Energy

Balance Sheet

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Assets

Farm Report. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy may represent an endangered species: New Democrats in the Clinton administration. The department plans to abolish agricultural marketing orders, which punish produce growers for having bumper crops. Since 1937, marketing quotas have forced orchard owners to destroy billions of surplus oranges, lemons, and pecans. Citrus planners will no longer make consumers pay more by forcing farmers to sell less.

Stamp Act. Big-ticket British privatization didn't end with Margaret Thatcher's retirement. John Major's government wants to sell 51 percent of the Royal Mail—Britain's postal service—to private investors. The principal backer of postal privatization is Trade Secretary Michael Heseltine, who may become the next Conservative leader if the Tories dump Major.

Green Banks. Florida Wetlandsbank and Wetlands Environmental Technology Inc. try to create value out of previously worthless swamps. Engineering News-Record reports that these private wetlands banks, approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, let property owners build on sensitive land if they purchase or trade for nearby tracts of undeveloped wetlands. Owners keep the use of their property; wetlands continue filtering water and sheltering birds.

North Star? Vermont, home of socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders, says no to government-run health care. First, the legislature rejects a single-payer, Canadian-style system backed by Sanders. Then it turns down a Clintonesque employer mandate proposed by Gov. Howard Dean, a liberal Democrat. Finally, it refuses a Republican program with individual mandates. "If even this modest reform could not be achieved in Vermont," says The Economist, "what emerges from Congress in Washington may be still more meagre."

Liabilities

Disk Drive. From flat-panel screens to "manufacturing-technology centers," White House industrial policy never ends. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary announces a $50-million program to design commercial software for supercomputers. Half the money will come from taxpayers. Among O'Leary's accomplices will be Cray Research, Alcoa, AT&T, and Hughes Aircraft.

Clinic Clunker. The First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments take another beating. Congress passes—and the president signs—a bill outlawing abortion-clinic protests. Even for nonviolent protests, criminal penalties include prison terms from six months to life and fines of up to $250,000.

Draft Dodge. A March Pentagon report says "peacetime draft registration could be suspended without irreparable damage to national security." But Bill Clinton keeps registration alive. "The armed forces," says Clinton, must "know that the general population stands behind them, committed to serve." As ready as you were 25 years ago, Mr. President?

Night Shift. The Supreme Court extends the use of government employees as parents. It upholds a Dallas curfew that forces anyone younger than 17 to be off the streets before 11 p.m. weekdays and midnight weekends. More than 1,000 cities, including Los Angeles, Detroit, and Atlanta, already have curfews. As a result of the decision, predicts Dallas attorney Bruce Morrow, who appealed the case to the Supreme Court, "every major city in this [federal] circuit is going to have a curfew."