi said she wanted more worker protections in the trade deal. But this bill actually has stronger job and wage protections for American workers (some of which I think go too far) than the old NAFTA.
Trump insisted on those broader labor protections for the auto and other blue-collar workers in many of those Midwestern states that have seen middle-class job losses.
She continues to broach the idea of attaching a pension bailout bill to the trade deal. That pension bill has nothing to do with trade. It would also potentially cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars to bail out mismanaged labor union pension funds. This is Pelosi's way of throwing a wet kiss to the union bosses as payback for their support in helping her become speaker.
An even wilder idea is a scheme by Democrats to force Trump to allow the United States back into the Paris climate accord -- a $100 billion tax on Americans -- as the ransom for passing USMCA.
These are obvious poison pills, and the speaker knows it. Trump would never allow the U.S. into the climate treaty, and many fiscally conscientious Republicans would withdraw their support for the USMCA if they were forced to endorse these giant new taxpayer liabilities for obese pensions.
Then there's Pelosi's ploy to reopen the trade deal to repeal the hard-won patent protections for American pharmaceutical companies. Pelosi is acting as though this is a giant "giveaway" to the U.S. drug companies that would raise prices for American consumers.
She has it all wrong. This provision of the trade deal actually protects America patent rights for 10 years when made-in-America drugs and "biologics" are sold in foreign countries. The USMCA -- expertly negotiated by Trump's lead trade negotiator, Robert Lighthizer -- actually forces Mexican and Canadian citizens to honor our patents and pay more for American drugs.
This could in the end mean lower prices for these drugs here in the United States because our two neighbors would pay their fair share to cover the billions of dollars of research costs to bring to market lifesaving new drugs. Trump should be applauded for getting Mexico and Canada to agree to live by the same patent protections that we require here in America.
Why would Pelosi object to a provision that effectively curtails foreign freeloading off American firms' medical research and development investments? Why should foreigners get special discount deals on our patented drugs that aren't similarly available to American patients?
Pelosi's cynical strategy to change the USMCA would bust the trade deal wide open and kill it. Trying to renegotiate a trade deal that has been years in the making is like putting toothpaste back in the tube. Opening up one section of the law makes every section negotiable and brings us back to square one.
The victims here would be American farmers, ranchers and hard-hat manufacturing workers. The economic benefits of the USMCA have been estimated by the U.S. International Trade Commission to be almost $60 billion in higher exports each year and some 175,000 new jobs. Passage of this law would put added pressure on China to pass its own trade deal with the Trump administration.
Pelosi should put America first by putting the political games aside and bringing USCMA to a vote urgently. Democrats won back the House in the 2018 elections by promising Americans that they could govern the country. Obstruction is not governing, and blocking free trade deals is no way to keep the Trump economic boom going. I hate to think that may be the point of her political tactics.
Over the weekend, President Donald Trump approved a new annual refugee cap of 18,000, the lowest since the U.S. program began in 1980. The reduction follows news that America took a pause last month and refused to admit any new refugees. On economic, public safety and national security grounds, this is a very good thing for the 325 million people already in our country.
But you wouldn't know it from the grim headlines and hysterical condemnations by globalist zealots and media sympathizers.
CNN International led the open borders funeral procession last week, with a report decrying, "No refugees will be resettled in the US in October, leaving hundreds in limbo around the world."
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., hyperventilated that "Donald Trump is trying to destroy the very heart of this nation. I won't let him." Social justice group CARE bemoaned this "dark moment in our nation's history." Human Rights First complained that Trump's proposal is "crippling the United States' status as a global leader in refugee resettlement."
Heaven forbid citizens in a sovereign nation have an effective say in who comes here, from where and how many. Is one refugee-less month in America such a catastrophe? Calm down, Chicken Littles. Get some perspective.
It is most certainly true that America has a legacy of embracing people from around the world fleeing persecution and war. After World War II, the U.S. helped lead efforts to assist 650,000 displaced Europeans who had fled in fear, were expelled and were victims of Nazi crimes and terror. Congress passed the 1948 Displaced Persons Act to accommodate them. Five years later, the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 aided refugees from Italy and East Germany escaping Communist regimes, adding another 250,000 refugees over four years. In the 1950s and 1960s, we welcomed Hungarians, Cubans and Czechoslovakians also escaping Communist oppression. In the 1970s, we opened our doors to an estimated 300,000 political refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The Refugee Act of 1980 created the Office of Refugee Resettlement and office of U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and raised the annual ceiling of admissions to 50,000.
Under Obama, that number soared to nearly 100,000 annually. The idea that we've abandoned our humanitarian leadership role because of this refugee resettlement reduction is ludicrous. Overall, since 1975, the U.S. has resettled more than 3 million refugees. Under Trump, the U.S. still accepted more refugees than any other country in both 2017 and 2018. On top of that, America forked over nearly $1.6 billion to support the U.N.'s refugee resettlement campaign. Moreover, America remains the largest single country provider of humanitarian assistance worldwide. Total U.S. humanitarian assistance was more than $8 billion in fiscal year 2017, covering food, shelter, health care and access to clean water for millions.
Past refugee admissions don't lock America into those same levels now or in the future. America's constitutional duty is to Americans first ("ourselves and our posterity"). The truth is that we've been generous to a ruinous, open borders fault. Last year, the Federation for American Immigration Reform tallied refugee resettlement costs to taxpayers at nearly $9 billion over five years.
In my adopted home state of Colorado, a new University of Colorado Boulder study acknowledged that refugees are often "trapped in chronic poverty" after resettlement subsidies dry up and are unable to lift themselves out of dependency on government aid such as public housing, Medicaid and food stamps. Federal statistics show that nearly half of all refugee households receive cash welfare. Chain migration perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
A tiny cabal of government contractors, mostly religious groups cloaking their profit-seeking in compassion and Scripture, perpetuates the refugee resettlement racket. Openly hostile to American sovereignty, these people spread their tax-subsidized syndicate's wealth to a vast network of subcontractors, often tied to billionaire George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, which promote global governance and unfettered migration espoused by the United Nations, European Union and Vatican. These special interests have systematically blurred the lines between legitimate refugees seeking asylum from oppression and economic migrants from Central America clamoring for higher wages or better welfare benefits. They're indifferent to the national security risks of absorbing large numbers of Muslims whose adherence to repressive sharia and religious jihad is utterly incompatible with our constitutional principles.
Mass migration champions have stretched the definition of refugee so thin that "climate change refugees" seeking relief from uninhabitable environments are now a phenomenon. Nuts.
Doesn't America have enough residents in need of shelter and support? If we let in millions of "climate change refugees," where do Americans seek refuge when they render our climate uninhabitable?
Only a complete moratorium on immigration would give America the break it needs to regain control of our system. Trump's refugee reduction is not an apocalypse. It's a long overdue respite from the world's wretched refuse that deserves cheers, not jeers.
A new way of removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from a stream of air could provide a valuable tool in the battle against climate change say the engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, who developed the new system.
It can work on the heat-trapping gas at virtually any concentration level, even down to the roughly 400 parts per million currently found in the atmosphere.
Most methods of removing CO2 from a stream of other gases require higher concentrations, such as those found in the flue emissions from fossil fuel-based power plants. A few variations have been developed that can work with the low concentrations found in air, but the new method is less energy-intensive and expensive, the researchers say.
The technique, based on passing air through a stack of charged electrochemical plates, is described in a new paper in the journal “Energy and Environmental Science,” by MIT postdoc Sahag Voskian, who developed the work during his PhD, and T. Alan Hatton, the Ralph Landau professor of chemical engineering.
The device is a large, specialized battery that absorbs carbon dioxide from the air, or other gas stream, passing over its electrodes as it is being charged up, and then releases the gas as it is being discharged.
In operation, the device would simply alternate between charging and discharging, with fresh air or feed gas being blown through the system during the charging cycle, and then the pure, concentrated carbon dioxide being blown out during the discharging.
As the battery charges, an electrochemical reaction takes place at the surface of each of a stack of electrodes. These are coated with a compound called polyanthraquinone, which is composited with carbon nanotubes. The electrodes have a natural affinity for carbon dioxide and readily react with its molecules in the airstream or feed gas, even when it is present at very low concentrations.
The reverse reaction takes place when the battery is discharged. During this process, the device can provide part of the power needed for the whole system, and it ejects a stream of pure carbon dioxide. The whole system operates at room temperature and normal air pressure.
“The greatest advantage of this technology over most other carbon capture or carbon-absorbing technologies is the binary nature of the adsorbent’s affinity to carbon dioxide,” explains Voskian.
In other words, the electrode material, by its nature, “has either a high affinity or no affinity whatsoever,” depending on the battery’s state of charging or discharging. Other reactions used for carbon capture require intermediate chemical processing steps or the input of energy such as heat or pressure differences.
“This binary affinity allows capture of carbon dioxide from any concentration, including 400 parts per million, and allows its release into any carrier stream, including 100 percent CO2,” Voskian says.
That is, as any gas flows through the stack of these flat electrochemical cells, during the release step the captured CO2 will be carried along with it. For example, if the desired end-product is pure carbon dioxide to be used in the carbonation of beverages, then a stream of the pure gas can be blown through the plates. The captured gas is then released from the plates and joins the stream.
In some soft-drink bottling plants, fossil fuel is burned to generate the carbon dioxide needed to give the drinks their fizz. Similarly, some farmers burn natural gas to produce carbon dioxide to feed their plants in greenhouses. The new system could eliminate that need for fossil fuels in these applications, and in the process actually be taking the greenhouse gas right out of the air, says Voskian.
Alternatively, the pure CO2 stream could be compressed and injected underground for long-term disposal, or even made into fuel through a series of chemical and electrochemical processes.
The process this system uses for capturing and releasing carbon dioxide “is revolutionary,” Voskian says. “All of this is at ambient conditions – there’s no need for thermal, pressure, or chemical input. It’s just these very thin sheets, with both surfaces active, that can be stacked in a box and connected to a source of electricity.”
“In my laboratories, we have been striving to develop new technologies to tackle a range of environmental issues that avoid the need for thermal energy sources, changes in system pressure, or addition of chemicals to complete the separation and release cycles,” Hatton says.
“This carbon dioxide capture technology is a clear demonstration of the power of electrochemical approaches that require only small swings in voltage to drive the separations,” Hatton said.
In a working plant, for example, in a power plant where exhaust gas is being produced continuously, two sets of such stacks of the electrochemical cells could be set up side by side to operate in parallel, with flue gas being directed first at one set for carbon capture, then diverted to the second set while the first set goes into its discharge cycle.
By alternating back and forth, the system could always be both capturing and discharging the gas.
In the lab, the team has proven the system can withstand at least 7,000 charging-discharging cycles, with a 30 percent loss in efficiency over that time. The researchers estimate that they can readily improve that to 20,000 to 50,000 cycles.
The electrodes themselves can be manufactured by standard chemical processing methods. While today this is done in a laboratory setting, it can be adapted so that ultimately they could be made in large quantities through a roll-to-roll manufacturing process similar to a newspaper printing press, Voskian says. “We have developed very cost-effective techniques,” he says, estimating that it could be produced for something like tens of dollars per square meter of electrode.
Compared to other existing carbon capture technologies, this system is quite energy efficient, using about one gigajoule of energy per ton of carbon dioxide captured, consistently. Other existing methods have energy consumption which varies between one to 10 gigajoules per ton, depending on the inlet carbon dioxide concentration, Voskian says.
The researchers have set up a company called Verdox to commercialize the process, and hope to develop a pilot-scale plant within the next few years. And the system is very easy to scale up. Voskian says, “If you want more capacity, you just need to make more electrodes.”
© Environment News Service (ENS) 2019. All rights reserved.