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Weekly John Locke Foundation research division newsletter focusing on environmental issues.

This newsletter highlights relevant analysis done by the JLF and other think tanks as well as items in the news.

1. Friedman on Government and the Energy Crisis of the 1970s

Today the world is celebrating what would have been the 101st birthday of economist and Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman. Organizations like the John Locke Foundation are sponsoring events in his honor, many of which are focused on his contribution to scholarship on the issue of school choice. Friedman was a pioneer in the advocacy of private school vouchers as a way of improving education. But over the many years of his career Friedman wrote on a vast range of topics, presenting a cogent case for freedom and free markets. One of those topics was the energy crisis of the 1970s. While everyone was blaming OPEC in the early part of the 70s, or the Iranian revolution in 1979, Friedman recognized who the real culprits were — Richard Nixon, who in 1973 instituted wage price controls and, following Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter who continued these price controls on oil, gasoline, and natural gas. For Friedman the result was quite predictable — shortages and the chaos that come with them.

CEO of the Institute for Energy Research Rob Bradley, writing on the MasterResource blog, has put together a number of Friedman quotes from the era, where he laid out exactly what the problem was and what should have been done about it. So in honor of Uncle Milton’s birthday, I want to borrow from Bradley’s blog post and republish this list of quotes.

"It is a mark of how far we have gone on the road to serfdom that government allocation and rationing of oil is the automatic response to the oil crisis."

– Milton Friedman, "Why Some Prices Should Rise," Newsweek, November 19, 1973.

"The present oil crisis has not been produced by the oil companies. It is a result of government mismanagement exacerbated by the Mideast war."

– Milton Friedman, "Why Some Prices Should Rise," Newsweek, November 19, 1973.

"Lines are forming at those gas stations that are open. The exasperated motorists are cursing; the service-station attendants are fuming; the politicians are promising. The one thing few people seem to be doing is thinking….

How can thinking people believe that a government that cannot deliver the mail can deliver gas better than Exxon, Mobil, Texaco, Gulf, and the rest?"

– Milton Friedman, "FEO and the Gas Lines," Newsweek, March 4, 1974.

"The long gasoline lines that suddenly emerged in 1974 after the OPEC oil embargo … and again in the spring and summer of 1979 after the revolution in Iran, [came after] a sharp disturbance in the supply of crude oil from abroad.

But that did not lead to gasoline lines in Germany or Japan, which are wholly dependent on imported oil. It lead to long gasoline lines in the United States, even though … for one reason and one reason only: because legislation, administered by a government agency, did not permit the price system to function."

– Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979), p. 14.

"There is one simple way to end the energy crisis and gasoline shortages tomorrow — and we mean tomorrow and not six months from now, nor six years from now. Eliminate all controls on the prices of crude oil and other petroleum products."

– Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979), pp. 219.

"There has been an energy crisis because government created one. Of course, government has not done so deliberately. Presidents Nixon, Ford, or Carter never sent a message to Congress asking it to legislate an energy crisis and long gasoline lines. But he who says A must say B. Ever since President Nixon froze wages and prices on August 15, 1971, the government has imposed maximum prices on crude oil, gasoline at retail, and other petroleum products."

– Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979), pp. 219.

See more here.

2. 2013 Ozone Report — the good news continues

The 2013 ozone season began on April 1 and, as in the past, each week during the ozone — often called smog — season, this newsletter will report how many, if any, high ozone days have been experienced throughout the state during the previous week, where they were experienced, and how many have been recorded during the entire season to date. According to current EPA standards, a region or county experiences a high ozone day if a monitor in that area registers the amount of ozone in the air as 76 parts per billion (ppb) or greater. The official ozone season will end on October 31. All reported data is preliminary and issued by the North Carolina Division of Air Quality, which is part of the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources. During the period from July 22-28 there were no high-ozone days recorded. For the state as a whole there has been only 1 high ozone day recorded in 2013.

The table below shows all of North Carolina’s ozone monitors and the number of high ozone days for the week and the year to date for one.

 Click here for the Environment Update archive.