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Ed Driscoll

Farm The Decline

January 1st, 2010 - 11:00 pm

Farming is in the news this week, tied in with a pair of leftwing-created woes, both real and imagined. Starting with the former, as anyone who watched Steven Crowder’s brilliant video tour of Detroit last week will attest, a half century of liberal ill-logic has utterly devastated that once-thriving city.

Detroit was once synonymous with the automobile, the internal combustion motor and the assembly line, and all of the benefits those inventions brought America during the industrial revolution. But one solution proposed furthers the city’s reprimitivisation by returning Detroit — or at least big chunks of it — to its pre-modern, agrarian roots:

[O]ne day about a year and a half ago, [investment manager John Hantz] had a revelation. “We need scarcity,” he thought to himself as he drove past block after unoccupied block. “We can’t create opportunities, but we can create scarcity.” And that, he says one afternoon in his living room between puffs on an expensive cigar, “is how I got onto this idea of the farm.”

Yes, a farm. A large-scale, for-profit agricultural enterprise, wholly contained within the city limits of Detroit. Hantz thinksfarming could do his city a lot of good: restore big chunks of tax-delinquent, resource-draining urban blight to pastoral productivity; provide decent jobs with benefits; supply local markets and restaurants with fresh produce; attract tourists from all over the world; and — most important of all — stimulate development around the edges as the local land market tilts from stultifying abundance to something more like scarcity and investors move in. Hantz is willing to commit $30 million to the project. He’ll start with a pilot program this spring involving up to 50 acres on Detroit’s east side. “Out of the gates,” he says, “it’ll be the largest urban farm in the world.”

But this proposal to create “scarcity” is arriving at the same time the Obama administration is feverishly hoping to create its own form of scarcity as well, by eliminating many of America’s farms to stem the imagined horrors — wait for it –of global warming:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has ordered his staff to revise a computerized forecasting model that showed that climate legislation supported by President Obama would make planting trees more lucrative than producing food.

The latest Agriculture Department economic-impact study of the climate bill, which passed the House this summer, found that the legislation would profit farmers in the long term. But those profits would come mostly from higher crop prices as a result of the legislation’s incentives to plant more forests and thus reduce the amount of land devoted to food-producing agriculture.

According to the economic model used by the department and the Environmental Protection Agency, the legislation would give landowners incentives to convert up to 59 million acres of farmland into forests over the next 40 years. The reason: Trees clean the air of heat-trapping gases better than farming does.

Mr. Vilsack, in a little-noticed statement issued with the report earlier this month, said the department’s forecasts “have caused considerable concern” among farmers and ranchers.

Hey wait, just a few months ago, John Holdren, President Obama’s Dr. Strangelove-esque czar of weird science, announced to the press that he  was going to “solve” global warming by shooting rockets filled with pollution into the upper atmosphere. Maybe we should see how that goes before nuking America’s farmlands — err, except for the farms that will be debuting in Detroit, of course.

As John Hinderaker writes at Power Line, regarding the deceptions of the global warming industry, “It Didn’t Start With Climategate.” And if all of the radical man-made engineering to “solve” naturally-occurring heating and cooling cycles sounds like madness, well, that’s always part of the equation when dealing radical environmentalism and the extortionate demands it places on business:

They might be the most expensive tortoises to walk the San Bernardino County desert. A northern California energy company will pay $25 million to relocate and protect 25 threatened desert tortoises before it can start building a massive solar power plant in the northeastern part of the county near the Nevada border.

And while calculating the environmental impact is more complicated than saying “$1 million per tortoise,” the case illustrates the tremendous complexity – and high cost – of environmental laws that come into play when building just about anything in California.

Oakland-based BrightSource Energy isn’t complaining about the environmental costs and says it is committed to good practices.

“We want to set a good environmental precedent for future solar power plants,” said BrightSource spokesman Keely Wachs. “We are currently in the middle of the permitting process and will use that formal avenue to communicate our positions on any matters.”

The estimate is based on the cost of buying, cleaning and protecting enough land for the relocated tortoises – and the plants and animals already living on that land – to survive.

BrightSource will use about 4,000 acres of land for its power plant, located about five miles southwest of Primm, Nev.

To meet environmental regulations, it will have to pay to acquire, clean and protect about 12,000 acres of additional land.

You can’t simply relocate the tortoise population of one 4,000-acre area to a second one, as the second one has its own tortoise population, said John Kessler, a project manager with the California Energy Commission, the state agency that must sign off on the solar project.

Or as  J.P. Freire wrote in November at the Washington Examiner, “California is overregulated, overtaxed, and just plain over.”

Detroit, here we come — and likely at speeds far faster than any tortoise can muster, no matter how expensive his pedigree.

Related: “San Francisco As It Once Was:” a 1940 newsreel allows us to see how another city has not-so-paradoxically  moved backwards aesthetically as a result of half century of progressivism. While Detroit looks to re-green itself, Bookworm Room notes that much of the landscaping in San Francisco’s public areas has been removed to make them less desirable real estate for its feral homeless population.

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