The High Cost of Green Utopian Dreams

Isaac Smith is touting the possibilities of a green economy and green collar jobs as a means for alarmists to frame the debate over the Global Warming Solutions Act, and minimize the higher energy costs and reduced economic growth sure to come should this bill pass.

I give Isaac much credit. It really is a brilliant political memo on how to shift the spotlight from the real dangers of green house gas reduction plans to the false hope that green collar jobs can offset the increased energy prices and job loss that these schemes inevitably create.

Just ask Europe how their cap and trade program is working.

Map the road to serfdom below the fold

Isaac says:

And it’s in this area, translating what we know about global warming into policy that can help keep it from becoming an utter catastrophe, that environmental advocates and their allies need to do more heavy lifting. It’s one thing to refute right-wingers still bent on confusing people about the state of climate science (this post by Tom Pelton is a beautiful example of that). It’s quite another to ask the public to support policies that could result in higher energy prices, and potentially put vulnerable industries at a disadvantage on the global (or even national) market…

Note: Given the blatant inaccuracies and falsehoods in Pelton’s post, what does Isaac mean when he calls it a “beautiful example?” But I digress.

To their credit, the bill’s backers, from Gov. O’Malley to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, have stressed its potential for spurring the growth of “green-collar” jobs, as well as the money to be saved through energy efficiency. And the O’Malley administration is wise to support an amendment to give the state the option to achieve reductions in emissions through a cap-and-trade system: We’re already part of RGGI, so it wouldn’t be hard to implement. It also gives advocates the ability to blunt accusations of jacking up prices on ordinary citizens: Through the auctioning of carbon credits, we can raise plenty of revenue to help people, especially low-income households, adapt to a situation in which fossil fuels reflect their true price. This can be done through specific programs (weatherization, for example), offsetting other taxes, or (my preferred option) direct payments, similar to how it’s done in Alaska.The key thing, however, is that there be a tangible connection between the regulation of greenhouse gases, with whatever costs that may entail, and the benefits people receive. Climate stability is good, yes, but the benefits of preventing catastrophic climate change aren’t immediate nor directly felt. A check or some other kind of financial assistance, however, is something everyone can understand.

So what am I saying? I’m saying that policy on climate change, especially on the state level, should be a little less concerned with emissions reductions targets and more concerned with the possibilities of a greener economy. I’m a firm believer that global warming, while dire in many respects, offers a great economic opportunity for this country, and that strong action on climate change will only win acceptance if the rest of the populace feels the same way.

Let’s examine the “great economic opportunity for this country” that a greener economy supposedly promises for us.

Since we don’t yet know the full costs of Maryland’s Global Warming Solutions Act, mainly because the bureaucrats themselves don’t know how to achieve the bill’s pie in the sky goals, we must look at the Liberman-Warner federal bill.

As I write this the O’Malley administration wants to amend the bill so that it does not mandate “a straight out 90 percent reduction.” However, the bill does require homes and businesses to cut emissions 25% by 2020, which is still a tough goal to meet, without significant increases in energy costs and hampered economic growth.

Liberman-Warner formerly McCain-Liberman, proposes to reduce carbon emissions 70% by 2050 through a cap and trade scheme.

Steve Milloy pointed out that population increases and economic growth would raise green house gas emissions 30% by 2030. Liberman-Warner would require emissions to be 55% lower than the 2030 projections.

How is that achievable? Again, go ask the Europeans.

Margo Thorning chief economist for the American Council on Capital Formation testified before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee that in order to close the 55% gap, draconian reductions in energy use would be necessary.

As Thorning and others have pointed out ad nauseum it is impossible to reach these goals with severe restrictions on economic growth and job creation.

But won’t the green economy and green collar jobs created from the Liberman-Warner subsidies and mandates offset any economic decline and job loss?

No they won’t.

Economist Anne Smith’s Senate testimony revealed

Naturally, with reductions in GDP come reductions in real wages and job losses. We have estimated 1.2 million to 2.3 million net job losses by 2015 over our set of scenarios. By 2020, our scenarios project between 1.5 million and 3.4 million net job losses. There is a substantial implied increase in jobs associated with “green” businesses (e.g., to produce renewable generation technologies), but even accounting for these there is a projected net loss in jobs due to the generalized macroeconomic impacts of the Bill.

So even accounting for green collar job creation, we will still end up with a net loss of jobs numbering in the millions.

A carbon tax, which Isaac prefers to cap and trade, would not be as damaging, but burdensome none-the-less. However, it still won’t achieve any meaningful reductions. In fact, the US rate of increase of emissions with no cap and trade or tax, is lower than Europe’s with cap and trade.

As I said before, touting the pyrrhic benefits of a green economy and green collar jobs is smart politics. It takes the impetus off the alarmists from having to prove how they can reach the unreachable, because even if implemented on a global scale carbon reductions don’t have any detectable affect on global temperatures.

That was an analysis of the false promises of a “green economy” that are on the table. Let’s look at the source of Isaac’s green utopian dreams and where the greens would take us, if they had their druthers.

Imagine that we build high-speed passenger train lines and heavy-duty freight train lines along the Interstate Highway System, thereby eliminating the need for cross-country trucking and much of our airplane and car use. Imagine that each city has both a subway system and a light-rail/trolley system extending out to the suburbs. All of these trains could be electrified, thus making much of our car use unnecessary and making fuels, either fossil or bio-based, less and less important.

Now picture the electricity-generating system that would be necessary to power a train-centered transportation system and replace coal, nuclear, and even some hydro-powered electrical plants. Let’s say local governments put solar energy systems on every conceivable surface of every conceivable building and constructed medium-scale wind and solar energy farms, using federal money.
In addition, the federal government could take over the operation of the national electrical grid and rebuild it to make those large-scale electrical sources available across the country. Perhaps geothermal and tidal power could also be practical with an efficient national grid.

With the generating systems installed free-of-charge by governments, the cost of electricity would be far below the cost from coal or nuke plants, and the “market” would declare that such businesses no longer made sense. We would easily meet our emissions targets, without recourse to the baroque world of carbon taxes, cap-and-trading, or automobile fuel efficiency standards…
A sustainable regional, ecosystem-centered governmental structure would have to be a partnership of local, state, and federal governments, transparent in its operation and clearly accountable to its citizens. Such a model could be extended world-wide: instead of globalization, we could have a “continentalization
and then an “ecosystemization” of the global economy. Poor regions of the world need a sustainable model of development, and some big bucks from their rich neighbors as well.

Where would the resources for such a transformation come from? Well, picture a vastly reduced Department of Defense whose downsized forces are used to protect the oceans’ ecosystems and the remaining forests of the world. Envision the rage of the largest corporations and richest individuals as their taxes are restored to what they were before the Reagan administration. And then you will see that we have the resources, the skills, and the technology we need to avert the fearsome logic of numbers that has led to global warming, the depletion of resources, and the assault on life on this beautiful planet.

This is pure Utopian dreaming, but in reality, as with all collectivist endeavors, it would be a nightmare. If these are the possibilities in which Isaac put so much stock, then it proves the conservative criticism that alarmists are watermelons, green on the outside, red on the inside, and that their true objective is a backdoor to collectivization.

crossposted on The Main Adversary






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