Monday, August 27, 2012

Speaking of Abortion...

Todd Akin's misguided and incorrect statements about "legitimate rape" have stirred up yet another hornet's nest about America's currently longest lasting polarizing issue -- abortion.

We are fortunate today to have much more medical evidence about what really happens in the womb than we had when the Supreme Court overreached and set abortion policy in stone in 1973.

Our current medical understanding demonstrates that both sides are incorrect of their view of how a pregnancy starts and how life develops.

A pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterine wall.  This happens about the 6th day after fertilization.

However, half of fertilized eggs never attach to the uterine wall. Those 50% of fertilized eggs get flushed out during the next menstruation.  So, it's very difficult from a scientific perspective to argue that "conception" should be the criteria for abortion policy, when half of all "conceptions" are naturally terminated.

We now also know that at 21 days the fetus's heart starts beating. There are also a bunch of other pregnancy milestones that science has uncovered that we didn't know about in 1973.  Brain waves start about 40 days.  Hearing starts about 50 days.  Ability to feel pain... Viability outside the womb...  more... So, it's very difficult from a scientific perspective to argue that a human fetus with a beating heart, yet alone brain waves, hearing, ability to feel pain, and viability outside the womb is somehow not a human life until it passes through the birth canal (and even after that according to some extremists).

There are reasonable and rational positions on abortion that could be constructed based on actual current scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, one side only cares about their 1960's selfish, hedonistic view of the world, while the other side bases their entire position upon a narrowly defined interpretation of 2,000 plus year old Biblical passages.

Both sides are incorrect according to current medical evidence.

Current medical evidence can and does change based on our increasing knowledge. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court overstepped their authority in 1973 and as a result they locked Americans into an endless conflict based on a now obsolete view of scientific evidence.

Almost all of us can agree that if at any point during the pregnancy the mother's life becomes at risk, then it is absolutely the mother's choice on what to do.

Most of us can also agree that if a woman reports a rape, it is also her choice on what to do, at least in the early stages of pregnancy.

But, we as a society also need to get to a point where almost all of us can agree on a reasonable and rational view of abortion in general based on scientific evidence.

Unfortunately, thanks to the overreaching 1973 Supreme Court, we are a long way away from that.

Until we do, we will continue to suffer from the extremists on both sides.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

CO2 Emisions Lowest Since 1992

In a surprising turn of events, over the last few years America has dramatically lowered the amount of CO2 being released into the atmosphere.  In fact, current CO2 emissions are back to where they were in 1992.

A triumphant success of government regulations, right???


The reason we've been able to do this is that a market innovation -- hydraulic fracking technology -- has lowered the price of natural gas from over $10 per thousand cubic feet in 2005 to around $3 per thousand cubic feet today.  This had made natural gas cheaper than coal.

As a result, the amount of our electricity that we get from coal has dropped from 50% of the total to 35% of the total today, as operators have switched to natural gas.

Most of the world's politicians, regulators, and climate "scientists" had no idea that this was coming because it happened as a result of market innovations, not heavy-handed government regulations.

What is hydraulic fracking?  It's a method for extracting natural gas (or oil) from rock deep below the earth's surface.  A mixture of pressurize water and sand to used to force fissures in the rock, making it easier for the gas to escape.

Fracking was first invented in 1947, but it wasn't heavily used until 1997 in Texas.

The U.S. has the second largest shale deposits in the world.  Fracking technology has unlocked an estimated additional 100 year reserve of natural gas in the U.S.

Here's the fun part:   The U.S. should be able to meet it's proposed obligations under the Kyoto protocols (which we never signed) by 2020, without the heavy hand of government forcing the issue.

This is a true triumph of the free market that should teach the busy body politicians to keep their desires to micromanage the economy to themselves and let people be free to innovate to solve our problems.