Virginia and Climate Change: Tim Kaine Brings the Global Debate Home

The reality of climate change is beyond debate, the Times-Dispatch paraphrases Gov. Timothy M. Kaine as saying during the initial meeting yesterday of his commission on Climate Change.

“Gone are the days of debating whether man-made effects exist” with global warming, the Virginian-Pilot quotes him as saying. “Those days are gone.”

The first of the two statements is a non-sequitor. No scientist anywhere, to my knowledge, disputes that “climate change” is a reality. The climate of the earth has varied enormously over hundreds of millions of years, experiencing wild swings between tropical heat and glacial cold.

The second statement is uncontroversial for the most part, except perhaps among right-wing talk radio hosts. There is little dispute that human activities have impacted the climate. The extent of the impact may remain an open question but no serious person would contend that mankind has had no impact whatsoever.

The two statements sound profound but they are so vague as to be meaningless. We’ve heard it over and over that the science of climate change and global warming is “settled” and that there is a “consensus” among scientists. In reality, climatology is a dynamic field with many findings that don’t fit the prevailing paradigm and loads of scientific controversy over narrow questions. Here are how I, as an amateur follower of the debate, break down the issues:
  1. How rapidly is the climate warming? Yes, virtually everyone agrees that the earth has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from the 16th to the 19th century. Virtually everyone agrees that the warming trend extended through the 20th century and into the 21st. The big question is, how much? Measuring the “average” temperature of the earth is not an easy task. We’re getting better at it, but measurement is far from perfect. One example: Many measurements are subject to the “heat island” effect. In the United States, many temperature sensors are located in airports. Fifty years ago, the airports were situated in the countryside. Today, those locations have been encroached upon by urban development that can raise the ambient temperature several degrees. It is a matter of some controversy how best to adjust for such trends. Meanwhile, there are many other other assumptions and adjustments embedded in global temperature calculations. Just last year, NASA was forced to make an embarrassing downward adjustment to its temperature record for the years since 2000 after a methodological flaw in its calculations was exposed.
  2. Are current temperatures unprecedented? In the current cycle, which follows a brief cold spell in the 1960s-70s that spurred fears of an impending ice age, it appears that we have reached levels not seen since… the 1930s. We could well surpass that decade — which immortalized the image of, “It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the pavement” — if temperatures keep rising, but the climate still won’t exactly be “unprecedented.” Average temperatures were just as high during the Medieval Climate Optimum.
  3. What is causing global warming? The earth has been warming and cooling for billions of years. There are many non-human factors at work, including minor shifts in the earth’s orbit and cyclical outpourings of solar radiation (which affect the earth’s magnetosphere, which in turn effects the bombardment of cosmic radiation, which in turn effects cloud formation.) The question is: How much of the warming we are seeing now is the result from natural, cyclical processes and how much results from mankind’s release of C02 and other greenhouse gases? Teasing apart the impact of natural vs. manmade influences is exceedingly difficult.
  4. Global warming and sea levels. While the vast majority of climatologists are certain that planet is warming (though they don’t all agree on how much), it is far from clear what the impact will be. Widely feared — and a key justification for Virginia’s climate change commission — is the belief that icecaps will melt and sea levels will rise. While there is some scientific evidence for this view, there are many complicating factors. Rising temperatures may increase precipitation (e.g. snowfall) on major icecaps such as Greenland and Antarctica. Water (in the form of ice) could conceivably accumulate faster in the high, cold plateaus faster than it melts along the lower, warmer edges of the plateaus. The melting of the polar ice cap, by the way, would only contribute marginally to rising sea levels — to the extent that ice takes up a slightly larger volume than liquid water. My advice to polar bears: Move to the Greenland plateau. (Just kidding.)
  5. Global warming and the biosphere. Of particular interest to the Virginia study group should be the impact of Global Warming on… Virginia. As I understand the Global Warming models, manmade warming is expected to be most pronounced in cold, dry regions. Most, temperate regions such as Virginia should see less temperature change. It would be helpful to know to what extent will temperatures rise in Virginia, and to what extent will rising temperatures cause a change in habitat, affecting all manner of species? We should know to what extent indigenous species are vulnerable to temperature changes of the expected magnitudes. I have seen nothing on this. Another interesting question is the impact of higher C02 levels on plant growth. C02 is to plants what oxygen is to animals. If higher C02 levels promote plant growth, as I have read, this would be a good thing, I would think — unless you’ve got a kudzu infestation in the back yard.
  6. What can be done to avert Global Warming? Once we begin asking this question, we move out of the realm of science entirely and into the realm of public policy and ideology. There is widespread political support in Virginia for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, particularly among segments of the population comfortable with the idea of government exerting more control over the economy. But there are two sides of the climatic equation. Not only do humans emit more greenhouse gas than we used to, we are chopping down our rain forests, the world’s major repositories of C02. Why is the focus in Virginia exclusively upon reducing emissions? Why aren’t we asking what we can do to increase C02 absorption, possibly through reforestation?

The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that the science is settled, that we “know” what the impact of Global Warming will be upon Virginia, and that we have to do something, anything, as in, intervene in the economy, to avert the approaching calamity. Climate change is an issue worth studying. But I see no justification yet for panicking into rash and ill-considered action.

Regarding public policy, I think that free-market/fiscal conservatives can find some common ground with greenies on the Global Warming debate. Everyone should favor energy conservation, especially if energy conservation projects can be justified on a Return on Investment basis. State and local governments should be encouraged to conserve energy as a means to cut the cost of government… as well as to save the planet. Virginia should implement transportation policies that encourage people to drive less — as a strategy for reducing traffic congestion and cutting the pressure for more spending on roads… as well as to save the planet.

If the Climate Change commission takes that approach, I’ll feel a lot more comfortable.

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  1. E M Risse Avatar


    Your best statement on the issue to date.

    Now let us focus on the impact of human settlement pattern on both sides to the equation, CO2 production (energy and resource consumption) and CO2 capture (use and management of land).

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    What bothers me is this.

    We have a reputation of grossly underestimating the damage of some activity that we do .. and taking a long time to figure out that we were wrong and finding out, after the fact, that the damage is either permanent or so very expensive to fix that we cannot.

    I speak of PCBs, DDT, Mercury, MTBE,asbestos and dozens of other serious pollution to this day that we cannot fully clean up and to this day… we do not have an answer except advice like “don’t eat too much of certain kinds of fish”.

    So.. we have a pattern of underestimating the problem and procrastinating even one we know.

    The question that nags at me is .. what if we are wrong.. and we are right at the cusp of the tipping point and doing something right now keeps us from going over the edge..or we, as our usual practice, don’t appreciate the seriousness until it is too late.

    So, the question is – is it worth the gamble?

    What is the downside to doing something about it… and later on ..we find out that we overreacted and we can back down from overly restrictive measures?

    what exactly is the downside of taking action?

    no gloom and doom… we’ll all be freezing in the dark ..hogwash..

    give me some specifics… and show me who will be harmed and how they will be harmed…

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    If “taking action” means reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 with the only acceptable technologies being wind, solar, biofuels, etc. then “freezing in the dark” (or, perhaps more aptly, “sweltering in the dark”) is the likely outcome. If those technologies ever contribute more than 20% of human energy needs, we’ll be very lucky.

    The fact that most of those who find the possibility of negative impacts from global warming most dire at the same time rule out expanded roles for nuclear and hydroelectric makes their warnings less credible.

    And, CO2 sequestration has to be on the table given how abundant and inexpensive coal is. If are to have a “Manhattan Project” style effort, it should be focused on CO2 sequestration and the Thorium nuclear fuel cycle. We also have to dust off plans for many of the hydroelectric dams which were shelved in the 1960s and 1970s.


  4. E M Risse Avatar


    Good questions.


    You are not listening.

    The first step is to drastically shrink the ecological footprint by Fundamental Change in human settlement pattern.

    That gets CO2 sequestration started and provides the context for mini solutions, MIUS, etc.

    The “Manhattan Project” should be to change settlement patterns and thus percapita consumtion without sacraficing quality of life.


  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The problem I have with LB .. is non-responsive to the question.

    Do we have a problem that we need to do something about or not?

    Talking about “possibilities” and blaming other for “stopping” possibilities is non responsive in my view.

    The question is – are we willing to gamble that there is not a problem that we need to respond to?

    What is a prudent approach?

    Like I said, we don’t seem to have such a hot record predictions.. we usually overestimate the benefits and underestimate the negative consequences and usually end up having to outlaw something we originally thought was fine.

    we talk about freezing in the dark but folks in other industrialized countries use about 1/2 of what we do in electrical power by simple conservation measures and energy efficiency standards.

    doing those strategies will no sooner put us in the dark with freezing or sweltering weather any more than it will other countries.

    Many environmentalists have changed their mind about Nukes but they want the Nukes that France is using ..which are much safer than the nukes we’ve been using…

    I think there are a huge range of possible strategies to pursue..
    IF we think we need to and that is the basic question.

    Should we pursue conservation and effciency standards to reduce our energy consumption or not?

    and if we do.. what is the downside of doing it?

    I’m basically asking.. where the harm is in REDUCING our consumption to be somewhere where the other industrialized countries are… not to the level of 3rd world standards.

    what is the downside of this?

    please state explicitly what kinds of harm that we suffer as a result.

    This is the part I fail to understand.

    We hear “destroy our economy” .. “freezing in the dark” , etc, but I have yet to see anything that makes any sense and mostly generic gloom and doom blather.

  6. Groveton Avatar

    Jim Bacon asks good questions about CO2 and climate. However, I think there is another reason to conserve / use non-oil alternatives. At $100 barrel (+/-) we are in the midst of one the greatest transfers of wealth in history – from the US to OPEC countries. And many of the countries receiving the wealth are unstable on a good day. Even if you put climate change aside as an unknown, US national interests require that we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and especially foreign oil produced by unstable regimes.

    Conservation is a great place to start. I believe it can yield substantial results very quickly. However, it will not happen (on a broad scale) by itself. If you want people to increase their conservation of energy you have to make the energy more expensive. Increasing taxes on energy consumption is a good idea. It is in line with a stronger America less dependent on foreign oil. If the politicians could manage to show the minimal discipline needed to use the additional tax revenue to cut the deficit – all the better. If more expensive energy helps create more functional human settlement patterns – all the better.

    I wonder why LB’s comments raise such ire. He / she thinks hydro, nuke and clean coal provide better hope than wind, tide, etc. I think this should be in addition to conservation but what’s wrong with betting more on what’s been proven to work vs. things that might work?

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim –
    May I congratulate you on what I feel is one of your more lucid postings; well done.

    Larry –
    I see what you are saying but let me pose it this way. What we have to deal with is the “Law of Unintended Consequences”. Allow me to give an example – in the 90’s, we decided that in an energy savings idea, that we would build homes more tight, allowing less energy (heat) to escape. What happened? The MOLD problem, a problem that makes thousands of homes virtually uninhabitable to this very day. Ditto all this ‘gloom and doom and we have to do this and the other’ – no I don’t think we should sit on our hands but I don’t think that we need to jump in with our eyes wide closed (not that I think that is what you are suggesting). Have you (or Jim) looked at what the economists have predicted if the USA invoked the Kyoto treaty? Basically you would have to turn off the electricity to every 3rd home on a block. Cutting back on pollution, getting more mileage out of cars, finding other, economical sources of energy are all fine and dandy – but we don’t need to do it because of the government.

    EMR – You never miss a chance to put forward your socialistic ideas. You REALLY want to help the planet, then don’t promote compact, clustered, claustrophobic living conditions. Rather, promote that everyone needs to live on lots no smaller than one acre, everyone will have to grow no less than five trees and everyone will have to have no less than a 1/4 acre of grass. All those measures will help ensure we have the plants to help take the CO2 out of the air.

    EMR – Sorry, I just can’t get behind your move to shove everyone into little tiny hovels. I don’t want to be totally dependent upon mass transit, the utility grid and the grocery store to live my life. I prize my freedom, of where I live and how I live – I find your ideas terribly intrusive and a huge move towards a government solution to everything. Often when I read your posts I feel like you have one tool, a hammer, so to you all problems look like nails. As someone who works with many tools I know a hammer has it’s place, but in many cases it does much more harm than good.

    Sort of sorry to go on such a rant, but 99% of the time EMR’s posts or comments really stir me up – this was one of those times.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Suppose that a major reduction in CO2 only costs 15% of the global economy. How many people are out there that can’t stand a 15% reducition in their personal economy.

    The question you hae to ask, is how many people are you willing to let die in order to be sure we haven’t made a mistake.


  9. Anonymous Avatar

    “change….percapita consumtion without sacraficing quality of life.”

    It might be socialism, or it might be Zen, but fundamentally, it isn’t realistic. Reducing per capita consumption is going to result in hardship for many.


  10. Anonymous Avatar

    From today’s WAPO:

    “Fifteen years ago, Japan ranked fourth among the world’s countries in gross domestic product per capita. It now ranks 20th. In 1994, its share of the world’s economy peaked at 18 percent; in 2006, the number was below 10 percent…..

    “I have a sense of crisis because Japan has not nurtured industries that will grow in the future,” said Ota, who offered no specific remedies for the crisis……..

    ….Japan’s slide relative to other major economies is not a tabloid tale of suddenly squandered riches. It is rather an insidious petering out of growth, productivity and innovation — and of political will to stop the slippage.

    The slide has dovetailed with another quietly insidious crisis — the petering out of the population. Japan has the world’s highest proportion of elderly people and the lowest proportion of children.

    By 2050, population decline will have reduced economic growth to zero, according to the Japan Center for Economic Research. Seventy percent of the country’s labor force will have disappeared…….”

    Japan, at least, will be consuming less.

    Japan, is also the center of the largest agglomeration of solar energy producers…. and yet, Japan has not nurtured industries that will grow in the future.


  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    How many people die if we are wrong?

    our whole civilization – life on Earth as we know it, is essentially predicated on the predictability of weather and climate.

    Crops, forests, water supply,

    China is having an energy crisis as we speak because their coal trains cannot reach their power plants and they are shutting down.

    State Farm wants to leave Flordia… Louisiana, etc.

    The whole concept of re-insurance and government self-insurance is based on a statistical zero-sum belief in weather and climate..

    what if the things that we think are temporary calamaties become frequent and routine?

    Is our economy able to deal with unpredictable weather?

    The costs of revamping our infrastructure and the other underpinnings of civilization could make the current comptemplated sacrifies seem trivial.

    I’m not saying this will happen but I AM asking.. are we so sure that it can’t happen?

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    ‘Rather, promote that everyone needs to live on lots no smaller than one acre, everyone will have to grow no less than five trees and everyone will have to have no less than a 1/4 acre of grass. All those measures will help ensure we have the plants to help take the CO2 out of the air.’

    Anon 9:44 has a point.

    But it won’t work as long as we are mining CO2 from history faster than we are sequestering CO2 today.

    It is going to take a lot more land than we have. And sequestering CO2 with plants is only temporary. When they die, they release CO2 unless you bury or preserve them.

    It took hundreds of millions of years to “sequester” the CO2 we are now using to heat and feed ourselves. And even that was only temporary, it seems.

    One defnition of sustainable living is that you use no more energy than fals on the land you occupy. If that is the case we wil need a lot more land.

    Even if we adopt EMR’s ideas, we will need to allocate other land to make up for the concentration of population he advocates.

    In other words, we will need a different way of calculating what he calls location dependent expenses. We will have to subsidise vast expanses of unproductive territory to make up for the useage of teeming cities.

    And we will have to bury everying that vast expanse produces.

    Have a nice day.


  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, you are asking the wrong question.

    The question is, how many need to die, if we are right?

    Some scientists believe that at previous times, at the end of the Jurassic era, CO2 levels climbed so high they created a major die off on the planet. The oil and coal reserves we are burning now are a result of those die offs.

    If we are right, and CO2 accumulation is a major crisis then most (or all) of us die. In order to control it, many of us die.

    Who wants to tie the bell on the cat?


  14. Anonymous Avatar

    It looks like a lengthy comment I wrote somehow got lost. We as a society have to make the decision if the prospect of global warming is such that we must make significant reductions in CO2 emissions in the next several decades. If we make that decision, I see no alternative but building upon currently available technologies. I’m very skeptical about the favored alternatives of environmentalists, at least over the short run. Of course, any contributions would be helpful and government support is justified. Given that the fossil fuel deposits we’ve already used formed over tens of millions of years, the deposits we use every single day represent the deposition of thousands of years of ancient life.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    I think that boils it down to the essence. If we think the prospect of global warming is serious, we must act now, with what we have available.

    I’m not only skeptical about the favored alternatives of environmentalists, I’m skeptical that people don’t understand what this means economically.

    Even if we are able to achieve our current energy consumption with other supplies, those supplies are going to be more expensive. Even if we are able to achieve significant enery use reductions, they will come at a cost.

    Those costs will filter down the economic foodchain and people will die as a result. Medical people are familiar with the concept of triage, environmentalists may need to consider adding it to their toolkit.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    If the deposits we use every single day represent the deposition of thousands of years of ancient life, then how many years of current life will we need to trade to prevent the usage of those deposits?

    Chemical equations always balance, but the rate of reaction is crucial. Even if it is millions of years.


  17. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m a grinning here…

    I asked for some specific examples of the harm of downsizing our current per capita usage is the US to match the lower usage in the other industrialized countries and what I got was … more… gloom & doom rhetoric… fatuous hand-waving about chemical relationships and, in general.. high-octane blather….

    There are people right now that are not connected to the electric grid and they actually don’t die as a result. I know this sounds shocking folks..but it’s actually true and not a nefarious rumor ….

    yeah.. you have to be smart enough to know how to properly vent a home so that you don’t grow mold…DUH!

    yeah.. you can’t heat 300 gallons of water 24/7… and take 30 minutes hot water showers…

    yeah.. you can’t run all your electric appliances at the same time…

    yeah.. you might actually have to heat/cool ONLY the room you actually use instead of the empty rooms not in use… and yeah.. they actually make sensor devices to do turn stuff on and off per the presence of a human… godomighty what will they think of next?

    but folks, you won’t freeze and you won’t sweat to death (pray God, I’m upwind if I’m wrong) and you won’t in general succumb as a result of (HORRORS) using a similar amount of electricity used by millions of other fellow humans around the world…

    So I’ll try one last time.

    The harm in the US reducing it’s greenhouse gases by reducing it’s electricity usage to be in line with what other industrialized counties use is….. ?

    I .. WAS using a blather meter on the previous responses but it got overloaded and broke… (except for Groveton’s common-sense response).

  18. Jim Bacon Avatar

    There are many, many reasons to conserve energy. One, as Groveton points out, is to reduce our dependence upon foreign energy sources. The other is that energy consumption creates other forms of environmental disruption that are very well documented and don’t rely upon unprovable climate models. Extraction of oil, gas and coal causes environmental problems. So does transport of the fuels, and so most of all does combustion, which releases all manner of chemicals into the air and water.

    Combine the known sources of pollution with the fact that conservation also generates an economic return in the form of cash savings, and the case for conservation becomes very strong — regardeless of whether you think global warming is a hoax perpetrated by Al Gore.

    New technologies and business models can accomplish a lot of energy savings. But they can’t do it all. As EMR argues, we also need to adopt more energy-efficient human settlement patterns. One reason that Europe consumes less energy per capita is that its human settlement patterns are more energy efficient.

    Before a bunch of you start thinking, “There goes Bacon sounding like a socialist, just like that Bolshevik Ed Risse,” I plead with you to set aside preconceived notions. There are different paths to achieving more energy-efficient human settlement patterns. One would be a bureaucratic, top-down, dictatorial approach that many of us rightfully would fear. The other is a more decentralized, free-market approach that undoes the zoning codes, comprehrensive plans, endemic subsidies and other government-constructed apparatus that have created our energy-intensive society. It would be helpful to have a shared vision of how to organize our communities differently (into Alpha Communities, as EMR calls them), but, as I’ve written before, such a plan would function more a guides for the investment of public resources, not an apparatus for compelling private citizens and businesses to do what they don’t want to do.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    There is a new project a friend of mine from Dubai just told me about called Masdar in Abu Dhabi. Essentially they are attempting to build a 50,000 person zero carbon, zero waste city that is essentially self contained and draws all energy from renewable sources. All energy from the building to transport will be generated from solar, wind, waste-to-energy and other technologies. All of this is being designed in one of the harshest environments of the UAE.

    They are basically using a lot of the best practices that EMR and Jim are noting in terms of settlement patterns, conservation, and best building practices. It would definitely be worth following to see the viability of these new technologies and how they compare to the status quo in terms of cost and quality of life.


  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Let’s distill this down to the essence.

    If we chose to employ current available technologies to implement a policy goal of reducing our per-capita energy consumption to be equivalent to other industrialized countries per capita consumption

    as our share in the reduction of greenhouse gases

    1. – how much could we reduce our greenhouse emissions just by doing what other industrialized countries are already doing?

    2. – how will that harm our economy?

    In other words, before we even talk about reforestation, sequestration, GREEN, etc…and other strategies..

    we do we insist on having the argument on the basis of all or nothing.

    One side wants nothing and the other side is not satisfied until we only have solar/wind sources.

    where is the middle ground?

  21. Groveton Avatar

    Ray –

    I have not read the article about the Japanese economy yet. However, I’ll give you some observations from having run a business with Japanese operations:

    1. The mid term problem facing Japan is the lingering effects of the real estate bubble bursting. At one point the estimated value of the imperial palace in Tokyo was greater than the estimated real estate value of the state of California. The Japanese real estate bubble did not burst, it exploded.

    2. The collapse of the Japanese real estate market took out the Japanese banking system. To understand this, you have to understand Japanese society. Saving face is not some Hollywood invention. It is a real part of Japanese culture. The banks would not force people into bankruptcy over loans and the government would not force banks into bankruptcy over loan portfolios. Instead, the banks stopped lending, people stopped buying real estate and nobdy knew whether the banks were really solvent since a “fair market” price for real estate (essetntially) did not exist. The whole process ground to a halt. Saving face is as real in Japan as a core belief in individual liberties is real in the US. Many people throughout the world cannot understand how we can let so many people own guns and watch as guns are used to kill so many people every year. It just does not compute to them. The supporters of gun ownership see owning firearms as an unalienable right guaranteed by the Constitution. Without debating the merits of that argument – saving face in Japan is as much a part of Japanese culture as gun ownership as an individual right is “baked into” US culture.

    3. Not having a “face saving” culture the US was willing to put both lenders and loan holders into bankruptcy during the Savings & Loan meltdown. Many S&Ls were liquidated and their assets sold through the Resolution Trust Corporation. Had the Japanese been willing to do the same (a cultural impossibility) they would have averted much of the 12 – 15 years of pain incurred when their real estate market collapsed. However, as we work through our own real estate bubble bursting and related problems for the banking industry we should heed the warnings from recent Japanese history. Tough decisions now will stop a decade long fiasco in the future.

    4. The long term problem of the Japanese economy is population shrinkage. Japan is a very insular country. It is extremely hard for immigrants (from anywhere) to assimilate into Japan. Japan’s declining birth rate has not been offset by any meaningful immigration or guest worker problem. Contrast this with France or Germany where a declining birth rate has been partially ameorliated by immigration (example: North African Muslims in France) or a guest worker program (example: Turks in Germany). While immigration has its own problems it does help keep an economy growing when its native population starts to decline through birth rates below replacement level.

    Having said all that, I’d be very hesitant to count the Japanese economy out just yet. The real estate / banking problems have finally worked themselves through the system. Japanese high technology is still one of the most powerful industries in the world and Japan has apparently “buried the hatchet” with China over historical problems (most notably Japanese atrocities in China). The issues of a declining population and dependence on foreign energy remain but the Japanese are a smart, tough and well disciplined people. I believe they will retake their place as one of the world’s major and most impressive economies.

  22. Groveton Avatar


    You write, “One reason that Europe consumes less energy per capita is that its human settlement patterns are more energy efficient.”.

    I believe that to be completely true. In many countries in Europe you see densely populated urban areas surrounded by sparsely populated countryside. However, I am convinced that these patterns of human settlement have been created by overt government action. Most European cultures routinely put the good of society ahead of individual liberties. You get high taxes, relatively high unemployment, a broad public safety net and an activist government. Human settlement patterns are efficient (vs. US standards). The upper middle class and upper class in Europe live in an apartment (or condo) in their home city but have a vacation home out in the country. Everybody else has an apartment in their home city.

    Activist European governments create efficient patterns of human settlement. They also restrict free enterprise. This results in relatively high levels of structural unemployment and underemployment. These are financed through substantial transfers of wealth (through taxes and strong union regulation) from those higher on the economic chain to those lower on the economic change.

    I am pretty confident that I understand the European approach. I am pretty confident that I understand the current US situation. What I don’t understand is the mechanism needed in the US to create a more European pattern of human settlement. I presume it would require more activist government intervention which, in turn, would result in a society and economy more like Europe than the current US model.

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    If carbon taxes or regulations are enacted that change the price of energy from X to 2X, of course there will be changes in energy consumption patterns. Certain practices that would generally be called “wasteful” now would be curtailed. The cost would most likely be in accelerated replacement of capital equipment. At the very least, there’s an opportunity cost involved. A family may replace their still functional hot water heater with a more efficient system with money they would otherwise have used to take a vacation, put in a college fund, etc. A question is what factor of “X” will be required given the relative inelastic and increasing demand. It will likely not bankrupt the US or advanced economies, but it will have an impact.

    There’s always an opportunity cost involved. There’s alot of talk about how great “green collar” jobs will be as if they are an unalloyed positive. If we as a society decide global warming has to be addressed aggressively, there will certainly be many high paying, high skilled jobs created finding solutions. But, if global warming were not a concern, these talented individuals could focus their efforts in other pressing areas like health, education, transportation, other environmental problems, etc. We could meet nearly all of our energy requirements by burning coal (after spending resources in addressing the remaining environmental issues involved -mainly mercury pollution) with a much lower commitment of persons and resources. It’s just like how advances in agriculture allow most of us not to work on farms today.

    Again, if we decide that the potential for serious or catastrophic (i.e. mass extinction event) climate change over the next century or two, we must address it even if the cost is tremendous. Environmentalists, in my opinion, should be more frank about the costs and what our realistic options are.


  24. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry is right in that ther are a lot of things ordinary people can do, such that they don’t actually freeze in the dark.

    But LB is right, too: There’s always an opportunity cost involved. We used to live in unheated homes and work without power tools and equipment.

    And the average lifespan in 1900 was 47 years. Already, we have people who cannot afford health care or a nutritious diet, and diverting enormous resources to staving off one disaster will inevitably cause hardship, and even death.

    There will never be any such thing as a zero carbon, waste free city. It can’t be done any more than we can build a perpetual motion machine. Environmentalists should be more frank about the costs and what our realistic options are.

    Larry can stick his head in the sand, but the way we are headed will cause serious repercussions.


  25. E M Risse Avatar


    You are almost there:

    You said:

    “I am pretty confident that I understand the European approach. I am pretty confident that I understand the current US situation. What I don’t understand is the mechanism needed in the US to create a more European pattern of human settlement. I presume it would require more activist government intervention which, in turn, would result in a society and economy more like Europe than the current US model.”

    There are two more steps for you:

    One, the market demonstates that when citizens have a choice in the US of A, they favor settlement patterns that are more like Euro patterns that what Business-As-Usual tout as the “American Dream.”

    Two, when you fairly allocate the locations-variable costs (both outside the Clear Edge with the cattle feed lots and the septic tanks and inside the Clear Edge) the Euro patterns will be cheaper too.

    Controls may play some part but not as much some would have you believe.

    If there is Fundamental Change in the governace strucutre then citizens could rely on the democratic processes to fairly allocate the regulatory environment so that there is in fact a market economy.

    Conventional technologies, a Thorium fuel cycle and hydrogen will all help but first we have to shrink humans ecological footprint, that means Fundamental Change is human settlement pattern.

    That is worth an order of magnitude in reducing energy consumtion and waste.


  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”A family may replace their still functional hot water heater with a more efficient system with money they would otherwise have used to take a vacation, put in a college fund, etc. A question is what factor of “X” will be required given the relative inelastic and increasing demand. It will likely not bankrupt the US or advanced economies, but it will have an impact.”

    this is what I was looking for.

    thank you.

    If the money is spent on a greener widget rather than a vacation – it still gets spent and it still provides jobs.

    So the shape of the economy might change but it will still be there.

    So when we say that by switching our spending to conservation widgets .. the part I don’t understand is how does this “wreck” our economy – which in turn is the reason we tell the world that we can’t reduce our carbon footprint?

    and I certainly don’t see how reducing our consumption of oil and coal by using more energy efficient technologies will wreck our economy … either.. unless the idea is that we are so invested in coal and oil CONSUMPTION that reducing the consumption will wreck our economy.


  27. Anonymous Avatar

    I think we’ll be very lucky if the type of trade-off I mentioned (hot water heater vs. vacation) is what we will be facing. We are not invested in the consumption of coal and oil just for kicks. We consume them because they are the best available alternatives for generating the energy we need. For at least the past 35 years, we’ve wanted to find replacements for environmental and other reasons. I’m sure that Exxon, and every other oil company, would greatly prefer to have a patent over a replacement for oil instead of being just one company in a competitive market.

    I would like to see a realistic plan for reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. Even some of the ideas I’ve mentioned earlier, especially CO2 sequestration, are still speculative. How far can current technologies for producing and conserving technology take us? Energy consumption has been directly tied to standards of living. Do we assume ever increasing standards of living across the world, or should advanced economies stay unchanged while allowing others to catch up?

    I don’t know the answers. Society needs to know what some possible answers are so we can make an informed decision.


  28. Anonymous Avatar

    From the Post above on the homestead exemption:

    “Knapp points out, rightfully, that shifting the tax burden to business would have negative consequences: “There may be some existing businesses that would seek a lower tax jurisdiction and some potential businesses that would be deterred because of the higher taxes.”

    Knapp is a senior economist. Why would we think that one kind of shift of taxes or costs to business is bad, and not another?

    The idea that green jobs make up for other jobs lost to regulation isn’t supported unless the number and value of jobs are equal, and there is the question of location.

    If you are the guy being “re-shaped” the process can be very painful, and it is not in environmental interests to ignore it. One paper has even gone so far as to correlate job losses with mortality.

    So far, the concensus seems to be that enegry conservation does not result in job losses, but the issue with pollution control, and alternative energy is not so clear.

    And, so far we are looking at environmental costs that are only 2% of GDP. At 5% or 10% it might be a lot different.

    Energy consumption is closely related to production, and it is unlikely that we can substantially reduce one without affecting the other.

    Better we should accept these challenges and meet them head on than simply dismiss them.


  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    jobs are lost all the time to greater efficiencies and the name for that is called productivity.

    Why do we consider jobs lost to automation as “good” (higher productivity) and jobs lost to GREEN technologies that use less energy as “bad”?

    you say Energy Consumption is related to production…

    well.. indeed… if you use more efficient manufacturing… you get more production – not less…

    You’d argue against cutting the energy use of your car and home because it might “hurt” the economy?

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    “jobs lost to GREEN technologies that use less energy as “bad”?”

    You really don’t listen. I specifically said that the consensus is that energy saving initiatives result in no job loss. You are correct: that is one form of productivity.

    Yes, using less power may result in more efficiency,: if you still get the same output. If I go blind trying to read with reduced lighting, that is not efficient.

    Slapping a tax on power will result in less usage, but not all of that will come from greater efficiency. Some of it will come because you cannot afford to produce at that price.

    Maybe we can save 15% through efficiency. Whatever the number is, it isn’t 100%. Once we achieve those efficiencies, further reduction in power use comes at the expense of production.

    We ought to know whether the number is 4% or 20% and not advocate for reductions below that.

    But that is just for true energy saving initiatives. Alternative energy and pollution reduction may have different effects: and on those, the [economists] jury is still out.


    The following is not an energy example but the illustration holds.

    “The City Council could vote as early as May on a plan to double the impact fees Raleigh imposes on new housing…. The proposal put forward Tuesday would increase the open space and transportation fees leveled on an average single-family home from $1,200 to about $2,500. Fees would be tiered, meaning larger homes would incur higher fees.

    You can expect housing prices to rise by between $1920 and $4000 and land prices to fall by between $1200 and $2500.”


    “…the results from estimating the effects of development impact fees on the prices of new and existing single-family homes and undeveloped residential land using unique data for Dade County, FL.

    The results show that an additional US$1.00 of fees increases the price of both new and existing housing by about US$1.60 and reduces the price of land by about US$1.00. These findings are shown to be consistent with the new view but not the old view theory of impact fee incidence.”

    So here is a situation where the county raises the tax by a dollar, and it costs new homebuyers $1.60, costs existing land sellers $1.00, and makes $1.60 for existing homeowners who don’t pay anything.

    It is $2.60 in costs for the new buyer and landseller, in exchange for for $2.60 in gain (for the existing resident and the county coffers).

    Less Administrative costs. And, the existing resident will pay tax on his gain.

    How is that a win – win? And yet by your argument, it doesn’t matter where we (get or spend) spend the money, it is all part of the economy.

    With environmental issues it is exactly as Groveton said about the homestead exemption. :

    “Every dollar reduced in one place will have to be made up somewhere else. If you try to get the money diverted from residential taxes [or energy or pollution] by taxing commercial interests then the commercial interests will buy less. In other words, they will be incented (to some extent) to [charge more or] locate elsewhere and that’s what they will do. Who will get hurt the worst? The people at the bottom of the wage scale who can’t afford a disruption to their income as they try to find a new job to replace the one that left when their employer “bugged out”. [or pay higher prices for imposed costs if they don’t bug out]”

    [square brackets are my additions]


  31. Anonymous Avatar

    Under the European System farmers are heavily subsidized to maintain those open spaces around the heavily populated centers.

    I just had lunch with a Spanish gentleman who described his families olive groves. He pointed out how the subsidies provided continuity: which you need when it takes 15 years to harvest your first olive from a tree.


  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “”Every dollar reduced in one place will have to be made up somewhere else.”


    how about you cut something?

    You know… you do a budget.. and you estimate that you’ll need 10,000 for 5 new computers. And they cut and you get 6,000 and so you replace 3 and hold on to the best 2 until next year.

    or you’re paying software licenses for 5 users and you can really get by with 3.

    you do more with less by implementing efficiencies.

    that’s called productivity.. whether the reason for implementing efficiencies is in response to greater profits, fierce competition or cost cutting.

    Using less power does not mean you have less heat or light if you accomplish it with more efficient usage and you employ better (green) technology to achieve it.

    next post.. I comment on the Raleigh example you provided.

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    “Under the European System farmers are heavily subsidized to maintain those open spaces around the heavily populated centers.”

    Europe also has around 700 million people living in the same size area as the US so they definitely have reasons for protecting agriculture space.

    As far as Euro settlement patterns go, since more land must be utilized just for feeding the population, land usage is a more important issue. Even in wealthier countries like the EU-4, historical distrust drives zoning and land use policies to remain somewhat self-sufficient. In the US, suburban sprawl while not aesthetically pleasing, doesn’t have major impacts on food prices or starvation nor are states likely to have economic wars with one another.

    Also as noted earlier a number of Europeans do commonly buy vacation places to supplement their urban apartments though they aren’t limited to the upper classes. It’s common even for middle class families to have family vacation homes either in the country or in a lower cost resort areas like the Med. It’s really just a cultural difference whereby Americans prefer spending money on a big primary home, whereby Europeans tend to prefer vacations and leisure time more.


  34. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Energy Consumption Per Capita

    United States 12,187
    European Union 5,906
    Japan 7,424
    Germany 6,189
    Metropolitan France 7,791
    United Kingdom 5,784

    and to be honest:

    Sweden 14,685
    Norway 22,859

    If not mistaken.. most, if not all of these countries have an equivalent standard of living, a longer life expectancy and a lower infant death rate.

    having our folks say that reducing our energy consumption will “wreck” our economy and cause deaths.. seems to be not consistent with the facts…

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    “you do more with less by implementing efficiencies.”

    Sometimes. And sometimes you just do less with less. It isn’t always an “efficiency” and we need to be smart enough to recognize the difference.

    I agree that using less power does not mean you have less heat or light if you accomplish it with more efficient usage.

    All I’m saying is that using less power isn’t always more efficient, and we should distinguish, rather than simply assuming all power reduction is good.


  36. Anonymous Avatar

    “Europe also has around 700 million people living in the same size area as the US so they definitely have reasons for protecting agriculture space. “

    And yet with that much demand they still have heavy agricultural subsidies. You would think the farms would be profitable on their own.


    The European countries I have been in do not have an equivalent standard of living. Satisfactory, maybe, but not equivalent.

    They also get more vacation, have more job security, fewer guns, and subsidised health care. Which might help to explain why they live longer, and (some) have less infant mortality.

    If we cut our current energy usage by 80%, then we will be down around 2500 (units?) EU would be down around 1200. If we keep our current usage but switch to renewables, it is going to cost a lot more.

    Either way it will have serious effects. We can either consider them seriously or cavalierly dismiss them as not factual: let them eat cake.

    Larry is no doubt correct that we will survive and muddle through. After all, the Fuegians commonly lived with ice on their skin: if you call that living.


  37. Anonymous Avatar

    I see that a commercial freighter using kite sails has left Europe bound for South America. The sails will save about 10% of the power used.

    They could save 25% of the power used just by traveling more slowly.

    But the savings would be more than eaten up by the losses on the time value of money invested in their cargos.


  38. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    A Big Drop In Emissions Is Possible With Today’s Technology

    You can flip off your widescreen TV with the remote control. Power down your computer to standby. Unplug your cellphone from its charger. But as you leave the room, the “wall warts” — those small boxes plugged into the wall sockets that power your electronics — stare with glowing diode eyes in accusation: You are still using power.

    a company called On Semiconductor. Using more efficient components and design, his company and others make devices that sharply cut the energy appetite of the “wall warts,” both on standby and in use. He sees this as a key path to the future that will cut energy use and help curb global warming by ingenious use of technology.

    “We’re talking about the exact same principle as replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones,

    we could save 800 million pounds of carbon emissions.”

    His is a vision that dances enticingly in contrast to the doomsday predictions of runaway global warming

    Believers say technology will save us, creating a cleaner, cheaper, less-polluting society that will not require such burdensome changes in how we live.

    “I believe with technology pretty much available today or in the very near short term, if we could move those fully into the market, we could get a 30 to 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases,” said Dana Christensen, associate director of engineering sciences at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory

  39. Anonymous Avatar

    “And yet with that much demand they still have heavy agricultural subsidies. You would think the farms would be profitable on their own.”

    This is really two different things. The reasons that farms aren’t profitable is pretty basic. Essentially farms produce a largely commoditized product and the producers are extremely fragmented. This leads to prices being determined exclusively by the market and economic (not accounting) profits being reduced to 0.

    On the other hand the reasons behind agricultural subsidies is due to the enormous benefit of a nation to produce a surplus of food and the extreme danger of producing a shortage. As food is the single most important good a nation produces (think Maslow hierarchy) there is a high motivation for that society to always ensure there is enough food to feed itself without outside help. Countries that can’t feed themselves can’t even begin to develop other industries, and likewise a food shortage could collapse an economy overnight. Creating a price floor for farm goods ensures that producers produce excess while also keeping prices down on the demand side for consumers. I’m not saying our farm bills or Euro subsidies are ideal, far from it, but there are major strategic reasons for them.


  40. Anonymous Avatar

    And yet still we get sold bill after bill after bill of goods – which turn out to be nonsense. Pick up and read the latest issue of Popular Mechanics and read what a piece of tripe we are being sold about ethanol.

    Likewise EMR’s musings about a majority of people wanting to live like Euro’s is also (in my opinion), tripe.

    Global warming won’t happen tomorrow, nor can we stop it – tomorrow. It will happen as it has happened in the centuries preceeding ours – as the world turns. Read the Kyoto treaty, even IF it were completely adhered to by every nation, they estimate we would only decrease global warming by 1 degree C in 50 years.

    No it never hurts to try to conserve or try to get better efficiency out of a piece of machinery. Nothing wrong with trying to find better ways to do things. However, as the article in Popular Mechanics illustrates, it’s another pie in the sky that the greenies (and corporate fat cats riding the green bus) are trying (and succeeding) to suck more money from us.

    Let the marketplace work it out. Get the government out of the equation.

  41. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “I’m not saying our farm bills or Euro subsidies are ideal, far from it, but there are major strategic reasons for them.”

    There is a huge problem between the intent of the policy and the implementation though.

    I agree.. that food is strategic but the way we go about it is to justify ANY and ALL food/farming subsidies on that pretext..

    For instance, for what earthly reason do we need to subsidize sugar at the same time we penalize sugar imports from other countries?

    Our food prices are HIGHER because of subsidies that are not strategic at all.

    If we want a strategic program -we should set goals for how much extra food we feel is needed AND THEN we TIE THE SUBSIDIES to those targets.

    One we meet the targets – no more subsidies.

    THEN .. and I know this is a radical concept – the subsidies themselves are auctioned .. the folks that bid the lowest for them – get them.

  42. Anonymous Avatar

    The subsidies in Europe have little to do with food production. In some places they are actually labeled as payments for environmental protections services.

    In actuality they represent a subsidy to the property sellers and renters as well. In England, you can pretty much forget the idea of paying off a thirty year note: the best you can hope for is that your children will inherit half of it.


  43. Anonymous Avatar

    ZS makes a good argument, but why should profits be reduced to zero?

    If you buy a five sheep, within a year you could have thirty sheep. What other business offers that kind of Gross ROI and such a small final ROI?

    5% of farms make 95% of profits and get 80% of all subsidies. We have conspired to install a tax and market system which forces farmers off the land for the benefit of others. We started doing it with the Cherokee Indians, and we haven’t stopped since.


  44. Anonymous Avatar

    Yes, Larry, but some electronic equipment has a much shorter lifetime if powered off and on. Wasting the resources invested in capital equipment to save a little on electricity might be a false economy.

    On Semiconductor has an interest in selling his product. does he have an interest in seeing to it that the savings promised are real?


  45. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ohmygod RH.. you mean there are folks out there that will actually claim an ROI that is not true.. just to make a profit?

    I am shocked..

  46. Anonymous Avatar

    You mean like the Sierra Club?

    I’m just pointing out some of the stuff that gets promoted as “green” that might not be.

    We can’t just go around with green blinders on.


  47. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The Sierra Club makes a profit by lying about ROI?

    gawd.. RH.. you need to weed out some of your conspiracy paperbacks…or are they comic books?

    … The Evil Green Empire


  48. Anonymous Avatar

    You think the Sierra Club or Nature Conservancy stay in business by losing money? Sierra Club budget is over a hundred million. They sell magazines and merchandise: sounds like a business to me.

    Oh yeah, and they are subsidized because contributions are tax deductible.

    You ever see the kind of salaries some of these non-profits pay?

  49. Anonymous Avatar

    You mean like saying stuff like green widgets generate jobs?

    From the Wall Street Journal

    “Nobody can really argue against more, and higher-paying jobs. But at a time of historically low unemployment, in a world where fossil fuels are expected to provide nearly 80% of energy for the forseable future, many economists ask: how many net jobs can “greening” really create?

    “In the short run, there’s no way net jobs are going to be positive” from renewable energy alone, says John Whitehead, an economics professor at Appalachian State University…… “More brown-energy jobs will be lost.”


  50. Anonymous Avatar

    And, lest you think I’m biased here is the rest of the thought:

    “It is hard to get away from the fact that a microeconomic policy that raises costs of production will produce a net loss of jobs in an economy. However, this is likely to be a small impact and short term.

    How does a renewable energy subsidy raise the cost of production? For producers of renewable energy, obviously, the subsidy seems to reduce the direct costs of production by covering the additional cost of increasing output. But, note, as output rises, marginal costs rise (i.e., supply curves slope upwards). The subsidy pushes jobs into an expensive sector of the economy and away from a cheap sector. We gain green jobs and lose brown jobs and since green jobs are expensive and brown jobs are cheap, the net effect is a net loss of jobs.

    In the long run the number of jobs is unchanged. Larger forces, technology, innovation, all that stuff David Warsh writes about, keeps a dynamic economy humming along. ……. In the long run, an environmental policy moves the economy towards the green sector, we gain green jobs, lose brown jobs but we remain at full employment.

    Jobs aren’t the issue. Although the word is salient to politicians and voters.

    The real issue is the efficiency of environmental policy. The benefits and costs of a cleaner environment is what matters. If the benefits of a cleaner environment exceeds the costs, then the environmental policy is a good (i.e., efficient) idea. And vice versa. Jobs aren’t part of the benefit and cost calculations.”


  51. Anonymous Avatar

    Or how about this little gem of disinformation:

    “The scientists from Old Dominion University stood on the roof of the local sewage plant and smiled.

    “Look at the color,” said Margaret Mulholland, pointing to emerald-green slime growing in plastic tanks filled with treated sewage. “Just wait until this summer. It’ll be a darker green, and in clumps.”

    The tanks are part of a pilot project for turning algae into biodiesel fuel.”

    “The pilot project could generate up to 200 gallons of biodiesel a day, worth $600,000 a year.

    200 gallons per day is about 70,000 gallons each year. If 70,000 gallons is worth $600,000 each year then biodiesel is valued at $8.57 per gallon. Maybe they are confusing the cost of producing biodiesel, about $8.57 per gallon, with its value to consumers. The current price of diesel fuel is much lower. My guess is that turning algae into biodiesel fuel has a long way to go. “

    And of course JTHG will create value with heritage tourism, Main Street revitalization, and sustainable agriculture preserving natural and manmade landscapes — that enables landowners to make a decent living without selling off their property for scattered subdivisions and shopping centers. [And preventing them from doing so if they choose not to be in the tourist business.]

    You think MAYBE this could smell a lot like that $600,000 biodiesel?


  52. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Arguing against Green jobs because they take away Brown jobs is a lot like arguing that automating a production line is a bad thing because in doing so.. people lose their jobs isn’t it?

    this is sort of like saying that innovation is not allowed to happen because it can result is lost jobs.

    or that we cannot outlaw pollution because it will cost jobs.

    last time I checked.. people lose their jobs all the time due to these reasons…and no one has to get permission from the Dept of Truth .. to make those changes.

    If the govt outlaws incandescent lights, or gasoline containing lead or air conditioners containing VOCs.. there is no appeal to the Dept of Truth.

    Happens all the time…

  53. Anonymous Avatar

    There you go again, putting words in my mouth. I fell like just because I’m not a purist, a “true believer”, then I must be the enemy.

    Not arguing against them, just saying that you cannot necessarily count them as an addition.

    As the economists point out, shifting from a less expensive job to a more expensive job means two things. Fewer jobs in the short run, (thoough we will eventually recover) and serious displacement for some.

    If we are going to advocate for more green jobs, then part of the costs we need to assume is the cost of supporting/retraining/moving those people who are displaced or harmed through our advocacy.

    As the new Zealanders would put it:
    Economy. Environment. Equality.


  54. Anonymous Avatar

    people lose their jobs all the time due to these reasons…and no one has to get permission

    As I see it, that’s part of the problem.

    When innovation happens it is a result of finding something that works better and cheaper.

    When command and control regulation happens, it is because someone has power – and it doesn’t necessarily result in something better. However much we might like to believe it.

    The law, in fact, says that no person or group should bear an undue burden due to the creation, enforcement or administration of environmental laws.

    If people do lose jobs all the time for these reasons, and if the reasons don’t result in enough benefit that we can make up the losses, then we are being unfair, acting unethically, and probably violating the law.

    We can achieve environmental improvements and also do it the right way. We just choose not to because it is more convenient and cheaper: we are living by a sales pitch that says these improvements cost less than they actually do.


  55. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “If people do lose jobs all the time for these reasons, and if the reasons don’t result in enough benefit that we can make up the losses, then we are being unfair, acting unethically, and probably violating the law.”

    who decides the cost/benefit?

    Don’t we have a process for that with our EPA?

    They go through a process where they propose a rule, get public input, make a decision.. and citizens have the ability to challenge them in court .. and at the next election.

    Don’t we already do exactly what you are advocating but not in a way that you would?

    I don’t mean to put words in your mouth but you attack the current process.. advocate that it be done differently then stop short of saying how it should be done other than to imply that there essentially needs to be a “Dept of Truth” that makes such decisions and they are not appealable.

    things actually work this way in some countries but they are usually referred to as dictatorships…

    how else would you deal with such issues in a Democracy?

  56. Anonymous Avatar

    Now you are catching on.

    Yes, there are laws, there is a procedure, and no one gets precedence over another. the outcome is (allegedly) based on costs and benefits.

    So, we need to do a better job of eveluating them.

    My observation is that environmentalists seem to depend on divine right: to take the position that some things are to valuable to measure, and therefore it is worth any amount to protect something that is of infinite value.

    On the other side, industrialists are also prone to overexaggerate their prospective costs, but when faced with the event, find a better way to cope cheaper.

    So we have a system that is by law even handed, but in fact rewards both side for overstating their position.

    In fact, a regulation that errs in either direction has costs that affect us all, and damages the environment, and wastes resources.

    So it behooves us all to GET IT RIGHT. In particular, there is no reason to deliberately overstate our case, because to do so works aginst what we are trying to accomplish – reduce waste.

    Over time, we will develop more and more accepted values for things we are reluctant to put a price on, like the value of a human life. We are already asking the question of whether it is worthwhile to execute someone when the procedure for doing so is more costly than just keeping him in prison for life.

    And, as those values are developed and accepted we will need to use the same values on both sides of our arguments. We cannot claim that an environmentalists gold is worth $10,000 an ounce and an industrialists gold is worth $300 an ounce.

    But, lets also be realistic here. The present process we have is politically motivated and driven. it is also weak. Much of it depends on a single presidential order, and we know how secure those are.

    In recent years, we believe it has been working in our favor, but, being politically driven it could just as well turn against us. If the economy turns, we can bet that it will.

    So, the best thing to do is to get policy set, not on what the final goals and standards should be (more stringent controls etc.) but how to go about setting the stnadards. How to get politics out.

    And the best way to get there is to stop acting like eco-nuts and argue extremely rationally with those things that we can prove definitely, to stay away from conjecture, what-if, pie in the sky, and demonization of the other side. The whole idea is to get the other side on our side, and bring their profits with them, not to prove that they are evil and wrong.


  57. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “So, we need to do a better job of eveluating them.”

    virtually every EPA and DEQ rule proposal invites public comment.

    Substantiative comments, i.e. facts and evidence cannot be ignored and must be given a response.

    Any person, any industry can made their case in terms of a “better” job of evaluating costs/benefits.

    The EPA and DEQ both have altered or even dropped proposed rules after receiving public comment.

    They’ve also gone forward on many others that no one provided compelling data to suggest otherwise.

    But the bottom line is that you cannot claim some vague harm.. you have to provide facts and if your argument is essentially 3rd order impacts.. you’ve got a heck of a job…

  58. Anonymous Avatar

    Yes I recognize they invite comment. So does my board of supervisors. And then they do as they damn well please.

    EPA does a good job, so far as it goes. But it is bad policy to have an agency making its own cost benefit anaysis and then using them to set policy.

    You don’t put accounts payable and accounts receivable in the same hands.

    I think GAO or someone should study those things, and then EPA should make regs based on the facts provided.

    So far, EPA has done a reasonably good job of picking the low hanging fruit, and we can see obvious benefits because of their efforts. The air is demonstrably cleaner because of the clean air act.

    But, we also burn a lot more gasoline because of the clean air act. Cars do a better job of burning gas, but it takes energy to do it, so they use more.

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