The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels [Book Review]

We are hopelessly addicted to fossil fuels. Extraction and combustion of coal, natural gas and oil threaten the biosphere. Thanks to mankind’s greed and unwillingness to sacrifice,our Mad Max future promises only Global Warming, rising sea levels and a cataclysm of poverty and resource depletion.

At least that’s the refrain of environmentalists and politicians since the first Earth Day 46 years ago. The drumbeat is so loud and so consistent, even the CEOs and PR flacks of giant energy corporations have become apologetic for the business they’re in.


Like a breath of fresh air, along comes The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels (2014), by Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress. (You can read Chapter 1 free of charge – click here.)

Contrary to expectations, Epstein is not a scientist or engineer. When he testified to Congress in April, Sen. Barbara Boxer told him:

“You’re a philosopher and not a scientist, and I don’t appreciate being lectured by a philosopher and not a scientist.”

As an engineer with a deep appreciation of science, I appreciate being enlightened by a philosopher as opposed to the ideological hacks who usually dominate the discussion.

Epstein writes:

Ultimately, the moral case for fossil fuels is not about fossil fuels; it’s the moral case for using cheap, plentiful, reliable energy to amplify our abilities to make the world a better place — a better place for human beings.

There’s the contrast. For so long, the conversation has been led by environmental activists (Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren and others) for whom environmental impacts trump human concerns. They say that humans can only have a negative impact on nature. Many of them actually argue for depopulating the planet.

Epstein argues that the qualities of fossil fuels — namely energy density and transportability — have enabled industrialized societies to promote the health and prosperity of their citizens, and improve conditions in the developing world, all in a way that has measurably improved the environment relative to earlier in the industrial age. These assertions are supported with an abundance of graphs and figures.

About the time I was reading Epstein’s book, an article appeared in The Atlantic, of all places, that unwittingly illustrated one of his main points:

Why Lightning Disproportionately Kills the Poor
About 24,000 people die each year around the world—the majority of them in developing countries.

In the 1890s, lightning most commonly killed people asleep on their beds inside their homes. That doesn’t happen anymore. By now, if  lightning strikes a home there’s enough wiring and plumbing for the electricity to ground out. In the 1920s, only 1 percent of homes in the U.S. had electricity and plumbing. By the 1930s, the U.S. had developed codes regulating both, and as more buildings followed those regulations they became safer. Since the 1950s, nearly all homes in the U.S. have both electricity and plumbing, and consequently, Ronald Holle, a meteorologist with Vaisala, the world’s largest manufacturer of meteorological equipment, told me lightning deaths inside homes in the U.S. have become nonexistent. In the past 20 years, he said not one person in the U.S. (excluding the elderly or disabled who were caught in fires started by lightning) has died from a lightning bolt that hit a home. But in poor areas of the world, homes may not have all those wires and pipes that help divert electrical shock. Those  homes often have a thin roof made of corrugated metal. And if lightning hits that, the bolt can jump to the nearest person.

Epstein doesn’t put it quite this bluntly, but Mother Nature is a b*tch. Fossil fuels have largely empowered Homo sapiens to mitigate many of the harsher elements of nature. Epstein spends no time denying Global Warming, but thinks that we should acknowledge its benefits (e.g., increased crop yields) while preparing to adapt to the gradual changes in climate he expects.

Epstein has a powerful and controversial message. I am about 95% on board; what I am unsure about is the whiff of Objectivism that comes through (Epstein is a former fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute). My personal philosophy is more rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, with mankind as the preeminent work of the Creator, who has blessed mankind with the bounty of His creation and charged him with stewardship of same.

But I quibble. (!)

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels has enlightened my worldview, and I encourage fellow conservatives and anyone within the energy industry to read it.

Cross-posted at

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New Kid on the Block, Part II

(Part I is here.)

After our move, my main memory of the days before school started can be summed up in one word: Woolco. All the cleaning supplies a newly-relocated family could possibly need were to be found at the massive new store at 41st and Yale.

If memory serves, the first day of school in Tulsa was the Tuesday after Labor Day. No A/C, but really big fans. I was in Grade 5, Section 8, pictured below in the school picture toward the end of the post.

My old school in Valley Center had not been especially challenging. I was not prepared for Patrick Henry. By comparison with VC, the teachers were strict and demanding. Math, Science and English were hard. After two weeks, I was having anxiety because I was flunking penmanship. Penmanship!

Several landmark events happened in quick succession in the first few weeks of school, not necessarily in this order:

  • I broke my arm when I fell off a skateboard. Hills were new for the boy from Kansas.
  • I flunked another test: the school’s vision screening. After I got glasses, I no longer had to sit on the first row to see the chalkboard.
  • I noticed a girl for the first time. In this context, “noticed” means perceiving one as something other than a target to be chased with a frog.
  • I met Peter Robertson, not my Doppelgänger, exactly, but he’ll do until one comes along. Pete was seated right behind me on the first day of class. He was a new kid, too.

Pete and I immediately became fast friends, bonded by common interests in the Dragnet TV show and killing red ants in creative ways during recess. Lifetime friendships are born of such things, I’m told. But we also shared a spooky mental connection, like the way we would frequently say exactly the same sarcastic comment at exactly the same time. Still a mystery.

Being a new kid in 5th grade was no picnic. Being from a small town, I was not as sophisticated as my new classmates. When I told them I was from a town in Kansas called Valley Center, one smart aleck dubbed it “Pumpkin Center”. (It would be terrible to reveal the perpetrator’s identity, but his initials are Kenny Koch.)

I also made the mistake of telling my classmates about going to the Arkansas River with my dad. Of course, I pronounced the name of the river distinctly and correctly: ar-KAN-sas.

After the uproarious laughter died down (about thirty minutes, it seemed like), I was coaxed from under my desk. These Oklahoma kids thought the new kid from Kansas had just fallen off the Turnip Truck. Or maybe the Pumpkin Truck.

Another odd memory involving Patrick Henry: Some vandal with a can of spray paint defaced a brick retaining wall by the school’s main driveway. In black spray paint, all caps, it proclaimed “BOSOM”. My Dad is still more likely to call the school “Patrick Bosom” than by its true name. He thought it was a hoot. Even the vandals of 50 years ago exercised a measure of decorum and restraint.

Patrick Henry 5-8

Note class size 35. Artistic embellishments by the author.

Row 1: (Principal), Mrs. Hasey (1st hour & speech teacher), (?), Candace Johnson, [Susan Green]*, Hazel Halloran, Lynn West, Harry Allison, Julie Cohn.

Row 2: Jill Nelson, Mike Johnston, Tina Rauch, L. Beeson (sorry, Linda and Lisa were always too identical for me!), Peter Robertson, Lisa Carroll.

Row 3: Marla Brogdon, (?), Roger Lumley, Carrie Palmer, Doug Hartson, Sara Ross, April Patterson.

Row 4: Me, Vicky Pollok, Bill Effron, (Peggy Roberts?), Holly Hughes, Hap Herndon.

Row 5: Mark Keeter, Kenneta Claxton, (Clay/Clint?) Cook, Lisa Barry, Kenny Koch, Lisa Glenn, Daneille Irvin, (Lucia?), Karen Bitzer.

Not bad, huh? I apologize for any mistakes and my nearly 60-year-old memory. About half are Facebook friends today. [* Thanks to Pam Treece Moran for the help.]

Mrs. Hasey gave us instruction on public speaking and dramatic presentations. I remember she cautioned us not to fidget while speaking, all the while fidgeting and fussing with her own hair. We had to learn the American’s Creed:


I bet nobody learns that anymore. (They’ve dropped penmanship, too!)

One other tidbit is stuck in the darkest recesses of my memory: a group dramatic reading for Columbus Day, back when that day could still be celebrated.

Turn back, Columbus, turn back!
Turn back, turn back, turn back!
He’s crazy!
He’s mad!
He’s insane!
Turn back!

Such are the dark recesses of my memory.

I guess if there’s a point to these ramblings, it’s that we never know how the future might unfold. Moving to Tulsa was incredibly important to me as an almost-10-year-old, in ways that were impossible to imagine: not just education, but peers, goals, and aspirations. To this day, when someone asks where I’m from, I claim Tulsa.

So. Fifty years.

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New Kid on the Block, Part I

My early childhood in Kansas was a mashup of the idyllic TV lives of Opie and The Beav. In summertime, boys played wiffle ball and rode bikes all day long. When it got really hot we swam at Wilson Lake (an old sand pit, really). I tagged along with my older brother and friends to the railroad trestle on the river — the Little Arkansas (pronounced ar-KAN-sas once you cross the state line) — to fish and catch crawdads. We shot firecrackers and BB guns and played games with no parental supervision. Dad’s back-porch whistle, which could be heard blocks away, was our dinner bell. After dinner, we held hide-and-go-seek marathons until way past dark.


Skelly had the best road maps.

Then came the first of several oil-industry dips and turns that would shape my life. My dad labored over linen maps as a draftsman for Skelly Oil Company. Fifty years ago this month, in August of 1966, Skelly closed its Wichita District office. Dad’s next Skelly paycheck, they told him, could be picked up at the headquarters office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the “Oil Capital of the World“.

Moving meant leaving Valley Center, a little bedroom community on the edge of the Great Plains outside Wichita. For me, it meant leaving friends and school. My older sister and brother opted to pursue their educations in Kansas, which was their home. In Tulsa, I would be an only child. The new kid.

First impressions of Tulsa from our house-hunting trip were not good.We drove the 200 miles in blistering heat. Our old Rambler lacked A/C. As we finally arrived on the outskirts of Tulsa, we passed Depression-era shotgun houses along U.S. 64 in Sand Springs. We continued on past refineries and Route 66 motor courts that lined Southwest Boulevard in industrial West Tulsa.

Goodbye to Opie and The Beav and the land where the deer and the antelope play. My 9 year-old imagination ran wild: Would the midwestern Maleys’ new neighbors be the Joads and the Clampetts of Bug Tussle (before Uncle Jed went a-shootin’ for some food)?


Winston Court ca.1966. Not to be confused with the Windsor Court.

First blessing: the Winston Motor Court had a swimming pool.


I was miserable on that house-hunting trip. I couldn’t know it then, but the Maleys’ second blessing was an angel masquerading in the form of a real estate agent named Shatzie Wilson. Shatzie was pleasant, kind and patient with the whiny 9 year-old in the backseat of her station wagon as we scoured available housing in south and east Tulsa. In the days before and Redfin, an agent’s only source of market intelligence was a 6-pound Multilist book.

Shatzie had good advice for Ann and Bob. She focused their search on areas with good schools. There were houses in their modest price range in an area called Ranch Acres. Patrick Henry Elementary was a feeder for Edison Junior and Senior High, all schools with great reputations.

Once they found a house they liked, Shatzie advised Ann and Bob to act quickly since the market was brisk. It would be a good idea, she said, to offer $100 over the asking price in case there were multiple offers. (In 1966, $100 was a lot of money.) The strategy worked; another offer had come in at the asking price at the same time.

The little brick veneer ranch on Louisville Ave. would be home for Ann and Bob for the next 30+ years.

To be continued in Part II.


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My H.S. Football Story

As a junior, I played right guard (when I played, that is). We didn’t have fancy hand signals back in the day, so we shuttled plays in. I subbed in-and-out with another guy, based less on athletic ability than the fact that I could remember which play the coach had called for the length of time it took to run from the sideline to the huddle.

We were playing Tulsa Central, which had a rag-tag team. They did have one stud lineman, a senior who played both ways, clearly the best athlete on the team. He was quick and big  — 210 lbs or so, which is nothing nowadays, but this guy went on to earn a football scholarship at Wichita State.

At 180 lbs dripping wet, I was small, but slow. No football scholarships were in my future.

It was a critical third-and-seven deep in the fourth quarter. The head coach called a draw play — a fake pass and run — over right guard — my hole. The Stud lined up opposite me in a four-point stance. I was never going to out-muscle or out-quick him. As the ball was snapped, I gave him the outside gap and yelled “PASS”. He took the bait and shot the gap, as I rode him to the ground and covered him up about five yards deep in the backfield. You could’ve driven a truck through the hole he vacated. Our running back ran for 12 yards. The zebras were already advancing the chains when Stud tapped me on the helmet, signaling it was OK to let him up.

We went on to win the game. It took until Sunday afternoon for the 16mm game films to be developed, and the whole team gathered to review and critique our play. When the film came to that play, my chest kind of swelled up, proud that my keen sense of line play and trickery had earned my team a first down. Since offensive linemen don’t score touchdowns, such an achievement is often the only reward.

“Who is that? Maley?! MALEY, is that you?”

Coach Driver had been a blazing fast sprinter and receiver in college. He coached track and the wide receivers in football. Normally, he paid attention to the glory boys, not the linemen, so this was unusual. I was kind of surprised he knew my name.

“That’s me, Coach,” waiting on the kudos.

“How’d you let that man shoot the gap like that? Who taught you to block, son? That’ll be twenty hills!” Punishment. The head coach kept quiet. After the film session, the line coach oversaw the punishment, but never commented one way or the other about the play or the punishment.

Years later Coach Driver won three state championships as head coach at Tulsa McLain. Their football stadium is named for him and he is in the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame.

Sometimes a job well done is its only reward.

– Adapted from the original published at:

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Philip Rivkin Made $100 Million Using This Weird Trick! (It’s Probably On Your Desktop Now!) #RFS

This is a long read, so I’ll summarize: All Philip Rivkin needed to turn caca into $100 million was a fake biofuel plant on the Houston Ship Channel and a random number generator.

Conventional oil refiners like ExxonMobil, Shell, and Marathon are required by the EPA to have a certain green energy content to absolve for their fossil fuel sins. Rather than physically refining biodiesel themselves, they can purchase “RINs”, or credits, from a biodiesel refiner for 50 cents or a dollar a gallon or more. Each gallon of green fuel a generator produces is “tagged” with a unique 38-digit serial number.

Rivkin’s company, Green Diesel, found it more profitable to avoid the messy fuel and merely manufacture lists of 38-digit numbers using Microsoft Excel’s random number generator. They exchanged these phony lists to refiners for cash.

It took a few years for EPA investigators to catch the scam. The refiners ate the phony numbers, having to replace them with legitimate credits.

The EPA says scams involve less than 1 percent of the value of the billions of RINs produced under the program. But the agency, whose traditional expertise is in oil spills and air pollution, has all it can handle with sophisticated financial criminals. It recently sought assistance from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission—which is itself stretched thin because of its responsibilities under Dodd-Frank.

I will posit that the EPA has no idea how much fraud is in the system. Further, if you were going to set up a system to be attractive to scammers, it would involve 38-digit serial numbers “attached” to liquid gallons.

Rivkin took off, ultimately entering Guatemala on a phony passport. Today he is serving a 10-year sentence in a Federal facility.


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Bad Science Scuttles Anti-#Fracking Study

In March 2015, the journal Environmental Science and Technology published findings of study linking natural gas extraction activity to high levels of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) in Carroll County, OH. The study’s conclusions were widely repeated in the press and the paper was cited in at least nine other studies and peer-reviewed journals.

On June 29, 2016, the paper was quietly retracted. “Mistakes were made”, as they say.


Seth Whitehead at Energy in Depth has more:

UC’s rush to publish its air study while it dawdles for a year in publishing its groundwater study finding no harm from fracking is even more interesting considering the results of both studies were first announced at events hosted by Carroll County Concerned Citizens (CCCC), a well-known anti-fracking group. The same professor that presented the air quality study results to CCCC, study co-lead author Dr. Erin Hayes, has also participated in other anti-fracking events. [Emphasis added.]

The pattern:

  1. Scientists operate in cahoots with local anti-development activists.
  2. Scientists rush to publish (flawed) results that agree with their anti-development bias.
  3. Scientists sit on relevant data that fails to advance their agenda.

This is not environmental science, it is a sciency charade dressed up for propaganda purposes by agenda-driven activists.

Which raises another question: Since the PAH data were found to invalidate the original conclusions, what did the data reflect? Why not publish the corrected values? Are they not relevant? Since the study was publicly-funded, doesn’t the public have a right to know?

From the retraction notice:

The calculation error resulted from using incorrect units of the ideal gas constant, and improper cell linkages in the spreadsheet used to adjust air concentrations for sampling temperature.

Those sound like rank undergraduate mistakes to me. Using “incorrect units” for the ideal gas constant means they were using the wrong value of the constant, R, for whatever units they were operating in. (More on that here. Given the widely ranging value of R depending on the system of units employed, I’m guessing that the measurements were off by more than a smidgen.*) And “improper cell linkages” means they screwed up the calculations even further.

I don’t hate environmental scientists. My daughter is an environmental scientist, and by all accounts, a damn good one. Unfortunately, the field seems to have attracted many agenda-driven activists whose only commitment to the science depends on whether it supports their agenda.

*  It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would have been using the wrong value of R, substituting, say, pressure in Pascals for atmospheres or vice versa. I’d be willing to bet even money that the mistake they made was using temperature in degrees Celsius instead of degrees Kelvin. Kelvin uses Celsius degrees, but is measured from absolute zero, so that 0 deg K = about -273 deg C, if memory serves.


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Donald #TrumpsTheShark

Well, that was quick.

Just a month ago I was laying out the framework of a negotiation. I saw it as necessary for Candidate Trump to win over those conservatives who had once declared #NeverTrump. It’s foolish, I figured, to walk away from a negotiation early when the other party desperately needs your support. A favorable pick for VP was one of the few things that I thought the unreliable Trump might put on the table. Reneging on a VP pick is not an option.

Trump’s FEC report came out yesterday. It played out just as it did in the movie: Toto pulled back the curtain and the Wizard’s magic is another combover job. I can’t decide which is worse, the incompetence or the bald-faced grift. Either way, Trump is not the man for the job.

I can do little to add to the brilliant Storify post by my friend Thomas Crown. I had observed that for Trump the election is a negotiation; Crown says it’s like a real estate deal that is starting to smell. I think he’s nailed it.

When a TV show jumps the shark, it’s popularity falls like a turd in a well.

It’s really up to Donald Trump, to see if he’s willing to see his name alongside Dukakis, Mondale, Humphrey and Landon.

It’s up to his sycophants and toadies to see how far deep in the vortex they are sucked before jumping ship.

We’re either going to have a little drama, or four months of Trump twisting in the wind, all alone. I’d heard he valued his personal brand at $3 billion. Good luck with that.

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‘The Founders Could Not Possibly Have Imagined…’ [Fill In The Blank]

Two oil drilling rigs, two identical workplace accidents: One happens on a modular drilling rig atop Fixed Platform #3 (below), the other on Floating Rig #7. Depending on the severity of the injury and the talent of the plaintiff’s attorney, a claim on a floating rig is worth an order of magnitude more than the identical injury that occurred on a fixed platform.


Various types of oil platforms and drilling rigs used in the Gulf of Mexico. By Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, NOAA. Public Domain,

Why is that? Governing law: Example 1, Example 2. But these laws exist in the context of Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution, which grants Federal courts jurisdiction in cases of admiralty and maritime law.* Since Rig #7 is a floating vessel, any worker is considered to be an able-bodied seaman and subject to the laws’ protections, including the right to sue for damages in Federal court.

A worker on Platform #3 is, well, just a worker, and workers have workers’ comp, which pays your lost time & medical bills, but no exemplary damages, loss of consortium, pain & suffering, etc.

This is outrageous! Absurd! The Framers of our Constitution could not have possibly predicted offshore oil development, semi-submersible drilling rigs and compliant towers in 1,000+ ft of water. Their original intent was certainly to cover sailors on merchant vessels, but not drilling roughnecks!

Yeah, try convincing the plaintiffs’ bar of Texas and Louisiana of that. Their bread-and-butter cases are admiralty and maritime cases, many of them on drilling rigs. I’m sure each and every one of them is a die-hard originalist, at least when it comes to Article III, Section 2.

A Constitution is an agreement among parties who have agreed to be bound by it. A Constitution would not be a Constitution if its words were malleable. There is a reason why it contains a process for amendment, instead of suggesting that the parties just make it up as they go along. There is also a reason why the amendment process is a difficult one.

The Framers were among the most gifted and sophisticated men of their day. Some were inventors in their own right; their Constitution provided for patents “to promote the progress of science and useful arts…” Of course they expected innovation and technological progress.

The argument that the Framers intended to limit our Constitutional protections to limits known in their time is b***shit on stilts. I’ve not heard anyone advance that argument in the realm of electronic communication, say, or  abortion women’s health.

*  Legal experts, please be kind. I am not a lawyer, but this is my layman’s understanding of the legal and Constitutional issues.

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King Hubbert, Peak Oil and Central Planning

M. King Hubbert’s name will forever be associated with Peak Oil Theory. Hubbert (1903-89) is best known for a bold and lonely prediction he made when he was working for Shell Oil in 1956: U.S. oil production would continue increasing to a peak in 1970, followed by an inexorable and painful decline to ultimate depletion of the resource. The symmetrical curve came to be known as “Hubbert’s Peak”.

Hubbert nailed the timing. In the US, production peaked around 10 million barrels of oil per day in 1970, followed by 35 years of steady declines and ever increasing dependence on imported oil. Doomsayers anxiously awaited global calamity that would strike sometime after 2000, when Hubbert foresaw a peak in global production.

It’s 2016, and the US is still a leading oil producer. Domestic oil production is near its 1970 peak; cumulatively, we have blown past Hubbert’s high-side estimate of 200 billion barrels, even excluding Alaska. Global production, 90+ million barrels per day, is at an all-time high. Tankers and tank farms are bursting at the seams (figuratively) with surplus oil production.

Continue reading

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OK, Mr. Art-of-the-Deal, Let’s Negotiate.

When your only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail; to Trump, everything is a negotiation. An election is nothing more than a protracted negotiation with various interest groups (“the blacks”, “the Hispanics”, “the evangelicals”, etc.), not a competition among statesmen vying to win the support of voters.

In a negotiation, every party has its own motives; a good negotiator works to understand each party’s motives, including his/her own. It was predictable that Trump the Republican nominee would run to Hillary’s left. He has to go after disaffected Sanders voters; enough of them will believe his promises about the minimum wage, union jobs and ultimately, I predict, student loan forgiveness that pure monetary self-interest may buy their support.

So in this negotiation, let’s look at negotiating theory in the style of the Harvard Business School, and its implications for conservative strategy in answering the question, “What can Candidate Trump do to justify my vote?”


Each party to a negotiation should be aware of his/her BATNA: “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement”. If you quit the negotiation early (#NEVERTRUMP), the BATNA is the result you accept.

Wikipedia says:

…[The] BATNA is the most advantageous alternative course of action a party can take if negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. BATNA is the key focus and the driving force behind a successful negotiator. A party should generally not accept a worse resolution than its BATNA. Care should be taken, however, to ensure that deals are accurately valued, taking into account all considerations, such as relationship value, time value of money and the likelihood that the other party will live up to their side of the bargain. These other considerations are often difficult to value, since they are frequently based on uncertain or qualitative considerations, rather than easily measurable and quantifiable factors. [Emphasis added.]

The highlighted part is Trump’s dilemma. We’ll get back to that in a bit.

The Value Proposition

This is where I fall back on my training in the oil and gas business and the practice of Decision Making Under Uncertainty.

A Democratic victory in 2016 is a discrete negative outcome. The Hell that we have will continue for four, or maybe eight, more years. It is our BATNA. Some conservatives have already embraced it, citing logic that frankly escapes me.

The exact outcome of a Trump win is highly uncertain. Might he be a worse alternative than Hillary? An undeniable possibility. Better than Bush I or II? Doubtful but possible. Better than Reagan? Not a chance. I agree with Ben Howe in his assessment that on balance a Trump presidency would be marginally better (i.e., higher in “expected value”, or risk-weighted outcomes) than a Hillary presidency.

What does the Trump Value Proposition look like today, as compared to our BATNA?Consider the following cartoon:

5-19-2016 5-13-56 PM

Every voter’s assessment of this value proposition will be different. I’ll not debate the relative values assigned; instead, let’s ponder the implications of negotiating theory. In this base case, the weighted average of the range of possible Trump outcomes is to the right (“better”) than the outcome of a Clinton presidency. I’m conceding here about a 10% chance Trump turns out to be worse than Obama and about the same chance he’ll be more successful than Bush I or II.

What can Trump do the change the Value Proposition for Conservative voters?

Last week, the Trump campaign floated a list of eleven conservative jurists he says he would consider to fill the Scalia seat on the Supreme Court. It’s a negotiation, remember? He’s sweetening the pot.

The problem Trump has created for himself is that his verbal promises mean nothing.

He was opposed to a higher minimum wage, but now thinks we should look at raising it. Negotiating.

He was for building a wall and deporting 11 million, then assured the New York Times with a nod and a wink that he didn’t really mean it. It was, after all, just negotiating.

His goal, after all, is to get elected. That’s it. Unlike the commercial construction business, there are no contracts or covenants that bind the candidate to the representations he makes to gain votes.

Except one. The Constitution.

Sometime between now and the close of the Cleveland Convention, Candidate Trump will select and the Party will nominate a candidate for Vice President.

This is the one bargaining chip that leaves Trump no wiggle room.

Before you say “warm bucket of spit”, consider that President Trump (ugh!) will be 70 years old on inauguration day. Unlikely to serve more than one term. Let’s leave the speculation at that.

Even if frozen out of the day-to-day administration of the nation, a rock-ribbed conservative Vice President could significantly advance our agenda. Could even be President come 2021.

That, my Conservative friends, is what you call a bargaining chip.

How a Vice President nominee might affect the Value Proposition

To assess the value a VP candidate might bring to the ticket, one needs to take into account the chance of his (or her) ascension, and the fact that it won’t happen right away.

Let’s fantasize that a clone of Ronald Reagan exists. If he were to be nominated for Trump’s VP, his value would be represented as additive to the “today”, but waaaay to the right-hand side of the axis. Since the value is discounted, it would be a stubby little bar, but not insignificant.

5-23-2016 1-44-51 PM

It might be enough to shift the Value Proposition — the “expected value” of a successful Trump — far enough right to represent a clear choice for Conservatives, materially better than BATNA/Hillary.

On the other hand…

A neutral/moderate VP choice changes the Value Proposition not a whit.

A bad VP choice >cough< Palin! Kasich! >cough< shifts the calculation toward the abyss, to the left, wiping out any daylight between Trump and Clinton.

Then there’s this.

In Summary

  • It’s time to rethink #NeverTrump. A hashtag is not a contract or a suicide pact.
  • You don’t walk away from a negotiation early.
  • There’s nothing Trump can say, no pledges he can sign, to earn my vote. The only path to sway my vote toward Trump is with a strongly conservative VP choice.
  • If, in the end, my perception of value offered by Trump is of less value than the BATNA, I will vote 3rd party.
  • I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton. Ever. And I say this having voted for Edwin Edwards over David Duke.
  • I’ll be 60 on Election Day. I don’t have time for the long game.
  • I believe there is a very good chance that Donald Trump can win this thing. Evidence to the contrary is polling; how has that worked out for you so far? Fundamentally, Hillary is a horrific candidate. Come Election Day, I believe a significant fraction of the vote she’s counting on will vote against if they vote at all.

Parting Thoughts

Now might be a good time to review the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. You know, the Five Stages of Grief:

  1. Denial (“Don’t worry, it won’t be Trump!“)
  2. Anger (most of Twitter)
  3. Bargaining (this post)
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I realized I’d begun Bargaining the night of the Indiana Primary. I can’t wait to get to Step Five.


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