It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity

There’s a lot of nonsense spouted about Global Warming. The globe may, in fact, be getting warmer on average. But GW theory suggests that the warming will be most notable in areas with the lowest humidity — the polar regions and the deserts. The impact will be least noticeable in places like Virginia with lots of moisture in the air to absorb the sun’s energy. But every time we have a heat wave — like the one we’re experiencing right now — people start saying, “That’s global warming for you.”

If the GW “consensus” (or “orthodoxy,” take your pick) is correct, we do need to worry about the impact on the Arctic and Antarctic ice packs, the resulting release of massive quantities of water into the oceans, and the ensuing rise in sea levels. But let’s not get our tighty-whities all knotted up over the prospect of endless summers here in the Old Dominion.

Let’s take a look at the historical data for the city of Richmond published by the Wakefield office of the National Weather Service — an organization, incidentally, that has no connection to the controversial former state climatologist, Patrick Michaels.

Do you see a long-term pattern? I don’t. (Click on images for clearer resolution.)

The main departure from the norm was the 1960s, when temperatures took a big dip. That’s back when people started worrying about the onset of a new ice age. After that, we’ve returned to a pattern that appears remarkably stable over a long time. If the average temperature has risen at all, the increase has been very small indeed.

That’s the average temperature, you say. How about temperature extremes? Here’s the data for years ranked by the number of days with temperatures over 90. This doesn’t include the last three years, so it’s likely that 2007 would make the list. The only other comparably hot year in recent history was 2002. But look — 2000 had among the fewest hot days.

Moral of the story: There are lots of good reasons stemming from national security, the economy and pollution from fossil fuel combustion to support the causes of conservation, energy efficiency and renewable fuels. I worry that people are getting so caught up in the Global Warming thing that, if the bubble is ever punctured, the cause of conservation could be discredited as well. And that would be a genuine catastrophe: With Global Warming or without it, energy conservation is a good idea.

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56 responses to “It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I concur.

    Various groups are “using” the Global Warming boogeyman to further their own advocacy.

    and yes.. just like the Endangered Species Act delt with a legitimate issue, it got “used” in ways that ultimately resulted in ordinary middle-of-the-road people being opposed to it.

    Both sides do this.

    They push something past where it has legitimacy and in doing so, undermine the core issue.

    I would posit, that, in fact, that is part of what is going on with the public and Global Warming.

    The truth .. or more to the point – the quest for the truth – has been usurped by the blood and guts predictions…

    However, now that I’ve said that.

    What if we are WRONG about the seriousness of Global Warming?

    What if we HAVE completely underestimated it?


    what if we implement responses right now.

    and if we are wrong…after all.. what has been harmed?

    I still ask the question.

    If we pass laws that reqire new widgets to reduce our carbon footprint – haven’t we created jobs?

    and isn’t job creation a desired economic purpose?

    ask yourself.. what is the difference between jobs created from an IPOD Phone or jobs created from required environmental widgets?

    BOTH of them create jobs… AND in terms of usefulness/purpose to society .. one could claim that the tech gadgets don’t have a serious societal usefulness…

    tell me how the economy is “harmed”

    (I fully admit that my understanding of this will fit in a thimble with room left over).

  2. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Sure, sure. Jobs are created by required environmental widgets. In China, alongside the IPOD plant.

    What the citizens here end up with are increased fees, fines and taxes to pay for the bureaucracy that enforces the regulations for the required environmental widgets.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Yes, you might create jobs. And you might have created jobs that add to global warming from producing widgets. At the same time you might destroy jobs that are no longer profitable because of the required widgets. It’s a question of balance.

    If the second is larger than the first you harm the economy. If the first is larger than the second, unnecessarily, then you harm the environment, and cause unecessary widget consumption, which hurts the economy. (Except for the widget guy.)

    There are millions of ways to get this wrong, and only one way to get it right, yet virtually no one is thinking about it.

    What if the net environmental impact of building, assembling, installing, and maintaining billions of solar cells is greater than the effects of the fossil fuels they replace?

    The question of “What if we are wrong” is one that claims the cost of failure is infinite, and therefore infinite resources should be applied.

    That might be OK, if we were facing only one “What if we are wrong” catastrophe, but we have several of them, and we don’t have several times infinite resources.

    You must husband your resources and rank how you spend them.

    If you are facing heart disease, colon cancer, reduced mental capacity, an impacted tooth, and you are freezing to death, which one will you spend all of your remaining resources on?


    I think the endangered species act was one of our finest hours, until we let ti get out of control. Surely we have no higher calling than to protect all our species from extinction, including ourselves. We might be far better off to redeploy our Iraq resources to the Congo in favor of the 900 remaining gorillas, for all I know.

    But, if we did that, we would still have to send someone the bill, and they would still need the job and the income to pay it.

    You simply cannot blindly promote (your favorite) environmental causes and ignore the costs: it can’t be done and it is most probably stupid to boot.

    The answer to the what have we harmed question is sometimes that we don’t know. Sometimes we know what we have harmed, but we don’t care because it isn’t us. Unless Darryl is right.

    Excuse me while I kill a mosquito.


  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    let’s focus on the jobs.

    You’ve got a catalytic converter in your car… and air conditioner that no longer uses CFCs… and your electric bills are higher because of the anti-pollution equipment that the power plants are required to install.

    Don’t All of these things produce jobs?

    Don’t you think that the usefulnes of these “widgets” are more valuable to society than say.. someone buying helium balloons for a birthday party or ..collecting baseball cards?

    Have the folks who have chosen to buy helium baloons and baseball cards “harmed” the economy?

    Of course not… by buying those widgets, jobs are created.

    yeah..yeah you can argue about some created jobs not being in the US of A… but all things being equal.. jobs get created as a result of requiring environmental widgets.

    And if those widgets actually reduce pollution as opposed to hanging from a light pole or squirreled away in a cigar box…

    why not?

    Didn’t FDR “create” jobs with the CCC? Didn’t those folks build roads and other infrastructure that one could have argued back then, not really useful?

    and yet.. they did build those roads and walls and they did have jobs…

    Now.. I know someone “out there” who _really_ understands economics can explain this… but so far.. no nice… come on .. someone explain it… I don’t mind looking stupid for a good cause…

  5. There’s a whole lot wrong here, Jim.

    First, there’s no trendline on that graph. I create charts daily for my job, and many of those charts just look like noise until I plot a trendline on ’em.

    Second, this has a scale that shows an annual temperature variation of six degrees over just ~75 pixels, wasting the overwhelming majority of the chart either on blank space (62-65 degrees) or functionally useless space (50 – 55 degrees). Ain’t no way we’ll see any trends in this without a magnifying glass.

    Third, Larry Brown, from the Wakefield NOAA station, says that long-term Richmond temperature data is unreliable, and can really only be used in conjunction with a half dozen other regional weather stations (“first order sites”) in order to get meaningful data.

    Fourth (and finally), looking at the data for Richmond tells us very little about what’s going on globally. If average intelligence is increasing globally, measuring my IQ and declaring me an idiot will do nothing to disprove the trend. If trees aren’t growing to be as big as they once were, picking a tree at random and saying it looks pretty good to you contributes nothing to the discussion. Taking a tiny temperature graph of Richmond and saying it’s evidence against global climate change just doesn’t make sense.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Definitely agree about the global warming fight taking attention away from other issues like general pollution and renewable energy. Though pollution is much improved, we still have a number of code red days here in NoVa and with the increased density there are real health costs to the economy due to the pollution. I can remember at my old place in Alexandria that every Sat and Sun I was guaranteed to get headaches on the weekend if I stayed home due to the extremely busy shopping center across the street with all the idling cars. I’m sure it’s the same way for anyone living near any of the highways.

    As far as jobs go, basic MacroEcon theory states that the total economy should be the same regardless of where the money is spent. It’s really just a matter of what we want as society from that invested money after it’s spent. Do we want more coal plants that we may have to clean up or close in the future or do we want clean energy sources. Sure your electric bill may end up higher in the short run, but if we are rewarded with a healthier society and environment in the end that may end up paying for itself.


  7. Anonymous Avatar

    If the job is to produce or do something that costs more than it is worth in other savings, then it is a waste of energy and resources. It is that simple. It is exactly the same as using a hundred watt bulb when a 75 will do as well.

    So, we have national emission standards that are driven by California, and may not be necessary or helpful everywhere. Probably this is a case where the black box works best: everyone pays and some people benefit because the alternative is too cumbersome.

    The new CFC’s do not (did not, maybe they fixed it by now) work as well or as long as the old ones. They lubricate less and use more energy, and the compressors wear out sooner, maybe. By doing this we reduced the depeltion of the ozone layer. But we may never know whether we would have been better off spending the money on something else, like malaria or skin cancer.

    At least with the antipollution equipment, the end user usually picks up the tab for environmental initiatives most people support, even if the real value turns out to be dubious.

    But, there are a lot of other initiatives where this is not the case.these need to be scrutinized a lot more carefuly.

    That said, you are correct, both sides do it. Each does it because the other side has made the stakes so high. It is a tremendous waste in itself. We would do a lot better if we just start wwith reasonable goals and fair payment plans, instead of insisting that it is our public right, that the sky is falling, or, (on the other side) that we are going to put the entire planet out of work.

    EMR would say it is a matter of education, but in many cases we also need knowledge that we just do not have.

    In the best case, ZS is correct, (except it is not a zero sum game) but it is far more possible that we will spend too much on the wrong things and be worse off as it is we will hit the exact target correctly.

    Our mortgage problems are a symptom of why it isn’t a zero sum game. Over the past decades well spent money has created new gizmos that have produced improbable wealth, more thatn the previous economy could have produced. That wealth is sloshing around looking for places to be invested, and mortgage bankers were happy to oblige.

    Probably, we could have invested some of that money more profitably in environmental causes. But, a banker can make what he knows is an unsound loan as long as the underlying collateral is good.

    As environmentalists looking for money, we need to do a lot better than saying “if we are rewarded with a healthier society and environment in the end that may end up paying for itself.” The banker is going to want to see bricks and mortar, not wishful thinking.


  8. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Walso, Thanks for illuminating the technical points regarding the graphs. You may well be correct. I’m open to reinterpretation of the numbers. I know you’re a busy guy with other priorities, but if you could create a chart presenting the data in a format that you think it should be presented, I’d be happy to publish it as a counterpoint.

    However, I beg to disagree with your concluding point regarding the significance of the Richmond data in a global context. You are quite correct that Richmond is only one data point in a global context, hence, meaningless as far as deciphering what’s happening to the earth as a whole. But you’re missing the main thrust of my post, which is, that global warming is expected to manifest itself primarily in the arctic and desert regions, and will warm the planet uniformly. Indeed, parts of the world are getting cooler. Would any climatologist disagree with that statement?

    My argument is, if global warming is in fact occurring, it’s not manifesting itself locally. A single heat wave on the East Coast of the United States, or even a series of them, is not necessarily evidence of global warming — conditioned though we may be to interepret every upward spike in temperature as such.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Waldo, sorry about the typo. Have you ever been called “Walso” before?

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “It’s really just a matter of what we want as society from that invested money after it’s spent. Do we want more coal plants that we may have to clean up or close in the future or do we want clean energy sources. Sure your electric bill may end up higher in the short run, but if we are rewarded with a healthier society and environment in the end that may end up paying for itself.”

    this is the way I see it also.

    We know that there is significant pollution damage from power plants and we do have the opportunity to use solar panels that – over the long run – would not only pay for themselves but possibly actually be cheaper…

    AND – it would cut the pollution, reduce the need for new power plants, and new power lines

    AND – it would spawn a new industry with LOTs of new jobs associated with it.

    The same thing will happen with plug-in electric cars – new jobs for the newer technology components.

    RH says any product that costs more than it’s worth is – a waste.

    I don’t know how he feels about all those products that clearly meet his definition.

    Why have a $1000 sofa when a $50 one would do fine?

    What have a new 2007 Volva when a 10 year old Nissan will do the same job.. for way less money.

    In fact, if you separated the “discretionary” spending for many people from the “must have AND must be “worth” the price” – it probably would be a significant percentage.

    Much consumer spending IS discretionary AND does not return any ROI at all.

    So my question is still the same.

    Discretionary spending that goes for environmental pollution-reducing widgets – instead.

    what I fear here is more 10 and 1/2 paragraphs of “rope a dope” from RH.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Take a simple example.

    Recently I have been hearing a public service announcement promoting enrgy savings. One of the methods suggested was the use of dimmer switches.

    Old dimmer switches save no energy because they are just a heat wasting rheostat. The new ones operate differently, shutting off and on the power many times a second, which is why they cannot be used with compact fluorescents.

    But the new ones still only save about 10%, even when on full dim. And, the constant on off action can cause buzzing in the light filament which may shorten its life, and it can cause radio interference. A dimmer costs around $20, ones with better features to reduce the problems cost more, but save less because of the additional circuitry.

    You could be spending $25 to save 10% on electricity (for that bulb) which would mean you would have to run that bulb at full dim for a very long time to pay for the dimmer, and even longer to pay for the extra bulb wear and radio static.

    Even at that, you would not, in fact “saved” anything, because you got less light: less value for what you spent.

    It would be a true savings if you got the same light for less money or less light for a lot less money. Here, you are spending more money (on the dimmer) to get less light, and only a little savings, which isn’t even real.

    Maybe the lighting requirements were set too high, in which case they caused the waste, not burning the bulb. Maybe we really needed the light for cooking (safety issue) but not for romantic dining. In that case the dimmer bought us an option, but not much savings. So there is a real subjective issue as to whether anything was saved. And this is the case with many environmental savings.

    You might have been way better off with a compact fluorescent. (A different alternative that we did not rank, because we are a single advocacy organization. Minus the cost of mercury pollution.) Or just changing to a lower wattage bulb, IF AND ONLY IF, you didn’t actually need the light to begin with.

    Or maybe using motion detectors so that the lights turn off automatically. (Don’t use those on fluorescents either, because turning (some) fluorescents on and off too frequently costs more than leaving them on.)

    But, here you have some organization, out raising money to spend on advertizing, to give advice, that is simply flat out wrong, and which might be interpreted in such a way to make things even worse (using old style dimmers).

    Meanwhile, someone is out there using more resources to manufacture dimmers that save nothing. It is a total loss, jobs, material, energy, fundraising, advertizing, and productive time, included. Except the dimmers do have some value (just not the ones advertized).

    The advertizing organization should be fined and penalized at the exact same rate as the faulty advice they give causes excess pollution and waste: same penalties as the power plant. Even worse, they are promoting the kind of faulty thinking that this kind of “conservation” represents.

    No doubt, if you sued them, they would respond the same as the power plant: “We are not doing anything wrong, look at all the good we do/benefits we provide, and even if there is some damage, its not as bad as you say, show me the proof.”

    It is not rope-a-dope. I don’t invent this stuff. And the theory is sound.

    But, it depends on things that are somewhat subjective: how much light do I really need as opposed to what I would like. How much environmental protection do I really need, as opposed to what I would like, especially if I don’t have to pay?

    If you believe we are prone to use too much roads if we don’t pay enough, then you have to believe that we will use too much environmental protection if we don’t pay enough.

    Too much protection causes as much waste as too little. That’s all there is to it. If we promote too much protection, then we are dishonest and stupid, if we promote to little, then we are just being stupid.


    Disclaimer: I could be wrong about the dimmers but the argument is meant for illustration.

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    You and many of us (including me) DO spend money and don’t get ROI and that the “value” we get is not quantifiable. For instance, how do you “quantify” a $1000 sofa or a $15K tummy tuck?

    and yet both of them provides jobs.

    When you spend money for a catalytic converter or pay an extra penny for electricity with less pollution.. there IS a quantifiable benefit that can be measured at the tailpipe/smokestack.
    I like it when you claim that transit and electric cars really DO pollute because they get power from remote power plants (and I agree).

    But then later, you argue that we don’t need to pay extra money to make the power plants cleaner anyhow.

    So which is it?

    If power plants don’t pollute “excessively” then we should all be using electric cars -right – oh and we don’t need to pay extra for more pollution devices – right?

    But my MAIN POINT – IS that at the end of the day spending money on environmental widgets is no different than spending money on worthless things – because both of them do provide jobs.

    So – tell me why.. it’s bad policy to build environmental widgets – the same way we do sofas.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    To be fair, it is also possible that we will build widgets that do save money and create jobs. But jobs and the environmental havoc they create may be on the negative side of the environmental balance.

    You need to get unstuck on the jobs thing: it isn’t the point.

    EMR has said, for example, that we need both fewer people and less consumption per capita – meaning less jobs and more goofing off. It is draconian, but if we have really exceeded our carrying capacity, it is also correct.

    Otherwise, I’m all in favor of more forcible goofing off. We can start with the zoning officials.


    I never said that we do not need to clean up power plants, only that there is a definable point at which cleaning up power plants, or any other problem costs more environmentally than it is environmentally worth, jobs included.

    We need to recognize that there is such a point, and actively look for it so that we do not waste resources that could be spent more profitably.

    The difference between a sofa and environmental policy is that it is my sofa, my money, my policy, and my value system. No one can say with authority that I have not got what I paid for.

    Up to a point. Probably someone will object if I want a sofa made out of baby harp seals, or snow leopards.

    But with policy, you are taking on the responsibility of spending other people’s money, and probably transferring money from some to others. Now you have a much higher standard for getting it right.

    Especially if your going in claim is that it is “for the public good”, “for the good of the children” or some other subjective claim. What has to happen to prove a public benefit is that those that benefit have to pay back those that suffer, and still have money (or other benefits) left over to share with all.

    This is actually pretty easy. But, when you get to the point where you are paying another billion for controls, and you can’t see any reduction in asthma, tree kills in new york etc. then maybe you need to ask if you should spend your money on something else.

    That decision takes a tone of data and allows very little for hyperbole.


    My point with regard to Metro power is that costs vary according to time and location. We understand the time value of money, so I would be foolish to spend a dollar today in order to prevent a dollar of damage a hundred years from now.

    Likewise I would be foolish to spend a dollar to eliminate pollution a hundred miles from the city when I could spend a dollar to much greater effect within the city.

    Unless you believe that dilution is the solution to pollution, you cannot charge cars full price for polluting in the city and not charge at least something something for pollution outside the city.

    All I’m saying is that whatever standards you use for determining the damage from pollution need to be applied consistently. If you think that coal powered plants contribute to acid rain, then Metro contributes to acid rain. It does not reduce pollution.

    Maybe, the net travel benefit created by metro pollutes less than the the same amount of net travel benefit provided by cars, but that is a different proposition entirely from simply asserting that metro polutes less.

    And, because a car appears to provide so much more benefit per trip (freight, guaranteed seat, flexible schedule) you might actually find out that Metro pollutes more for the same benefit.

    This is, infact, the argument made by Winston and Shirley: bad as cars are, they are still the best we’ve got.

    It takes a ton of data, consistently applied, to figure it out.

    The reason it is bad policy to build environmental widgets the same way we do sofas is that environmental policy is spending public money, and it does not operate in a free market, but a political one.

    If we are going to let political dogma make economic decisions, then we can’t very well complain about how badly government spends our money.

    I concede there are subjective issues to sort out. However we do that, we must be consistent about it.

    If we decide that a life is worth a million dollars, on average, then a murder and an execution are both worth a million dollars.

    If we decide that a ton of ozone causes 5 asthma attacks, each worth a thousand dollars, then we should be indifferent between a ton of ozone and a ton of ragweed that has the same effect.

    If we argue asymmetrically, we only undercut the veracity of our arguments, and increase the likeliehood that we will be wrong.

    You talk about me as if I was “on the other side”, and I’m not. I’m on your side and I’m saying we need to stop wasting our ammunition shooting ourselves in the foot.


    Oh, if we all switched to electric cars, we could easily spend the money we now spend on auto emission controls on power plant emission controls, at no extra cost. But, since power plant emission controls are much more cost effective, we probably would not need to spend as much to get the same or better air quality. We could spend the remainder on something else that needs cleanup, or just give it back to those of us who need sofas.


  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: …”only that there is a definable point at which cleaning up power plants, or any other problem costs more environmentally than it is environmentally worth, jobs included.”

    AND that you don’t know where that point is.. AND that we should not do any more until we know…

    defacto – no action – which is tantamount to saying that we should not reduce pollution .. until – a favorite tactic of those who are opposed to cleaning up pollution.

    re: jobs

    yes.. the point IS jobs…

    specifically… the claim is that we will “harm” the economy if we require more pollution controls when there is “no need” and/or “no proof”…

    I am asking.. specifically.. what if we do require it (and it turns out that we did not need to) what exactly is the harm?

    Because.. you have created jobs and the worst that you can say is that those jobs are for widgets that are no more “valuable” than 90% of what folks spend their discretionary income on – anyhow.

    So exactly what is the harm of producing widgets that are no more useful than many other widgets other than the fact that they are claimed to be beneficial from an environmental point of view

    … really no different that lots of over-the-counter drugs are…

    What I am specifically asking is to show exactly how .. producing environmental widgets is BAD for the economy…

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    “AND that you don’t know where that point is.. AND that we should not do any more until we know…”

    I never said that.

    We do not know exactly where that point is, and because it is partly subjective and partly political, we probably will never have agreement on where it is. That doesn’t mean that with enough factual knowledge we cannot narrow the gap or the fuzzy area. We should continue to work on that.

    For example, the concept of induced traffic demand was widely accepted at one time, and is still often used in arguments. But, we now have a number of studies that suggest it exists, but the effect is not near as large as first thought. Eventually, that will work into the public perception of truth and knowledge, but not if we continue to use and promote the the old argument, either knowing it to be false or being unaware that it is no longer extant.

    Same goes with the idea that residential doesn’t pay. It is a conventional wisdom truism that has gained wide acceptance, but, it is an argument that was built on a very narrow definition, and one that economists seldom repeat. That idea is going to grow old and be supplanted by a more accurate vision, but it is going to take a long time.

    We are only going to get closer to that point by admitting we don’t know where it is and working on it. If we don’t know where it is then we are just as likely to be wrong by pushing for more controls as we are to be right.


    We should do more cleanup if we have a reasonably good idea that it is cost effective, recognizing up front that we COULD be doing more damage than good. Therefore we should avoid making dumb public service announcements suggesting people go buy dimmers when we can pretty easily show that it is not a real cost savings.

    We should also avoid the mere presumption that doing more is good, because it could just as easily be wrong. We need at least fuzzy evidence that more cleanup and more control is actually better and not just asssume that more is better.

    Finally, it is not enough to know if one thing is cost effective: you need several tasks to compare.
    You would hate to spend 100 billion on air pollution equipment to extend 100 million lives and increase forest production in New York if you could obliterate polio for 1 billion and extend just as many lives.

    This stuff is hard to figure out, but there are ways to do it. We don’t have to figure every option for all eternity before we make the first move. But we should recognize up front that our pet peeve is highly unlikely to be most important thing in the world, and at least consider some of the moves on the table.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    back to the issue at hand.

    suppose we do make a wrong judgement about global warmimg and we end up requiring a bunch of environmental widgets. that, in turn, create a mother-lode of new jobs.. all paid for by consumers – who have a little less to spend on truly frivilous items with absolutely no ROI and no cost-effective value at all..

    tell me again.. why spending money on environmental widgets harms the economy instead of spending that same money on Rock Concerts (or name your favorite worthless activity that costs money).

    We don’t need to figure any of this out – do we?

    What is the difference if the government decides that you must install deer-warning widgets on the front of your car verses you deciding to spend money on the same worthless items?

    Then finally.. tell me again.. where out of the hundreds of laws/rules that required environmental widgets (along with the new jobs to make them) to be purchased by consumers- that it turned out after all – that they were not needed verses the ones that were?

    Now tell me how many times we grossly underestimated the damage before we required enviromental widgets.

    You keep saying that we need to figure out the ROI ..BEFORE we do something.

    I’m asking . what if we require the widgets – regardless (which we never do but pretend here that we would)… tell me again how the economy is harmed.

    How about this. How about we REQUIRE the Best Available Technology for producing electricity from a 50-year cost-benefit basis?

    If we did that, wouldn’t we be requring solar and wind?

    Even the Wall Street Journal posits that electricity from smokestack sources costs about $140K over 30 years and electricity from solar costs 40K over the same period of time.

    Why don’t we go with the most cost-effective option not even counting the pollution impacts?

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    You are saying that if we are going to waste money, we might as well have the government tell us to waste it on some environmental widget that “might” do some good as to spend it on something that we want to spend it on?

    And your argument is that as long as the money is spent, how does it hurt the economy?


    Probably if the government is going to tell me how to spend my money, I’m not going to work as hard to get it. See Europe, or maybe North Korea or Cuba.

    Depends on what you think the relationship between the environment and the economy is.

    If there is no relationship, we can wreck the environment with impugnity. Who cares if we live in filth, as long as we are rich?

    Probably that only works for a while, then the black plague sets in, and you have to spend money for sewers and hygiene in order to stay alive to enjoy the economy.

    Or, You can have small groups that fight each other to keep their portion of the turf large enough that they don’t have to worry about hygiene. They have their own well and their own toilet and enough land to keep them safely apart. Anybody comes on your turf, you kill them.

    Not overloading the environment in the first place is one way to keep it clean. It is a valid solution practiced for centuries, but for some reason civilized people profess to have a problem with it.

    Of course if you can’t defend your turf, then you wind up like the Anasazi, starving to death in your high rise fortress.

    Or, you band together into larger groups, capable of effective defense, but now you need to build all the environmental infrastructure to keep each other from getting sick. You have to pay for your own needs, the group environmental, and government needs, and you have to pay to defend it all.

    But the driving force is still your own needs. If they are not being met, you are likely to ask just what the heck you are paying to defend. You might have a Tea Party in Boston.

    If you are paying for water and sewer, but your water comes out like sulfur flavored mud, scented with chlorine, the nearest working hydrant is 6000 feet away, and your sewer plant is the biggest polluter of your favorite fishing hole, then you might be a tad upset that you are not getting what you thought you were paying for.

    The government says, “Hey, we are going to fix all this, but first we need more of your money, so, your personal needs are going to have to do with less. Oh, yeah, and we’ve recently discovered that the environment works best if it has enough open space, so we are going to take control of your property, too.” Next thing you know, it’s back to turf battles, or you become the new modern Anasazi.

    Meanwhile, you are a fisherman, and you get your money out of that increasingly polluted and depleted fishing hole. This is making your life difficult, but you and your fat cat, cigar smoking fishing buddies have a lock on the ballot box, so you have a plan.

    No more crappers within a hundred miles of my fishing hole, so I can make a living. If it puts ‘ol Tom Crapper out of business, too friggin bad, he’s just one of those filthy manufacturers.


    So, I think at this point in our development, the environment and the economy are inextricably interlocked. The better the environment is, the better you can afford to let the economy get. If you spend $10 on the environment and get $100 gain, then you can afford maybe another $50 growth in the economy, pay pack the $10 you spent, and still come out ahead.

    But if you spend $100 on the environment and get a $10 gain, you are screwed. You can’t pay the $100 back, and you are $90 worse off environmetally, so its that much harder to make (and keep) the next ten bucks, for your own needs.

    In other words, it makes a real difference whether you, in fact, get the results that were promised back before you knew enough to make a good decision.


    I haven’t seen the wall street journal numbers or their back up or assumptions. But I’m pretty near 1000% certain that the analysis, as you have stated it is wrong.

    If I invest $40000 today and got back 4666 a year for 30 years, that would be an IRR of 11%. It would mean your monthly electric bill would be $388 a month. And it would assume that when you plunk that $40,000 thing down it covers all of your electric needs, and you never have to touch it again, no insurance on it, no maintenance. It assumes you have the money and don’t have to go borrow it.

    It’s a marginal investment at best.

    Put it this way. If the government REQUIRED such a thing, it would put a serious dent in my personal economy. If the governemt requires it of everybody, what does it do to the total economy? OK, so you got some people doing solar panels, what happened to the power plant people?

  18. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: the power plant people

    the same thing that happened to the buggy whip and horse carriage people.

    you keep talking about investing money and ROI and cost/benefit but we know that much of the “stuff” that consumers buy are not investments and do not return any money. Even so-called “durable goods” do not gain in value.

    So, again, what is the difference between spending money on stuff that IS worthless and spending money on environmental widgets that have some promise of yielding a net benefit to society?

    Some folks – today – will claim that the expensive pollution equipment on power plants and automobiles does NOT return a quantifiable cost benefit.

    How would you prove that they do or do not?

    Would Washington DC be better off without catalytic converters on the cars?

    Did they prove to you – that they do so therefore you do accept those unverifiable claims?

    What if the government said that coal-power had to cost just as much as solar power and that the savings would be spent on cleaning up the mercury pollution that spewed from the coal plants?

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    I give up, Larry.

    I’ve told you all I heve ever been taught. If you won’t understand, I can’t help you.

    What if the government said that coal powered plants had to cost just as much as solar?

    Where would the savings come from?

    What if the government tells you to jump over the moon, and you don’t do it?

    Is it your fault, or the government’s?

    You cannot order me to be in the farming busines and expect it to stick, if the farming business does not pay.

    You cannot order people to clean up ehemera indefinitely without showing a real, tangible, measurable, benefit at the end.

    They can’t afford to do it.

    A ton of mercuy is dangerous. A half ton is dangerous. A gram might be a problem in some cases. A picogram is measurable, even though you may never find it.

    How much are you really willing to spend looking? I know how to do it, but believe me, you can’t afford my price.

    And frankly, I’ve got better things to do.


  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    It’s true that folks can disagree about how much mercury is “enough”.

    And this is the essential disagreement with regard to debates about global warming also. Right?

    But the point I was making – and expecting a relevant response (from you or anyone) was and is..

    1. – Consumers spend money all the time on truly worthless widgets (with no pretense at all of being useful) – that DO provide jobs to the folks that make those worthless widgets which is deemed by everyone, including the economists to be a “good thing”.

    God Forbid we shut down the Cheeze Whiz plants… ๐Ÿ™‚

    You keep talking about ROI.

    What exactly is the ROI for most consumer purchases? Isn’t it NEGATIVE?

    What exactly is the ROI for catalytic converters on cars for that matter? Is the catalytic converter really a “worthless” environmental widget that actually harms the economy and we should stop requiring them?

    2. – Requiring enviromental widgets to combat the release of greenhouse gases – an a premise that is not “proveable” (to date to everyone’s satisfaction) but is strongly believed by many

    is said to be “harmful” to the economy and that is the Fundamental reason given as to why we cannot and should not require restrictions and new environmental widgets on industries (like power plants and autos).

    So .. tell me again.. why it would “harm” the economy to require all new construction to use solar panels (or pick your favorite good-intentions/bad economic idea.)

    What exactly is the “downside” if we require environmental widgets and it turns out that we did not need them after all?

    as opposed to..what is the harm of Global Warming if it turns out that we don’t do anything – and we should have?

    Which is more costly?

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    There is a mid point where the most benefit and the least cost is obtained.

    If you move EITHER direction from the midpoint, you have higher costs and less benefit. There is no answer as two which is more costly, because they are both more costly, and they are both the wrong answer.

    But, there is an incentive to push one way or the other, because one side gets more benefits while the other side gets more costs. The fact that the total costs are higher APPEARS not to matter if you can force someone else to pay them. This is usually recognized as stealing.

    And the APPEARANCE is faulty because there is only so much to spend. If we spend more than the optimum amount on A, we will have less to spend on B, and we will have bought less environmental value with our limited funds.

    What you are suggesting is that the effect of global warming might be infinite (extinction), or nearly so, and therefore justifies spending an infinite amount of money to prevent it. As soon as you throw your food and housing money into the cause, then I’ll believe you think the need is infinite.

    But if everyone stops buying food and housing and clothing and electricity and we do everything to stop global warming then that will wreck the economy, and the result will be extinction, or nearly so.

    That is the extreme example, but anywhere away from the optimum point you have various degrees of the same problem.

    The bizarre idea that people are going to waste their money anyway, so we might as well require them to spend their money on my pet project, is the same as ordering them to spend on my benefits (which only have a probablity of actually occurring).

    It is stealing, and stealing is generally recognized as bad for the economy, I hope.


  22. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    nope. never suggested that extinction was imminent or that food and shelter should be sacrificed to fend off Global Warming.

    That’s the boogieman that others use.

    In fact, I was comparing it to mercury pollution.. which may be woefully underestimating but I wanted to keep from suggesting extremes…. precisely because of your suggestion about extremes.

    But you use words like “benefit” and “value” which are wholly subjective..

    and I’m not suggesting that money spent is not considered by the person that spends it as a waste.

    I’m only pointing out that the claims that we cannot institute restrictions – that require environmental widgets – to reduce greenhouse gases – without it being a waste that will harm the economy … does not compute.

    And I’m asking why if you judge it the same way we do other discretionary spending – that it will “hurt” the economy whereas spending for chrome hubcaps .. will not.

    How is it that Chrome Hubcaps are GOOD for the economy but chrome environmental widgets are not?

    I really do want to know.

    I must be really dumb not to understand something that almost everybody takes for granted as a fact…. so .. educate me… please!

  23. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’ll bet you’re gonna be really, really, really glad when this threads drops off the bottom.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    I only used the extremes to illustrate the point. I beleive it is justified by the veiled threat of “What if we are wrong.” I take that to mean totally wrong, because if we are not totally wrong, then it is obvious that there comes a point where wwe can spend too much on a bogus problem.


    “benefit” and “value” which are wholly subjective..

    Not quite.

    If it costs $100,000 to remove the first ton of pollutant from a stack, and it costs $200,000 to remove the second ton, wouldn’t you agree that the second ton is not as good a value as the first?

    Now, the long term benefit from removing the second ton, in terms of total bioaccumulation, might be the same. Now you have to compare the long term discount rate for a $200,000 dollar expenditure vs a $100,000 expenditure. IOf it turns out that some other expenditure would have bought you a better benefit, then part of that money was wasted, and waste translates into more environmental damage.

    There are ways to resolve these ideas: they are subjective only because we have not agreed on a metric. We can’t even agree on how to look for metrics, and we don’t have any incentive to look until we understand and agree that any deviation from the best cost and benefit nexus results in lesser benefit for us all.

    So, we have multiple special interests each attempting to push more costs off on someone else.

    Private discretionary spending does not have the same ethical requirement for good behavior that public spending does, and we have no way to evaluate what all the private cost/benefit ratios are.

    We can, in fact, require environmental widgets to reduce pollution, but only up to the point where it is no longer cost effective. How do you figure that out? When you require the widgets, you also require that those that recieve the benefit pay the cost of the widgets.

    The beneficiaries will be willing to do that only so long as the benefits they recieve exceed the costs, or as long as they BELIEVE the benefits exceed the cost. If they don’t eventually see a real benefit, they will get tired of the real cost, and revolt. It is to the benefit of enviros to see that does not happen, so they need to make sure the benefits are real. Some of that is a matter of education, which enviro groups do well.

    Notice, that those who are required to buy the widgets are also beneficiaries, which means they have to pay the value of their benefits to themselves: they do not get 100% reimbursement for the widgets.

    Which gets us to the BELIEF part. If enviros are falsely advertising dimmer switches or making bogus claims for the value of solar then they can create a belief that spending more for widgets is worthwile, when it isn’t.

    Likewise, if industry is falsely advertizing that environmental costs are sending jobs overseas, then they are also creating a false understanding of costs and benefits.

    If either side “wins” then both sides actually lose, and the winner is fundamentally stealing from the loser through false advertizing. Since the enviros going in argument is based on more public benefit, or “what if we are wrong” they have a higher burden of proof.

    But, if we can’t even agree that there might be such a thing as “too much”, or that a fair ranking might make our pet project insignificant, then we are free to pursue our (pet)goals even if they result in less public benefit.

    This is a circular logic problem that we can’t win. We argue for the best public benefit, and refuse to admit there is anything that damages the public benfit. We claim that others don’t have the “right” to cause us costs without recognizing we don’t have the right to cause them costs by making unsubstantiated claims that are nonegotiable (What if we are wrong?).


    I have long since given up trying to teach people to sail. It is as natural to me as breathing or walking. Since I can’t understand why they don’t see what I see, even if I point it out, it’s an exercise in frustration.

    Usually I just give them the wheel and shut up, let them make their own mistakes. Occasionally I’ll take the wheel back and say, “watch the knotmeter”. They are astonished to see it climb 10 or 20%, when to their eyes, nothing else changed. Yet the proof is in the pudding.

    “Can you sense the difference?”
    I’ll ask, and hand them the wheel. Sure enough, that knotmeter will start to drop, only now it makes them crazy, because now they know something is wrong and don’t know what it is. They just can’t see the thousand or so constantly changing variables.

    We don’t have an environmental social knotmeter where we can see the proof.

    Eventually, I’ll get them to where they can keep the boat moving reasonably well, and they are all happy. Until they see the boat next door whizzing by. Usually they want to copy what the other boat is doing. It doesn’t always work because usually tht boat is operating in a different reality.

    Eventually they understand that the best they can do is all there is, no matter what happens anyplace else. Trying to do any more will absolutely only make things worse, every single time. And you can see it on the knotmeter.

    Once they get over all that, I introduce them to the idea of velocity made good. It doesn’t matter how fast you are advancing if you are going the wrong direction or if you could go a shorter distance at a little slower speed.

    Calculating the best course for VMG is enormously complex because you have to estimate (somewhat) subjectively all of your optional courses and the speeds that would result, and the rank them. But, just because it’s hard doesn’t mean its impossible.

    One thing you do know is that under difficult or dangerous conditions, if you screw up, everybody on the boat will suffer more and longer than neccessary.

    It is so patently obvious to me, that I don’t understand why both the enviros and industrialists don’t get it.


  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: …”If it costs $100,000 to remove the first ton of pollutant from a stack, and it costs $200,000 to remove the second ton, wouldn’t you agree that the second ton is not as good a value as the first?”

    you don’t know this at all.. you’re basically hand waving.

    Tell me what percentage of mercury we are removing and at what cost and at what cost benefits?

    What ton are we at with respect to mercury?

    You don’t know.. you’re assuming “something” so vague and so mired in unsubstantiation as to be not much more than a personal philosophy.

    Give me some numbers.

    How much mercury have we taken out and how much is left to take out and at what cost?

    The same is true of Global Warming.

    I’m not at all assuming a worst case .. at all.. because it’s the same deal…

    It’s not black/white .. “break the bank” or “do nothing” which is the way that those who are not serious about the issue .. portray it.

    What is a reasonable approach?

    doing nothing at all is pretty stupid in my view especially when the basic problem is the wanton waste of burning fossil fuels rather than employing more efficient approaches which would not only save everyone money (that ROI you’re always talking about) .. even it did absolute nothing to mitigate global warming at all.

    The issue really does boil down to the question you won’t or can’t answer – which is – environmental widgets that could – save us money (ROI), create jobs – and possibly actually help the environment…

    and the harm in this approach is?

    way better than chrome hubcaps…

    The fact you won’t address jobs and economy issue and at the same time talk about the first ton and the second ton… without in such general terms – tells me that we’re mostly taking about your personal philosophy…and not facts.

    You want “proof”… for global warming.. when you really don’t even have that proof for mercury or CFCs which you could actually use to prove your point – if you could actually show that the cost to remove that stuff exceeds the benefit…


    what say you?

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    It is only an example, but the argument holds true. In, fact it is always true that the next bit of cleaning costs more: it is inescapable. The first time you rinse a paintbrush you get a lot of paint out, the second rinse you get less, after three or four, it is hard to see any further improvement. The brush keeps getting cleaner and cleaner, but it is harder and harder to see the difference. By the time you have rinsed it fifty times the cost of the solvent might exceed the cost of the paintbrush, AND you have to dispose of all the solvent. As an enviro it would be stupid to insist on laws that require too much paintbrush cleaning.

    (I use one oz of solvent, three times. That is my personal cost benefit ratio, unless I am using a very expensive $50 camel hair brush.)

    There are plenty of places where we do know the costs and benefits quite precisely. We could findo ut with environmental benefits if we choose to.

    Enviros choose not to and to pooh pooh the concept because they are unsure about the results: they might not like the answer.

    We know that if we do not repair train tracks frequently enough, that we will incure travel outages due to breakage. If we repair them too frequently then the act of repair will cause travel outages. there is only one best answer, and a wrong anser eithe way casues everyone to travel less well.

    See the graph on page 5.

    Charging excess environmental costs has the same effect as raising the fares too high: less total social benefit.

    It doesn’t matter how much mercury we take out. We know for a fact the next little bit will cost more.

    It doesn’t matter what the benefit of Mercury removal is, we know that removal of the last little bit is less beneficial that the first little bit.

    Therefore we know that at some point it no longer pays in terms of total benefit. To insist otherwise is stupid and self defeating, especially if your going in argument is “more public good”.


  27. Anonymous Avatar

    The harm in the appraoch is the possibility that it is wrong.

    It’s not black/white .. “break the bank” or “do nothing” and therefore there must be an optimum middle point. Failure to look for it diligently increases the possibility that you will do wrong.

    When we talk about total social benefits, we mean all of them, including how much money you take home, and what you can buy with it when you do. “It’s the economy, stupid.”

    If making nintendo games is more profitable than making widgets, I’ll take home more money. Without the widgets I pay more for fossil fuel and cleanup, MAYBE. The widgets have only a possibility of doing some good, as you say.

    If I’m required to buy widgets, now I don’t have to buy fossil fuel and clean up after. If the widget costs more than the fuel and the cleanup, then I will have less money at the end of the day.

    So will everybody else, including the people who build widgets, and they might have spent that money to buy a “worthless” Nintendo game.

    Which is where I get the money that I am now forced to spend on widgets.

    Once you pass tht midpoint, it is ALWAYS as dead end.

  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    at this point – I would posit that you cannot tell me where we are with regard to mercury pollution.

    Are we getting our “money’ worth” or not?

    How close are we?

    Are we: A. not there yet
    B. perfectly on target
    C. way pay the point of ROI

    If you don’t know then how can you advocate for less, more or in between with regard to any pollution issue including Global Warming?

    You seem quite convinced that it should be quite simple to make the calculation.. so do it….

    ….”A $4.6 billion settlement Tuesday by one of the last holdouts among polluting power companies signals the end of a long legal debate over acid rain, and a tougher battle ahead over carbon dioxide and the use of fossil fuels.”

    Did Edison Electric and it’s investors get screwed over or did those who suffered from the pollution finally get some justice?

    So.. those very expensive environmental widgets are now going to create jobs and reduce pollution in Ohio.. right???

    Tell me again why this is wrong…

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    “If you don’t know then how can you advocate for less, more or in between with regard to any pollution issue including Global Warming?”

    You finally understand.

    That is exactly the point I have been trying to make. And therefore, the enviros cannot advocate for more without blowing smoke.

    I am not claiming that those who advocate less are any better, although you seem to believe otherwise. What I claim is that the only advocacy that makes any sense is to advocate for a true, balanced, factual, agreed upon approach to making sure that we are at point B. Exactly on target.

    If we create jobs through advocacy in the range of C, way past the point of ROI, those jobs will not be economically viable.

    I submit that the social costs of Global Warming, Mercury, etc., in the final analysis, are measured in mortality, longevity, and health. From a very practical standpoint they translate into real dollars.

    I don’t think, although I can’t prove it, that it makes very little difference what price you put on these things, as long as you apply the same price equally everywhere.

    The reason I think so is that money turns out to be a good proxy for resources and energy used. If those widgets are expensive, then they have an environmental cost. If they are more expensive than the alternative, then their environmental cost is greater.

    No, I can’t tell you where we are with regard to Mercury pollution, but, I could map out a plan that would lead to a way to find an answer that reasonable people can agree on.

    I can’t tell you how clean the paintbrush should be, but I can still give you a pretty gould estimate of when it is no longer worth it to clean it. All I need is a value for mortality, longevity and health that I can apply to both the environmental costs of the solvent, and the cost of throwing away the paint brush.

    But, when you say things like “What if we are wrong.”, then the implication is what if we are very wrong, or totally wrong, not a little bit wrong. If we are only a little wrong, then we don’t need to advocate so hard.

    From a global perspective, everyone is an investor in Edison Electric and all its cousins in the industrial world. And everyone suffer from the pollution they create. Asking whether the investors got screwed over or those who suffered from the pollution is setting up a false dichotomy. The real question is whether we got our moneys worth in reduced pollution for the amount we got screwed over.

    Go back to the paintbrush example.

    Suppose you propose to build a widget that will clean a paintbrush with three tenths of an oz of solvent instead of 3 oz. (Probably impossible, but we don’t know that).

    So, you go to Government Funding Agency for a grant to develop it, and they turn you down. You go to the enviros and say, “Look, I can save 90% of solvent waste but the GFA won’t help me. Please go lobby.

    They do that and eventually you get the money and build this thing, only it weighs four hundred lbs, and costs $40,000. You have to clean 100,000 paint brushes before it breaks even on solvent cost.

    Most people won’t willingly pay $40,000 to save on three oz of solvent, so you make a requirement that the machine be used. Now, either every paint brush must be brought to the machine or the machine must be brought to every painting job. Probably the paintbrushes will dry before you getthem to the machine,so you have to bring the machine to the painting job. Only the big painting companies can afford the machine, so the smaller companies go out of buisness, and work for the big guys at lower wages.

    Home owner loses the option of painting his own stuff according to his schedule, he pays more than necessary to cover the cost of the machine due to less competitiveness, and now he has to supervise the painters he has hired.

    So, on the plus side, less solvent cost, less sovent disposal, les paint brush disposal all times 100,000 plus more widget jobs, and higher profits for surviving painting co’s.

    Minus side, cost of widget, disposal of widget manufacturing waste, cost of widget jobs, losses to small companies, higher cost for painting, transportation of widget, bueaurocratic certification of painters, cost of negotiating and supervising painters, schedule costs, and carrying costs for widget expense, eventual disposal of widget, sunk costs of environmental lobbying, and tax cost of the grant to develop widget.

    Notice that the jobs arguments partially offset.

    Now you have a stream of positive cash flows and negative cash flows over time. Use the appropriate discount rate to figure out the net present value. If the net present value of the entire stram of cash flows, both sides, is more than the cost of disposing of the solvent, then the whole project is a net loss to society, jobs included.

    But, you can always claim that the costs of disposing of the solvent are infinite, or higher than they are, since we don’t really know the cost. However, you need to base that on something and apply the same standards and the same costs to the environmental costs of building and operating the machine (and everything else in the trade space). They will partially offset, and the question is how much they offset.

    And that is only for this widget. Like my ailing example, if the widget is doing its best, it doesn’t matter when some other widget is doing better.

    There might be some other widget that performs much better, but not on solvent. Whatever the basis for your claim as to the costs of solvent disposal, you will need to use the same basis for determining the costs of widget pollution and whatever pollution the other widget prevents. It doesn’t matter so much what you claim as the cost of solvent disposal, or the value of preventing it, as long as the basis is applied equally to all environmental costs. Usually this boils down to human life, logevity, and health. so, pick a number, any number and apply it uniformly. If you do that, then a whole lot of environmental arguments disappear, because they aren’t worth having.

    Then, we won’t be able to fool ourselves into buying unnecessary and wasteful environmental protection, and at the same time industrialists will not be able to hide from their own costs either.

    Both sides win. The whole point, and the only advocacy that makes any sense is an advocacy that ensures BOTH SIDES WIN. If you even enter the discussion with any other attitude, then you are advocating both less actual benefit and stealing.

    If all of this seems far fetched, let me just say that I used to do my own air conditioning work. But now I cannot, because I don’t have that refrigerated vacuum pump/ recovery tank widget and I’m not certified. Even if I could go rent the pump, the certification makes it not worth while, unless it is my full time business. (I think you can’t buy freon unlessyou are certifed,)

    I’m satisfied that recycling freon is worth while, here in the U.S. But I hate to think what is happening in all the places we don’t control, places where the economics are a lot different, and the value of recycling is a lot less. It’s possible that we can recyscle ourselves into the poor house, and not make the slightest difference.

    Don’t get me wrong. It is posible to come up with a widget that produces jobs, reduces pollution, and provides all the same benfits of whatever it replaced, all at less cost. But the odds and physics and economy are stacked against you. It is easy to wind up like Kevin Costner who has sunk $40 million into failed environmental initiatives. Those initiatives provided no long term jobs in the end.

    Surely, if we put our collective heads together we could find some better way to spend that money. A way that would provide jobs that are economically viable, and will last.

  30. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “That is exactly the point I have been trying to make. And therefore, the enviros cannot advocate for more without blowing smoke.”

    If someone can demonstrate harm – often by just pointing it out – i.e. fish mercury advisories in rivers and warnings for pregnant women and kids to not eat the fish

    .. that is all they need to advocate for tighter restrictions

    this is how Edison Electric lost.

    You show the acid rain streams, the forests on the mountain tops damaged by acid fog.. air pollution monitors that show high levels of pollutants on ozone days, etc, etc… and the result is a strong advocacy to restrict.

    Edison Electric can try to deny .. usually first that they are responsible.. then next.. once guilt is established.. they’ll argue that it’s “not so bad” and/or no proof that the cost of the environmental widgets will be less than just letting the damage continue.

    It’s a losing proposition and the only way to win – is to clearly demonstrate on an ROI basis that further restrictions are not cost effective.

    Then you have the track record for all environmental restrictions.

    Tell me out of the hundreds/thousands of environmental restrictions where it has been proved.. that the restrictions actually went overboard…

    almost always.. it works the other way.. the damage is found to be worse, often much worse then originally believed.

    so we have a track record of habitually underestimating along with an industry track record of either trying to hide data and/or being opposed to the gathering of data that will help determine the right level of restrictions.

    Industry argues all the time the same arugment you use about ROI but when it comes times to find the answers – they are opposed – like Edison Electric.. and they dig their heels in utilizing every strategy they can.. until the final court date this case..20 BILLION dollars worth …

    which.. guess what.. would have been 1/2 or 1/3 of that if they had complied instead of fighting it.. even when all the other power plants accepted the restrictions.

    The ONLY downside.. to forcing environmental widgets is that we find out they were not needed and.. they end up in the same category of ROI and usefulness as chrome hubcaps.

    and tell me again.. how many times.. in the history of environmental issues..that we have required environmental widgets that turned out to be not needed?

    I’ll wager you that you’re gonna have a terrible time with this.. and that even if you look hard.. you won’t find more than the number of fingers on one hand AND for every one you can find.. I will show you 100 or more when the requirement for environmental widgets turned out to be justified.

    the same folks who poo pooed PCBS, Mercury, DDT, etc.. are the same folks who now are poo pooing Global Warming.. the same skeptics using the same thought processes and tactics … with the same outcome.

  31. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    here is the essence.

    No company, even a company, that provides a necessary product, is entitled to pollute – i.e. discharge pollutants into the water or air.

    RH seems to think that companies do have this right and that it is up to those who are impacted by the pollution to “prove” that the harm they suffer is more than the environmental widgets that would reduce it.

    In other words – the ROI – that RH claims is predicated on a certain level of pollution that the polluter is entitled to – as a baseline.. and from that point on, any discussion of restrictions and environmental widgets REQUIRES … PROOF that those widgets won’t cost more than the impacts of the pollution.

    Go back to square one.

    Anyone – an individual or a Company is NOT entitled to pollute.

    Any pollution that leaves their property is with the concurence and approval by those that are affected (the public).

    And if the public determines any time.. that the pollution is more than they want – they can have it cut back.

    The Company, on the other hand, is free to charge, the embedded costs of the pollution equipment that has been required.

    And of course the public is free to NOT BUY the product if they feel it is too expensive.

    More likely.. the more expensive it becomes, the less they will buy.

    And this is where public policy meets the profit motive – because Power Companies want to MAXIMIZE their sales and so it is NOT in their best interests to sell clean but expensive power.. because consumers will buy more efficient appliances and utilize other strategies to save money.

    So do companies have a right to pollute.. to sell dirty power.. and the public has no right to restrict them?

    I think not. The public DOES have this right – and in the end – if the public is convinced that global warming requires further restrictions – there is little that those companies can do other than comply – just like Edison Elecric did.

  32. Anonymous Avatar

    “No company, even a company, that provides a necessary product, is entitled to pollute – i.e. discharge pollutants into the water or air.”

    This is the essence of where you are wrong. It is the perfect example of the absolutist thinking that makes environmentalists a) all wet, and b) appear as lunatics to many people who might otherwise be supporters.

    No company can produce any product with out causing pollution. If we only allow companies that produce zero pollution, we shut down the economy tomorrow, and we all starve.

    We are not entitled to require an action that is impossible. If I’m King, and I order you to jump over the moon and you don’t do it, even though I’m King, I cannot claim that you have no right not to jump over the moon.

    That is the ethical and moral situation, and if you don’t get it, I cant help you.

    Politically, No, we do not have to prove that the harm we incur is greater than the cost of the environmental widgets that (might) stop it. We can demand any reduction in pollution right up to no pollution and put everybody out of business. We can demand that every company jump over the moon, and kill all the ones that don’t.

    We can absolutely do that, based on force of numbers at the poll.

    But any reduction we force that is greater than the benfits it produces is a reduction that comes right out of our own pocket. Such a move is is utterly and irredeemably stupid.

    Not only that, but it GUARANTEES that we will have missed some opther action that might have done some good.

    We’ve been around this twice: “What if we are wrong” and “No company has the right” are two perfect examples of where absolutist thinking leads. And yet, this kind of thinking is widely ingrained in environmental thought and literature.

    All I can say is that I feel sorry for people who haven’t been taught any better than that, or who refuse to understand the simple concept of diminishing returns.

    ” RH claims is predicated on a certain level of pollution that the polluter is entitled to – as a baseline.. and from that point on, any discussion of restrictions and environmental widgets REQUIRES … PROOF that those widgets won’t cost more than the impacts of the pollution.”

    I never said that at all. Just the opposite in fact.

    The going in argument is that ANY pollution is bad, therefore the first condition that must be met is that the cure isn’t worse than the disease. If you cannot explain in dollars and sense how bad the damage is, and how you reached that conclusion, then you have no standing to demand any payment for damages or payment to prevent them.

    What you say is true only if the company can charge the embedded costs. If they can, then the implicit assumption is that the customers think the cost of the goods plus the cost of protection is worth the money.

    If they can’t (jump over the moon) the company is out of business. (More likely it moves to a friendlier area or country. In that case the environmentally sensitive customers can still get their product and not have the pollution damage. AND they don’t have to pay the price for their own actions.)

    But what happens if we REQUIRE all solar, at a higher price. You have now removed the option of obecting to the price, and you can no longer claim the assumption that customers think the cost is worth the protection. You don’t really have the right to refuse to buy, or buy something else.

    Anybody who thinks it is, is free to buy solar today.
    anybody who thinks open space is important is free to go buy some today.

    But that’s not all. There are plenty of cases where the enviros demand certain protections or benefits from an agency that produces nothing. Then where does the money come from?

    The absolutist premises, circular logic, and ethical vacuum that the environmental movement frequently choose to operate in means that they will never have all the support they could have if they wer simply honest, direct, and willing to deal.


  33. Anonymous Avatar

    When the EPA sets an environmental standard, it si specifically prohibeted form considering the costs of meeting that standard.

    When the county zoning board sets zoning standards they are specifically prohibited from considering the costs to those affected.

    In both cases those regulations were put in place by political majorities specifically so that they would not have to economically justify their actions: they can steal at will.

  34. Anonymous Avatar

    Lets say that no company has any right to cause any extraneous costs outside it borders, none, not even a penny.

    Then you would have to agree that the outsiders equally have no right to cause any extraneous costs inside the borders, not even a penny.

    That occurs if they win a claim for more than their costs. If they get a benefit or impose a cost that is greater than their loss.

    But, those outside do have a legitimate complaint about pollution costs. And they sue for relief. But if they get one penny more than the costs they incurred, then they have reversed the damage so that the flow is into the company, not out.

    If you can’t agree to that,then your mind must be twisted like a mobius band: only one side, only one edge, endlessly looping, no inside, no outside, no content.

    Therefore the burden of proof has to be on both sides equally, and it is not. The public has a right to restrict or recover damages up to those incurred, and not one penny more. (Assume time value of money for future damages, like bioaccumulation)

    They have no right to send a bill based on a supposition like “what if you are wrong?”

    They may have the power to send that bill, and to enforce it, but to do so is utterly and completely stupid,illogical and unethical.

  35. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “If we only allow companies that produce zero pollution, we shut down the economy tomorrow, and we all starve.

    We are not entitled to require an action that is impossible.

    yadda yadda .. absolutist thinking.”

    Okay.. RH .. let’s walk through this.

    If you want to consider the fact that no company can discharge pollutents into the air or water without a permit – as absolutist thinking – then go ahead – but its the law, in fact, – and not some environmentalist viewpoint.

    and the reason why you cannot discharge without receiving approval to do so (which is called a discharge permit).

    And what it says is that I – as a property owner – do not have the right release substances that might damage other people’s property (or their persons).

    And you’re wrong also about requiring an impossible action.

    There are many substances that are totally outright banned.. and you cannot discharge them at all…

    except you don’t call this an impossible action because this implies that one has no choice but to pollute and that is not true.

    So again – to clearly STATE – you NEED A PERMIT to discharge – which means that you DO NOT have the “Right” to discharge. You must obtain permission.

    Finally – the deterimination of what is (and is not) permissible to discharge and in what quantities can and is subject to change and this too happens all the time as sewage treatment plants from both municiple and industrial sources have over and over been further restricted from previous levels.

    And the way this is accomplished is that discharge permits are only for a specific period of time and have to be renewed – and when they are – companies are not entitled to the same restrictions on the prior permit.

    New, tougher restrictions are required quite often…

    So you have a philosophy that is at odds with the actual law.

    You’re not alone but you are in the miniority and no.. the State does not have the responsibility to “protect” minorities who think they have a right to pollute.

    What those dreaded environmentalists do – is engage in advocacy to further tighten and further restrict what IS allowed to pollute..

    .. and their goal is to get enough of the public and their elected representatives to support tougher standards…

    you can disagree with them… its a free country.. and I’ll admit that I don’t go along with everything they advocate nor how they do business sometimes but they do have a “right” (speaking of “rights”) to advocate and to try to convince the public to agree..

    .. and that is, in fact, the dialogue that is going on right now with regard to global warming..

    .. and, if some point in time, the State or the Feds AGREE to REQUIRE stricter limits on pollution discharge permits – they can do this.

    Should they? That’s what the dialogue is about – and, in the end, the public will decide – not the companies who pollute.

  36. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here is a recent example of how the state can and does further restrict pollution.

    (the stuff below is excerpts – read the entire article.)

    Headline: North Carolina storm water proposals draw flood of opposition

    Local leaders have overwhelmingly opposed changes proposed in storm-water management rules that, if passed, could place more restrictions on coastal development.

    The new rules would require larger buffer zones [and less impervious surfaces]

    The state Division of Water Quality recommended the changes after a study in 2005 found current rules – around for more than two decades – don’t do enough to protect water quality, and that 90 percent of shellfish water closures were because of storm water runoff.”

    You can go read the rest of the article but the point is that the state can and does prohibit any activities that result in pollution including land disturbance.

    In other words, you actually do not have a right to do some things with your own land – if those things result in discharges of harmful substances from your property onto other property – in this case – public property.

    I’m not arguing the right or wrong of what pollution philosophy should be – in your opinion – I’m only pointing out that your philosophy does not conform to the actual law and that your claims of what can and cannot be done simply are not correct when it comes to actual law.

    You can and should advocate for what you think should be done but so should others who may not agree with you and that would include those dreaded environmentalists.

  37. Anonymous Avatar

    I can’t help it if the people who pass laws are idiots, especially when they do it in response to an advocacy that is half thought through. I don’t dread environmentalists, I am an environmentalist myself: I dread stupid environmentalists who create more problems than they solve.

    The State does not have the responsibility to “protect” minorities who think they have a right to pollute, but they do have the responsibility to protect minorities from costs due to claims of damange from the majority that are overblown or incorrect. And it is not just pollution we are talking about here.

    You are correct: enviros have the right to free speech. They can promote any kind of distorted and mistaken thought they like. They can promote any kind of distorted funding profile that favors their way of thinking. And they can do it all in the name of promoting the public good. They just can’t do it in a way that makes logical, economical or ethical sense.

    This is not my philosophy. I didn’t invent it. It is not a philosophy: it is widely accepted economic theory, backed up with thousands of experiments with measurable results.

    “The state Division of Water Quality recommended the changes after a study in 2005 found current rules – around for more than two decades – don’t do enough to protect water quality, and that 90 percent of shellfish water closures were because of storm water runoff.”

    OK, the present rules aren’t working, so let make more rules. We’ll just make orders them to jump over the moon. What you are doing is falling back on the idea that marjoritarian rule is OK, even if the results are stupid, and even if minor benefits to many are paid for by major costs to some.

    And never mind that the orders are now creating widespread dissent. How long do you think the rules will stay in place, at that rate? Look what happened in Oregon.

    And never mind that the regulations are put in place without reference to costs or benefits, meaning they may do more harm than good.

    And you are exactly correct: regulations do change incrementally over time. And they should, because we gain more knowledge over time, and economic conditions that enable the regulations change over time.

    We might enforce the use of solar, even if it is more expensive. But if later economic conditions mean that thousands are freezing because they can’t afford electricity, we will revert to what is less expensive, even if it is environmentally damaging, because the costs and benfits have changed.

    Each time a regulation changes it should go through a new cost benefit cycle, but they don’t. Instead environmental advocates deliberately use the camel’s nose under the tent strategy. They even adverise and admit that is their strategy.

    First they cynically make a minor rule and justify it economically by saying that the impact is small. Then they go back, over and over demanding More and More benefits without considering the impacts. That is what local officials were complaining about in your examle: the impacts were not sufficiently considered.

    And you example is also right: we can totally deny some kinds of pollution, by totally denying the products the plant might have produced. We can totally allow some types of pollution becasue the alternative is so grim: breathing, after all creates CO2.

    But the best solution is almost always somewhere in the middle: an inescapable fact that you and some others refuse to admit. So, go ahead and make laws that are wrong, counterproductive and unfair.


    Now go look at today’s article in the post by Joel Kotkin. It is a virtual menu of ideas I have previously introduced here.

    1) The environmental costs of cities spread far beyond their boundaries.

    2) The heat island effect requires more airconditioning which increases the heat island effect: a vicious circle of environmental waste caused by overloading the local carrying capaity.

    3) Making large buildings, and making them green makes them far more expensive.

    4) A nice maple can cool a house, but it doesn’t do much for a tens story building.

    5) Green initiatives are much less expensive on a smaller scale.

    6) Strict zoning and heavily subsidized mass transit have not curbed sprawl in Europe and Asia.

    7) 90% of all Metropolitan grwoth occurs in the suburbs, even in Portland.

    8) We should encourage and embrace “Smart Sprawl” rather than continuing to waste resources on policies that are not working.

    9)Build an “Archipelago of Villages”

    10) Develope transit that works with local shuttles.

    11) Use open space to break the monotony of concrete and glass.

    12) Create more Places.

    13) Protect open space with public and private funding.

    14) Dragooning Americans isn’t the best way to adress concerns about energy, resource depletion or lifestyle.


    Go read those last two again.


    Just today I read my latest copy of the Bay Journal. After four pages I had to stop because my head was swimming with the contradictions presented.

    They have no cohesive way of looking at the problem because they are stuck on one basic premise: cleaning up the Bay is worth whatever it costs, no matter who it costs, no matter how bad the methods use are.

    I think the cleaning up the Bay is worth whatever the minimum possible costs are, and not one penny more. And I think it matters who foots the bill, and why.

    One article was titled “For Bay to Profit, we must be willing to make a serious investment.” If we make the investment, we should be the ones to profit.

    The article talks about nutrients in runoff, and then syas we need to reduce impervious surfaces. What nutrients do impervious surfaces contribute?

    The article says that most of the money spent on nutrients ahs been directed to point sources: sewage treatment plants, but it also says that these sources are only 21% of the nutrient load.

    It might be that this distribution of resources is the best we could do with the money at hand. It might be that attacking the other sources is so much more expensive that, attacking the smaller sources is more cost effective, and they are doing the right thing.

    The article says that 41% of nutrient waste comes form farming. (An adjacent article is titled report seeks greater efforts to manage pollution from development.)
    But then the same article goes on to say that development has increased nutrient runoff. It also says that one Virginia program aimed at reducing animal waste pollution aimed to provide up to 75% of the cost of waste management, but the requrests for participation exceeded the funds avalable by $2.2 billion.

    There want any consideration of whther the 25% funding required from farmers was in any way related to the benefits farmers woudlreciev as opposed to what others would recieve.

    And get this one statement, one statement that makes sense and which you disputed: “As with any pollution management program, the greatest cleanup gains per dollar are made from initial regulation….It is the later states, generally those that are working to virtually eliminate pollution that are overwhwlmingly costly”


    Read that last sentence again.


    If it is overwhelmingly costly to virtually eliminate pollution from a certains source, then we can;t expect taht “source to jump over the moon” and absorb all the costs for our benefits istself.

    If it is overwhelmingly costly to virtually eliminat pollution maybe we need to rethink what we are doing.

    If nutirents are depleteing oxygen and creating a dead zone, mayb the best thing to do is put in a bunch of oxyxgen pumps.

    In the article on preventing runoff from new development, the article admits that the biggest and most expensive problem will be retrofitting existing developments, but most efforts are pointed towards new developments. Does that sound anything like what I have been saying about existing developments pushing their costs off on new developments?

    I read your arguments and theri arguments and my head comes away spinning. There is no consistency of logic, argument, purpose, or eeconomics, and the reason is that they are stuck on their own hook: saving the bay at any cost, no matter whose.

    All for the public benefit, of course.


  38. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Ray, Could you provide the URL for the Kotkin article you cited?

  39. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I would posit that there is perfect consistency.

    The first is that as an individual you do not have the right to take away from others and that is what you do if you pollute property that does not belong to you.

    If your claim is that in doing so, a positive cost-benefit can be provided then of course we would not take your word for it because you do, after all, have a conflict of interest.

    Instead, the policy is for others to decide if indeed your pollution is “worth it”.

    This is not “all over the map” at all.

    The problem is that you confuse the public dialogue.. (like the Bay Journal) with the actual law.

    The dialogue is about whether the law is too restrictive or not enough but the law is the law.

    I DO agree with you with respect to the Bay Journal – it IS all over the map but you need to realize that it is ON PURPOSE because the Bay Journal encourages dialogue and debate.

    I also AGREE (I know. this is scary) with you about the amount of money that is being spent on Bay Restoration but you may not like (agree) with my reasons.

    It basically boils down the same problem that we have with education (and transportation). We have a desired public good and advocacies for more and more money to be “thrown” at it without performance standards for the expenditures.

    further.. they use a water quality model that is NOT validated with real monitoring data… which is totally bogus.

    They spend the money on doing “studies” and then claim they have none left for actually monitoring.

    For instance, tell me where the nutrient problem is worse on the rivers?

    Do we have higher nutrient levels below farming areas or below urban areas?

    Can we show that farming areas have higher levels of nutrient runoff than .. say areas experiencing fast growth and a dramatic increase in impervious surfaces?

    If I live in Fredericksburg or you in Facquier – what exactly should you be asking your local BOS to prioritize with regard to nutrient reduction?

    Should they be after the PEC types who have mucho manure in their pastures? or should they go after you guys with drainfields?

    we don’t know… and that’s what I find troubling about the C-Bay cleanup efforts.

    The advocacy is for more and more money.. without performance specs.

    .. as to your question about why nutrients are higher around impervious surfaces..

    think of what happens to lawn that is fertilized next to sidewalks and streets .. and then it rains..

    think about pet feces in the same context.

    think about your farm.. if you paved it over… in terms of runoff… all the poop that was on it.. would be instantly flushed whenever it rained rather than gradually soak into the ground.

  40. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim. It’s in today’s WaPo.

  41. Anonymous Avatar

    Your starting argument is that I have no right, none, to do anything onmy property that resulets in pollution leaving the property.

    It is a physical impossibility to do anything on my property that does not result in some kind of pollution. Not even breathe or own a cat.

    Therefore, you claim total control over what I can do. Anything that I am allowed to do is by your forbearance, or because I have paid some kind of fee. You can set any kind of fee, including infinity an infinitely high fee for an infinitely small amount of pollution, whichis what happens when you approach zero. You can incrementally set infinitely increasing fees, without re-evaluation of costs.

    The policy is for others to decide if indeed your pollution is “worth it”. You have then total control over the value of what you get from me, compared to its cost.

    Yet, if I complain that you are taking too much from me, you will not believe me because I have a self interest.

    You, on the other hand, have no self interest, because you are allegedly working for the public benefit. I am supposed to accept at face value, based on supposed costs for intangible values far into the future. You can advocate for more and more money.. without performance or damage specs.

    Even if I can prove that the effects you desire are not in the public interest, I have no recourse.

    And all of this is because one does not have the right to take away from others.

    You don’t think that is inconsistent. And you don’t think it is unfair because its the law. And you don’t think it is unreasonable as a matter of physical and chemical realities.

    Whew. I simply can’t believe anybody thinks that way.

    If I pave over my farm, I won’t have any poop to run off. If the nutrients are higher around impervious surfaces, it is not because of the impervious surfaces, it is because the heads of those that overfertilize are impervious.

    What is really going on is that impervious surfaces may, and not necessarily, increase the rate of runoff, that causes quick rushes in stream flow that gouges out the bottom of the stream and increases sedimentation. Sedimentation kilss the bottom plants that migh use the nutrients.

    But, since we know for a fact that more than half nutrients come from agricultural areas and only 12% comes from urban areas the noise about developed areas is mostly noise. And new developed areaas are required to prevent runoff anyway.

    It is pretty easy to go after the big bad developers. Water treatment facility upgrades are also easy to promote, even though the cost per pound of reduction is four times that of agricultural reduction. (At least the public cost per pound.)

    Agricultural conatrol is seen as the least expensive way to clean up the Bay, but even that is not cheap. It would cost $62 million a year just for cover crops to mitigate the expected increase in nitrogen from corn production.

    Almost no one is suggesting that farmers can pick up the costs (unlike your industrial example farmers cannot pass their costs on to the customer, or not very well), and the funding is nowhere near adequate.

    The public already subsidizes corn production, and such agricultural best management practices as ther are (no where near enough). And they have to pay for the wastewater treatment planned upgrades.

    The argument is that the public shouldn’t have to pay this, because they don’t grow corn. They just eat corn, which winds up in the sewagetreatment plants they pay for. And they burn corn in theri multipurpose stoves to save on oil, and burn it in their cars.

    So the new plan is to go after the industrial farms as point sources, meaning that the best available practices, whatever they are and whatever they may be will apply. Naturally, the industrial farms will argue that they should get the most funding to help them with their problems, and the best available practices will require widgets that the average farmer can’t afford. If you can;t guess what the result of that will be:

    See my example on widgets above.


    The way things are going, just so my property won’t contaminate anyone else’s I gues I’m gong to have to get rid of my cat. Or I can bag the cat feces in plastic and drive it to the dump, that way I won’t pollute. Like my wife says, “Put on plastic, that way we don’t have to pay for it.”

    Ill have to get rid of the bears, deer, turkey, foxes, geese, starlings, caterpillars, groundhogs, squirrels, etc., too.

    How about if I send them all over to your house, so I won’t get sent a bill for not cleaning up after them?


  42. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    RH – geeze.. man

    you don’t have to get a permit for pet cat poop, because:

    1. – it’s below the established thresholds for polluting activities

    2. – it’s not effluent into a pipe that results from a business activity

    Anything that requires a pipe (or ditch) to acommodate volume/flow and is discharged into waterways that you don’t own – requires permission from those that do own it.

    To this point, runoff from impervious surfaces has not required a “permit” but that is changing now that it is acknowledged that runoff from impervious surfaces also contains pollution – above levels that were previously thought safe.

    Neither the public nor the regulators have to “prove” that the cost of your pollution is less than the value of the products/services you are producing.

    YOU can attempt to make THAT claim but in doing so.. it will not make one bit of difference in the decision to grant you a permit.

    What WILL determine the issueance of a permit is your agreement not to exceed specific thresholds for specified pollutants.

    A claim that you cannot produce a product without exceeding those limits will result in NOT getting a permit and if you continue anyhow, you will be put out of business.

    This is very much NOT all over the map but instead actually totally consistent in philosophy, theory and practice.

    What part of “you do not have an inherent right to pollute” do you still refuse to admit?

  43. Anonymous Avatar

    so its OK to pollute if it is only a little bit, something below economic levels, as determined by someoen else.

    And it is OK if it is a private activity, not a commercial one.

    And you don’t think this is inconsistent with your initial staement that I have no right to pollute?

    In order to get a permit I MUST agree not to exceed limits set by someone else, which are based on their subjective estimate of probable damage (even though they reject my assessment because I have a self interest). And I must agree to use the best available technology, no matter how expensive that becomes.

    Rather than start with the premise that no one has the right to do anything that damages another, (which is a virtual impossibility) how about if we just start with the premise that we have a mutual obligation to damage each other as little as possible, and a mutual intereest in havig us both gain as much benefit as possible?

    The Nobel prize in economics was awarded this weeek for just such work.

    I think I have an inherent right to breathe and fart, both of which result in pollution. After that, we are talking about a matter of degree, not of rights. It’s the old joke about the boss who asked his secretary if she would sleep with him for $100,000.


    First it was point sources, and next will be non-point sources. First it was truly dangerous discharges and then it was basically anything that is flammable, acidic or basic. Next it will be non-point sources, and any discharge of anything that anyone claims is harmful, no matter what the cost.

    “A claim that you cannot produce a product without exceeding those limits will result in NOT getting a permit and if you continue anyhow, you will be put out of business.”

    And you can’t see how this will hurt the economy, including the economy of those that set the limits, and those that support those that set the limits?

    There has to be a better, less antagonistic, less adversarial, more efficient approach that leads to a better overall result for everybody.

    When I see enviros urging that we work towards that result, they will have my support. Untill then, I expect we will see more and more people like the local officials you mentioned, and the article in yesterday’s post saying, hey, wait a minute, enough is enough already.


  44. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ….” we have a mutual obligation to damage each other as little as possible”

    Who decides this? the guy that benefits from the pollution?

    simply stated – you do not have any right to pollute not even “as little as possible”.

    Further the definition of what is or is not pollution is not determined by the polluter either as we all now what the answer would be – every time.

    In effect, what you seem to be advocating is that the polluter should decide if he can pollute by merely asserting that he/she is only doing “as little damage as possible” and that, in effect, everyone else can do the same.

    this is rational?

    I would argue, in fact, that when someone pollutes that they are actually “taking” others property rights to enjoy their property without suffering pollution.

  45. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I would posit that the process for applying for a permit is not antagonistic of even adversarial until you choose to make it so.

    and’re not getting permits from those dratted environmentalists but from the state.

    The folks in the permit office have absolutely nothing to do with the environmentalists… in fact, would disavow them..

    In fact, most folks would consider what you advocate for – as almost the opposite of what the tradtional environmental community supports – right?

    Shouldn’t you be blaming the folks who actually passed the pollution laws?

    and .. just a hunch.. I bet you don’t support the candidates that the environmentalists usually support either – right?

    tell me again why you consider yourself an environmentalist?

    How would you say that you are different from those who say they are not environmentalists?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you are not necessarily an environmentalist but I have to admit, I’m a tad bit skeptical.


  46. Anonymous Avatar

    “you do not have any right to [cause costs] pollute not even “as little as possible”.

    Who decides this, the guy who sets the price on pollution?

    I don’t see that the argument that the polluter should not decide what is pollution is even one whit different from the idea that the conservationist should not determine what his cost of damage is.

    Stating the absolute position that ther is no right to polluteis a bogus position that undermines the basic argument: environmental conservation/protection is for the public good, and it flies in the face of physics and chemistry. It is an order to jump over the moon.


    I consider myself to be an environemtalist because I have two degrees in environmental science and economics, and spent more than ten years working on remediation technology for hazardous wastes.

    I gave it up that work when I concluded that the work was more of a waste than the waste.

    The reason was that neither side in an adversarial relationship has an incentive to damage the other as little as possible: to negotiate a bargain that allows both sides to “win”.

    I discovered at close range and from personal experience and observation that unreasonable conservationists starting from absolutist positions were causing more damage than they prevented.

    It turned my stomach.

    I also saw what you suggest: that polluters can be self serving. The difference is that they are self serving because they have an investment to protect.

    The other side on the other hand thinks [wrongfully in my opinion] that they can inflict infinite damage on the polluters, even to the point of shutting them down or running them out of the country, with little cost to themselves.

    That mistake is going to come home to roost, eventually. Until then, it is still morally and ethically wrong, because getting what you want at no cost to yourself is stealing.

    Environmentally speaking, I remain in the political vomitorium. The Democrats have no respect for private property, and the Republicans seem to support environmental initiatives that work to ultimate advantage of big business. Neither side is willing to invest money to go buy what some say we need because they know that, at some point, it isn’t worth the cost.

    Admitting that publicly is political suicide because so many people mistakenly believe that they have the right (and the ability) to prevent all pollution at any cost, as long as it is someone else’s cost. Preferably someone we can villify.

    When I see an environmental initiative that I think makes sense, and has considered the costs and benefits from both sides, from a systems approach that includes at least secondary participants,then I will work to support it. Or when someone pays my fee.

    I’m not holding my breath.


  47. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Your insistence on blaming environmentalists for the way that the States Regulate Pollution tells me that you either do not understand or do not want to.

    Either way.. you are out of touch with some realities…

    The legal basis for the STATE’s Regulation of Pollution has absolutely nothing to do with Envrionmentalists ideas – of which you assign the blame for..

    The law IS, in fact, based on the absolutist idea that no person has a “right” to take or damage property that does not belong to you – not even a “little bit” and not even what you think is “necessary” for your own interests. (and I’d say thank GOD for that concept or else folks with such views would be running amok).

    But the he LAW .. IS .. THE STATE and Federal – and has nothing to do with the environmentalists…and this law is based on the Constitution – which, by the way, is chock full of other absolutist concepts with virtually no phrases like “no more than necessary” in it – thank goodness.

    I’m suprised at you – an avowed property rights advocate essentially claiming that you have a “right” to damage property that does not belong to you.

    how can you justify this?

  48. Anonymous Avatar

    After years of training, education, and experience I have sadly come to the conclusion that much, but not all, of the environmental movement consists of a well-meaning but misgided scam which consists of selling a “sustainable” perpetual motion machine.

    The desire for such a machine is understandable, because it represents getting something for nothing, a precept that is exemplified by statements such as “I have all the rights and you have none”.

    However, such a machine, even a global one, violates the most basic laws of chemistry and thermodynamics, and therefore, inexorably, the laws of economics.

    Which is why it is a scam.

    As a farmer and landowner, I am on the environmental front lines every month contributing sweat equity and cash. I do the best I can to make the little piece of the environment I control support my wife and I, along with all our critters, great and small. If some of that good effort spills over to my neighbors, I don’t mind. I could do more with more resources and time, but I don’t have them. And, that good effort carries with it some bad effects too. It is inescapable.

    Along with the bills every month I get numerous requests for funding from various agencies. Sometimes I buy a nice calenar or poster. But usually I see these requests for gifts as support for some initiative or another which is expressly designed to reduce my resources even more. To reinforce even more, the laws on the books which say you have all the rights, and I have none.

    I’m not buying it. And I’m not buying anything from them, unless they are willing to buy from me as well. I hope we can make a deal, locally or globally. I hope we can make a deal where we both gain.

    But I’m not holding my breath, because I understand how beguiling and attractive the scam is. I understand that a lie is told often often enough, it takes on a life of its own, defying all logic and proof. It becomes a truism, which means something like, but not quite the truth.

    I just call it a lie.


  49. Anonymous Avatar

    I justify it because the other side EQUALLY has no right to damage me by imposing real, dollar and cents exactions by making subjective claims that THEY claim they don’t have to substantiate, simply because they think they hold the high moral ground. Even if they have the law on their side, it is still wrong, just as they claim.

    It is your own argument, inside out.

    My argument, on the other hand, starts with the idea that we can BOTH be better off, but only if NEITHER of us makes unsubstantiated claims. My argument requires no absolutist claims.

    Admittedly, this means we are going to have to go through the very uncomfortable process of putting prices on what are (presently) subjective costs. I frankly don’t care what prices are chosen as long as they are applied uniformly. I beleive, that the subjective items will mostly zero out, but they will fall slightly on the side of environmentalists.

    Just today, there was an article that sais cancer deaths were down significantly in the last two years. It is widely believed (even by me) that cancer is largley environmentally induced. If the article had said that the drop was directly traceable to environmental improvemnts, then I would eat my hat, but at the same time we would have evidence that shows all the environmental expenditures we have made boiled down to x dollars per life.

    As it happens, the change was due to better technologies for detection. And that is one tiny little data point that suggests we might be spending some of our money badly.

  50. Anonymous Avatar

    If (when, I would say) we get to the oint that we can show that an environmental cure costs x million per life saved, then you will find yourself in a free market. Someone else is likely to jump up and say, “wait a minute, my plan costs half of that, give me the money and I’ll save twice as many lives.

    Right now there is no free market, because you refuse to set a price.


  51. Anonymous Avatar

    As a ratonal person, I have to recognize that I live on the planet, too. Theoretically, your initiatives will benefit me too, someday. I’m willing to pay for that, but only my share and given a reasonable discount rate. I shouldn’t have to pay 100% of everything now for some future promise that you can’t or won;t quantify.

    What are you willing to do for me? Nothing and less than nothing, since you have the law on your side, claim to have rights on your side, and you believe that diminishing me costs you nothing.

    If that is what you want to believe, go right ahead. Just don’t expect me to contribute to that altar. Last I knew, we still had freedom of religion.

  52. Anonymous Avatar

    The problem with your argument is, that since it is based on one absolutist principle, you can’t afford to admit that I might be even a teensy tiny bit right, otherwise you entire argument collapses.

    I’m perfectly willing to make a payment to anyone who can show that they provide a service I benfit from, upt to the amount I actually benefit. Evenif they are on the other side of the globe.

    But, I expect the same in return, on the same measured basis. i suspect that it will mostly allcome out in the wash.

    You on the other hand, sitting in your oil heated house, refuse to admit that you might benefit from some guy drilling in ANWR. You don’t do ANYTHING to harm anybody else, so you are free to claim that anything anybody else does harms you, and they, they only, should be stopped.

    You refuse to admit that your actions might have damaged the guy down the street by sending his job to Asia, resulting in LESS environmental good than if you had been able tostrike a deal.


  53. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”I justify it because the other side EQUALLY has no right to damage me by imposing real, dollar and cents exactions by making subjective claims”

    There is no “equal” here guy.

    where do you get the “equal” from?

    Your intended victims refusal to allow you to harm them is not an “equal” proposition at all.

    The “other” side is not imposing anything on you other than to prevent you from damaging property that does not belong to you in the first place.

    NO one owes you the right to pollute in exchange for anything that you might claim makes it acceptable.

    You seem to think that folks who prevent you from damaging their property are harming you.

    Isn’t this sort of like a thief complaining that someone stopped him from taking their property and that in doing so, the thief has been “harmed” by his intended victim for refusing to be robbed?


  54. Anonymous Avatar

    The other side EQUALLY has no right to damage me by imposing real, dollar and cents exactions by making subjective claims, which they cannot or refuse to substantiate or when the claimed damages are false or inflated.

    The real question is why, someone would make a claim in the name of the public good which actually harms the public good and causes more waste and environmental damage.

    When such a condition exists then there is an equal “other guy”, and it is this little fact that you conveniently ignore.

    You have a position that is (presently) supported by law. But it is not supported ethically, rationally, or economically. And in some cases, it isn’t even supported environmentally.

    But hey, one out of five ain’t bad.

    If you choose to believe that you have the inalienable right to require something that is impossible, go right ahead and delude yourself.

    There are a lot of people who think as I do. You can have some support from them by modifying your view slightly to allow some compromise, or you can have enemies that write you off as unethical, dishonest, and cycical.

    There isn’t any question in my mind which course would work out better for the environment, the economy, and the environmental movement.

    If you prefer to support ideologues who are not seeking the best result for all concerned, go ahead, just don’t ever expect me to help.

  55. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I want to make clear – that it was never claimed that one could not pollute at all or that no one is allowed anyone to pollute.

    The point made was that there is no inherent right to pollute.

    In fact, there are thousands, probably millions of permits that allow significant pollution…

    So, no.. we don’t shut the country down because we refuse to allow pollution; look around .. everywhere you look .. there IS legal pollution going on.

    There ARE indeed many ROI tradeoffs involved, and it is certainly appropriate to consider them – but at the end of the day – it is not the polluter who makes the decision.

    Finally, just because someone, or a company or an entire industry has polluted 50 years in a row – does not entitle it to continue(grandfathering).

    Permits are not “forever” and they are not “rights”.

    Finally, notice that not one time in all of this response – is the term “environmentalists” used.

    You do not request a permit from the environmentalists and so blaming them for the way that permits are done – is really kind of dumb – all due respect.

    In fact, one should feel relieved that you don’t get your permits from the environmentalists – because then you really would have BIG problems.. getting permits.

  56. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    RH – no one owes you a thing for not allowing you to .. in essence.. take or damaged others property.

    You are not entitled to ANYTHING from the get go…

    Your whole argument is predicated on the concept that you have a right and if that right is abridged then folks owe you something.

    You never had that right and no one owes you a thing…. for a right never had to start with.

    This is MORE than just a legal concept.

    It’s a moral concept also.

    Simply stated – you are not entitled to use what you do not own.

    Your argument seems to be that.. you have a right to just go onto your neighbors property and take whatever you think you are justifed in taking…

    and that having the State step in and stop you.. means that someone “owes” you something for stopping you…

    geeze guy…

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