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Global Warming and the "Open Frontier":

In today's W$J, Brian Carney reports (link for subscribers) from a Venice conference on the difference between American and European perspectives on the challenge of climate change policy.

The story according to which politically connected industries block economic developments that would be beneficial overall but redound to the detriment of the big players is one expounded mostly by cranks in the U.S., but is commonly accepted in Europe. This results from the fact that in Europe, this kind of thing happens. Market signals on employment, wages and production are all attenuated by government's heavy hand to a much greater extent than they are in the U.S. Stagnation in Europe has many faces, but one of the most important is the stasis of the corporate constellation: Most European economies are dominated by the same large companies that ruled the roost decades ago, while in the U.S., many of our largest and most successful companies didn't exist a generation ago.

This comparison is not new. But its relevance to the global warming debate is not well-understood. As a former Carter administration official at the conference put it, "America is, psychologically, an open-frontier society. Europe's frontier closed a millennium ago." In other words, the characteristic American response to, say, climate change, is to believe that technologies— and even companies—that do not now exist will crop up to solve the problem, assuming there is a problem. The characteristic European response, as exemplified by the German conspiracy theorist in Venice, is to focus on how to get the businesses to behave "better."

The open frontier view was captured by a Silicon Valley representative in the room. He stood up to announce that "clean tech" would be to this decade what high-tech was to the 1990s. The companies that would revolutionize our energy usage, he claimed, were now being funded by venture capitalists, and the Ciscos, Microsofts and Googles of the next decade would be the companies that solved the energy puzzle. We hadn't heard of any of them now, he insisted, but they would be huge. Is he right? Maybe. Who cares? It's his money, and the money of his colleagues in the Valley. The point is, if there's a conspiracy to keep revolutionary clean technology down, he didn't get the memo. The notion that this is simply a trans-Atlantic divide can easily be overstated. There are statist Americans and entrepreneurial Europeans. But the divide between the open-frontier camp and the closed-frontier camp is very real, and of the utmost importance to the global warming debate.

ATRGeek:
Interesting. Of course, there is a possible convergence between the "clean tech" and "statist" views in the US insofar as people are talking about large scale government participation in "clean tech" development (people are even talking up the "moon project" paradigm).
6.7.2007 12:29am
Randy R. (mail):
Contrary to popular belief, the US is no longer the most innovative country. There are about five other regions around the world that are more innovative than we are.

Now, I'm not sure how 'innovation' is defined, and I get this information from a speech made by the Secretary of Technology for Virginia. Perhaps it is suspect, but in my travels around the world, I can certianly vouch for the fact that the US is not the only place doing cutting edge technology.

So I'm a little suspect when someone makes broad pronouncements about how the US is automatically better than any other country, especially European ones, when it comes to coming up with solutions for climate change.
6.7.2007 1:07am
ys:

I can certianly vouch for the fact that the US is not the only place doing cutting edge technology.

Sure, but name those 5 "more innovative" regions.
6.7.2007 1:24am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

Now, I'm not sure how 'innovation' is defined,


So much for the "five other regions around the world that are more innovative than we are." Nice of you though to save anyone else the bother of debunking your own claim.
6.7.2007 1:41am
Brian K (mail):

So much for the "five other regions around the world that are more innovative than we are." Nice of you though to save anyone else the bother of debunking your own claim.


I see your too lazy to do any sort of research on your own so I'll go ahead and name a few:

1) japan and much of asia is way ahead of us in cellular technology
2) the pentium M (the processor using in intel centrino) was developed in isreal
3) brazil, korea and a few other places are ahead of us in cosmetic surgery
4) france has more advanced procedures and drugs used to treat ALS

Randy's questioning of innovation is defined is a perfectly valid statement...how you define it depends on what regions are ahead of us. however it doesn't change the fact that there are regions are us. you really should broaden what you read online.
6.7.2007 1:51am
Jon Black (mail):
the pentium M (the processor using in intel centrino) was developed in isreal

So your argument is that the Middle-east is "more innovative" than the US?

brazil, korea and a few other places are ahead of us in cosmetic surgery

Yes, and quite likely the Jamaicans are well ahead of "us" in joint-rolling technology. It's not clear to me that such innovation is really what we are looking for.

Please, this is an educated board, provide your recommendations for "broadening."

More importantly, and the reason your post, as well as RR's is pure rubbish, is that the point of post isn't what regions are truly innovative. The focus is which regions are most confident in technology's ability to augment the future. If your argument, in response to the post, is that the 'peans are more confident in the progress of technology than the U.S., use your "broadened" online reading list and provide some evidence.
6.7.2007 2:42am
Andrew Okun:
A bunch of interesting and valid points about the difference in attitude to new companies and innovation in the US and Europe.

Got to be careful though and not confuse that broad distinction with the disagreement between the Bush Administration approach and the European government approach to climate policy, because there is almost no connection beyond the rhetorical. The jobs and companies Bush has tried to defend over the past years of refusing to participate in an international climate policy debate are all in old industries and old companies who don't want things to change. When somebody proposes a climate policy for the US, it is not Bill Gates or Larry Page or a gaggle of biotech or VC guys who organize lobbyists, op/ed pieces, websites, pseudoscience and and hired politicians to shut them down, it is Exxon, GM and the like.

Entrepreneurs and inventors are fine with policy as a source of impetus, same as they have been for the last five or six massive rounds of economic creation that blossomed privately after being driven by policy, like the Internet, biotech, aviation, defense and the rest. Bush talked up technology, not because he thought it will solve some problem, but because it meant he could delay doing anything. Actual entrepreneurs have known for years that this area could be a source of vast wealth, great jobs and improved standard of living and have believed all along that the US good own a good chunk of it. But they have also known that until the US government got involved, it wasn't going to happen. (It remains the case today that the economic standard for clean electricity is not "this is technology we will need soon," but "is it cheaper than coal yet?" which it isn't.)

Look, if as so many here on VC seem fervently to believe, this is a hoax, warming is not caused by humans and there is no potential for a problem that we should act on collectively, then it is a good thing what Bush has done. We should only burn coal. We have plenty, it is dirt cheap, and, since GW is not happening, it is completely harmless. If, on the other hand, this is a problem and we collectively have to do something about it, then our comparative advantage, slipping fast but still overwhelming, in scientists, engineers, risk-takers, small company founders, inventors and so on should be put to use. They want to. Let them at it.
6.7.2007 3:09am
Brian K (mail):

So your argument is that the Middle-east is "more innovative" than the US?

In some regards, yes. America is most definitely not at the top of every field. Only an idiot would think so.


It's not clear to me that such innovation is really what we are looking for.

That is why the definition of innovation is important. Apparently reading comprehension and critical thinking are not "innovations" that you have mastered. And yes, advanced joint rolling technology would be extremely valuable to certain segments of the population.


More importantly, and the reason your post, as well as RR's is pure rubbish, is that the point of post isn't what regions are truly innovative.

What about ys's and Thorley's? We're posting off the same idea started by Randy. Are they not rubbish because you agree with the viewpoints expressed in those? so much for this being "an educated board."
6.7.2007 3:26am
Brian K (mail):
Andrew, excellent post.

I do think that technology will help is in regards to global warming. I also think Bush's new rhetoric is just cheap talk used to stall any realistic attempt at progress. He has provided precious little research money or government support in the past and have yet to see anything saying this will change.
6.7.2007 3:32am
David M. Nieporent (www):
He has provided precious little research money or government support in the past and have yet to see anything saying this will change.
What I always think is puzzling about the left is how they not only think that if it isn't invented in Washington -- and by invented, I mean funded, because Washington doesn't really produce anything except bureaucrats -- it doesn't happen.

They'll tout the new technology that they're sure is going to save us, but they think that this research must come from the U.S. government or it doesn't count.

It's not just government regulation they think is necessary, but taxpayer funds. As if the fact that Congress doesn't appropriate money means that not only won't the research be done in the U.S., but it won't be done by any other government or corporation anywhere on the planet.
6.7.2007 4:31am
Brian K (mail):

They'll tout the new technology that they're sure is going to save us, but they think that this research must come from the U.S. government or it doesn't count.

Funny...its usually "the right" that touts the use of advanced technology to stall any meaningful regulation or policy changes. And I'll note that I said "help" not "save." They're not the same...but i somehow doubt your going to let what i actually said get in the way of your bashing of all things left.

I don't care where the funding comes from...but i'm apparently asking too much when i expect our government to match its rhetoric with action. If Bush (or any government official with enough seniority to affect policy) is going to tout advanced technology as a solution to global warming or use the prospect of such a solution to avoid dealing with issue then they also include incentives to ensure that the research gets done in a timely manner. If they're unwilling to do this, then they should change their rhetoric.
6.7.2007 5:16am
Norseman:
Innovation is looked at differently in the US and the rest of the developed world, from my experience. Europe tends to look for "best" solutions/technologies - through a combination of government and industry and then go with them.

Minitel in France is an example - France was early/innovative with the power of computer networks, but the internet has turned out to be more innovative/powerful.

Cellular is an example of the differences - in the US you have a choice of CDMA, GSM, and TDMA technologies from the different cellphone companies. Europe chose GSM, and got some early network benefits from standardizing across the market. Japan went with a version of TDMA, and again started with one techonlogy. The US allows/encourages/is used to having companies spend a lot of money on multiple technologies. You can make a case that GSM is "better" or Japan's TDMA is "better", but by having multiple platforms in the US, there will be more experimentation and opportunity for an innovator to upset the dominant paradigm.

Anyway, one reason European and Japanese cell phone useage rates were always so much higher than the US is the fact that land line calls are charged by the minute (in general) and the rates were much closer to the rates of mobile phones. The US having "free" local calling slowed down adoption of cellphones.
6.7.2007 7:19am
ATRGeek:
I don't think many people are calling for the government to be producing the technology itself. What the "moon project" people actually want is various forms of subsidies. Indeed, many of these people expect or at least hope this will be a temporary arrangement and that clean technology will eventually become very profitable.

Incidentally, another (or a complementary) popular idea would be to eliminate the overt and hidden subsidies for fossil fuels. So, for example, some would argue that we should slap a higher tax on gasoline to cover the associated environmental and military costs. In their view that would help level the economic playing field between fossil fuels and the alternatives.
6.7.2007 9:10am
AppSocRes (mail):
Brian K and Randy R:

I don't know whether you guys are too young to know about or too ignorant to be aware of all the hoopla about "4th generation" programming languages, back in the 1980s. All the usual pundits were warning that the Japanese government was financing computer innovations that were going to blow the US economy out of the water. Never happened: the chaotic innovation that the US is so good at and central planners abhor left the Japanese computer industry, and indeed, that country's enties centrally-organized economy reeling. I suspect that the publications on "five centers of innovation" that you cite and/or defend is the same sort of nonsense.

The only economies with faster growth rates than the US are LDCs with mega-smaller denominators in their growth rates. Almost every government intervention in the energy economy that I can think of, e.g., ethanol, solar power, and wind power, actually fund economically ( and therefor energy) inefficiencies and subsidize a variety of special interests. The last useful government intervention in the energy economy of this country was the hydro-electric developments of the Depression and the 1950s.
6.7.2007 9:36am
A.C.:
There may be reasons to cut back on coal use besides global warming -- regular air pollution, mine safety, and keeping the stuff in the ground as a strategic reserve all come to mind. We used to export oil, and look where that got us.

The one place I want to see the government do more is in basic research. More research grants, more support for new researchers trying to launch careers, and so on. Science and engineering jobs seem to have dropped in status since the end of the Cold War, and the jobs have become scarcer, so it is no surprise that fewer people are entering those fields.

Research at the product development level is best left to the private sector, in my mind, but private companies have less incentive to invest in the work prior to that stage that may or may not ever pay off. That's where the public sector and non-profit foundations can fill the gap.
6.7.2007 9:48am
Wallace (mail):
Randy R.

There may well be 5 more innovative regions of the world then the US (even if it's a struggled to name them). But the point of the article is that, in general, the US is far more innovative than Europe. the EU and the US are the two biggest common markets in the world, and we see the economic problems and solutions to global warming differently. If Thailand is more innovative, who cares? They are decades away from having the same influence on the world as the EU and US.
6.7.2007 10:03am
byomtov (mail):
Maybe while we're asking about innovative regions we could also ask the guy from Silicon Valley to name some of

The companies that would revolutionize our energy usage...... the [companies that] would be the companies that solved the energy puzzle.

And he might describe some of the technologies as well.

Frankly, this article is BS. In one breath Carney claims that unnamed companies using unidentified technologies are going to save us. Hey, OK. No problem. Then he says it doesn't matter if they do or don't because it's the VC's money (but then the problem remains unsolved, doesn't it?). Then he says there is no conspiracy to keep technology down. (I agree there's no conspiracy, but where's the technology?) Then he finishes with a standard right-wing snipe about the inferiority of Europe.

Do people really pay to read this nonsense?
6.7.2007 10:44am
davod (mail):
An example of EU central planning is the latest attempt to reduce methane in garbage dumps - as it applies to the UK.
UK Methane All food waste is to be kept in a separate container and collected by the trash collectors. This waste is to then be sent to a central location where it can be processed in a specially built methane power station.

The only problem is that garbage dumps in the UK already collect and use the methane produced from the dump. In fact, 30 percent of renewable energy comes from the methane produced from garbage dumps.*

Bush's plan has been in the works for some time and involves most of those nations specifically excluded from Kyoto. Those nations who took on board Kyoto are either reneging on the timeframes or fudging their statistics to show improvements.
6.7.2007 10:59am
JRL:

"It's not just government regulation they think is necessary, but taxpayer funds. As if the fact that Congress doesn't appropriate money means that not only won't the research be done in the U.S., but it won't be done by any other government or corporation anywhere on the planet."


See, e.g., stem cell research.
6.7.2007 11:11am
JosephSlater (mail):
Following on Bymomtov's good post, one of the sad legacies of Bush-style conservatism is this petulant and visceral hostility to nations in Western Europe (you know, western democracies, the countries that are most like us). European nations all have flaws, and there are some grains of truth in the piece quoted, but the snarky overstatements really detract from the argument.
6.7.2007 11:38am
Houston Lawyer:
I'll refrain from making snarky comments about the Europeans when they agree to drop their reflexive anti-Americanism.

I remember the 80's as well, when we were all afraid of the Japanese competition. Japanese malevolence was the theme for quite a few movies back then. We haven't cared much about what the Japanese are up to for quite some time now.

All of this presumes that we can do something useful about global warming or that global warming is a bad thing. I'm sure we'll be sacrificing virgins before too long.
6.7.2007 11:52am
Zathras (mail):
"But the divide between the open-frontier camp and the closed-frontier camp is very real...."

This divide is not as large as the one between the administration, which has nothing to gain by doing anything to stop global warming, and the entrepreneurs who see the threat as real enough to bet the farm on technology to stop it. The overt text in this piece is conservative (vibrant entrepreneurial America vs. socialist Europe), but the subtext present is that, in both Europe and the US, the institutions traditionally positioned to make the greatest technological change are putting a great amount of resources to counteract global warming.
6.7.2007 11:58am
davod (mail):
Money and resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
6.7.2007 12:12pm
Shake-N-Bake:
AppSocRes -- it might be time for our government to step in on energy. I'm talking about the feds clearing obstacles to allow more nuclear plants to be built though.
6.7.2007 12:13pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I know plenty of Europeans who aren't "reflexively ant-American." And there will be even less of that after Bush leaves office, especially if he's replaced by a Dem. Good grief, the CONSERVATIVE parties won the most recent elections in Germany and France, and poor Blair in Britain was a Bush ally.

Face it: the antipathy toward Europe comes from (i) the skepticism of most western European nations about the Iraq war (skepticism that seems to have been justified); and (ii) an ideologically-based loathing for the somewhat more generous sets of public benefits (national health care, worker protections, etc.) that European nations offer.

One hopes our next President can get beyond this and work with our traditional allies.
6.7.2007 12:14pm
Houston Lawyer:
Europe is dying. Other than the Brits, they basically folded up their militaries after the Cold War ended. Their populations, other than the Muslims among them, are not producing enough people to replace those who are dying. Their elites are increasingly emigrating out of the area. We have so much to learn from them so as not to repeat their mistakes. Kissing their asses won't make them like us any more.
6.7.2007 12:37pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Europe is not dying, and asking for analysis/understanding that goes beyond that is not "kissing their asses." But thanks for providing evidence of my thesis.
6.7.2007 12:46pm
ATRGeek:
I'd actually say that most Western Europeans are reflexively PRO-American if anything, and thus the recent negative trend is a departure. Here is a little data:

http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=252

Note the positive results in 1999/2000 and 2002 in Great Britain, Germany, and France. It is only in 2003-2006 that things go negative in Germany and France, and in Britain we are still viewed positively (but at a lower number).
6.7.2007 1:07pm
Adeez (mail):
If Europe is dying, why is our currency becoming more and more like Monopoly money to them, especially the Brits?
6.7.2007 1:19pm
ATRGeek:
Here is a 2004 breakdown of what Western Europeans liked and disliked about America:

Harris Poll

The upshot is that, working from the top, they liked "The American people", "American films and television programs
" (even in France!), "The quality of life in America", and "How Americans do business".

They really didn't like "American food" (except the Brits, unsurprisingly), "The policies of the U.S. government in Afghanistan", "American foreign policy since 2000", "The policies of the U.S. government in Iraq", and "President George W. Bush".

It is all broken down by country (the five were Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain), and to me quite interesting.
6.7.2007 1:22pm
JRL:

"Europe is not dying, and asking for analysis/understanding that goes beyond that is not "kissing their asses." But thanks for providing evidence of my thesis."


Just so long as we're not resorting to any "snarky" comments.
6.7.2007 1:43pm
Dick King:

4) france has more advanced procedures and drugs used to treat ALS


Does Prof. Hawkins treat in France?

I'm not snarking here, I'm curious.

-dk
6.7.2007 3:58pm
A.C.:
I don't think Europe is dying, although they do have economic difficulties and their cultural output (books, films etc.) does not seem to be up to what it was in previous decades. The continent does seem to be in an awkward stage, but that could change.

What I did see in the article that started all this off was a restatement of something I've thought for a long time. Europe is organized around providing for people on the production side of their lives, whether they are running big firms or working in factories. What they get on the consumer side is less of a consideration, which is why the prices and availability of certain goods and services can be ... surprising. The US doesn't do much to protect people on the production side of their lives, again whether they are running big corporations or working on the line. But we do quite a lot to make the consumer side run smoothly.

Which is better? I don't know, given that everybody is both a producer and a consumer. But on the more narrow question of which approach leads to more innovation, I'd bet on the system that lets the production side churn. The advantage might be negated in the short term by bad management or a "we've always done it this way" attitude, but the churning process will weed out that sort of thing in the long term.
6.7.2007 5:00pm
Brian K (mail):

Does Prof. Hawkins treat in France?

I don't know. My aunt does however because they have treatment options over there that aren't available over here. Stephen Hawkins maintains a website where he blogs about his illness...you can probably find out what treatment(s) he is undergoing there.
6.7.2007 5:14pm
TJIT (mail):
Many of the folks on this thread seem to be unaware of a few things.

1. The engineering / science hurdles to replacing petroleum and coal are massive. The laws of thermodynamics don't respond to slogan chucking and legislative mandates.

The laws of thermodynamics don't respond to bribes either. You can't spend you way out of the fundamental physical barriers to petroleum replacement

2. There is great economic motivation to replace petroleum. The company that finds a way to replace petroleum will (cliche alert) have wealth beyond belief.

3. Finding and produding oil and gas is tough, tough, job. Large oil companis have to spend massive amounts of money in lots of unstable places to even begin to make money. This explains ExxonMobil's low net profits.

In other words the oil companies have considerable motivation to find income streams outside of petroleum

3. There has been abundant funding of alternative energy research for decades and the results have been minimal. This reflects the tough nature of the problem.
6.7.2007 5:26pm
TJIT (mail):
Many of the progressive folks on this thread are woefully ignorant of the damage misguided alternative energy policy has done and continues to do to the environment.

Please realize that misguided alternative energy policy is worse then no energy policy. The link below provides a good example of this.

What about the land?
The hype over biofuels in the U.S. and Europe has had wide-ranging effects perhaps not envisioned by the
environmental advocates who promote their use. Throughout tropical countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, and Colombia, rainforests and grasslands are being cleared for soybean and oil-palm plantations to make biodiesel, a product that is then marketed halfway across the world as a "green" fuel.
6.7.2007 5:35pm
JosephSlater (mail):
JRL:

I wasn't being snarky, I was being quite sincere. Somebody who says "Europe is dying," talks about the "reflexive anti-Americanism" of Europeans generally with no evidence (when actually, as we've seen, the evidence is otherwise), and refers to a foreign policy that attempts to mend some bridges as "kissing their asses" is, in fact, evidence of my thesis that some on the right are, shall we say, reflexively anti-European.
6.7.2007 5:45pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
European economies are dominated by the same large companies that ruled the roost decades ago, while in the U.S., many of our largest and most successful companies didn't exist a generation ago.

As I pondered this statement, I thought to myself, "gee it must be true, otherwise all the arguments that follow it would just be bullshit." But then I realized I had access to the internets (invented by the stodgy old government and universities, not private venture capitalists btw), so I decided to check for myself.

Guess what? It's bullshit! Look at the top 50 corporations, it's full of oil, financial services, insurance, drug, companies and retailers with the odd manufacturer hanging in there. Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft are the only tech companies in the top fifty. The first two are strictly computer and peripheral manufacturer. Except for its mainframe and large computer business, IBM has turned into a consulting firm.

Maybe the author meant most profitable, return on revenue, or return on equity. Well more tech firms pop up when you look at those numbers but so do companies like Harley Davidson, Hershey and Colgate-Palmolive (which have been around for several generations).

So what the hell is the author talking about? Apparently he just assumes that his assertion that "many of our largest and most successful companies didn't exist a generation ago" and didn't bother to check the facts.
6.7.2007 6:36pm
stephen:
Mork from the region Ork, was certainly more innovative than the United States. Three words; egg, inter-galactic travel. Enough said. Does that count as a region?
6.7.2007 6:45pm
ATRGeek:
TJIT,

There may be various reasons why biofuels are in fact a bad idea. For example, land usage is certainly an important issue, although there are possible biofuel crops that would not use the same land as food crops, and indeed might not be land intensive at all (like algae).

But thermodynamics is not a problem for biofuels--they work just fine in internal combustion engines. In fact, you really can run a regular diesel engine on vegetable oil.

Similarly, much greater use of electricity in cars (eg, plug-ins and plug-in hybrids) isn't a thermodynamic issue. It is actually a battery issue--the actual drive trains work very efficiently.
6.7.2007 7:51pm
davod (mail):
Adeez:

A stronger Ero is good for the US.
6.7.2007 8:11pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Here is a bit on private funding of nuclear fusion.
6.7.2007 8:23pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):
Yep. Global warming is a place Americans are not doing well.

Except a number of solar scientists are predicting global cooling.
6.7.2007 8:32pm
rc:
Brian K: "I also think Bush's new rhetoric is just cheap talk used to stall any realistic attempt at progress."

I think this view is shared by most euro-loving pro-government enviro-alarmist hippies. But what the ELPGEAH's don't understand is that the post-kyoto goals are to limit the economy and produciton, not to produce a solution.

Key innovations, such as nuclear power, are overlooked by these same whiners because those things give granola-crunching hippies all sorts of bedwetting nightmares. (Yes, I know that pro-limits France is pro-nuclear, but the American global warming shrieking masses are not. Why not?) Global warming is 'so bad,' yet no one is willing to let go of their pet peaves. Why should we cripple the economy to accommodate the alarmist's fears when they can't even summon the courage to be sincere?

This carbon-limiting-and-innovation-fearing attitude will not encourage progress, it will simply slow down the economy. Meanwhile, Russia, China, and India can steam right on ahead.
6.7.2007 8:41pm
loikll (mail):
Contrary to popular belief, the US is no longer the most innovative country.

The US is BY FAR the most innovative country/region -- by anyway reasonable definition of "innovative" -- there's no question about it. Yes you can find individual anecdotal examples of some other country being ahead on one issue or another, but surely among the thousands of things going on, one individual example means little. You can't make the blanket claim that "Brazil is more innovative than the US" just because their plastic surgeons are safe from US lawyers -- that's a bit narrow don't you think?

Yes other countries benefit from technologies, but about 98% of the time that technology was invented in the US. The US continues to lead the world in annual patents, by far. Just look around the house at things that run on electricity -- I challenge you to find two things that were NOT invented in the US.

Japan and cell phones? The US invented the phone, the cell phone, digital networking, software, the Internet, DSP chips and the CDMA protocols underlying Japan's current wireless networks -- Japan's consumers just happen to be cell phone crazy. Israel? You are aware that Intel is a US company, right? The US invented the transistor, the microchip, and the microprocessor; and would anyone in Israel have designed a microprocessor if not funded and trained by Santa Clara's Intel? And clearly the US leads the world in medical advances too, but no doubt it doesn't lead in absolutely everything without exception.
6.7.2007 8:56pm
Brian K (mail):

I think this view is shared by most euro-loving pro-government enviro-alarmist hippies. But what the ELPGEAH's don't understand

WOW! There's a whole lot of crazy in that sentence...so much in fact I don't where to begin. I guess I'll start by pointing you to a psychiatrist...the drugs that they can prescribe will do you a lot of good and greatly reduce your delusional paranoia.


You can't make the blanket claim that "Brazil is more innovative than the US" just because their plastic surgeons are safe from US lawyers -- that's a bit narrow don't you think?

I never made that claim. You did and attributed it to me. Nice strawman. By the way, if your going to put something in quotes it helps to make sure the person you are supposedly quoting actually said/wrote the statement.


no doubt it doesn't lead in absolutely everything without exception.

This is the claim I actually made. I have to give you credit for managing to completely mix up my argument while simultaneously being able to attribute my conclusion to yourself.
6.7.2007 9:29pm
keypusher (mail):
Good point from J.H. Thomas about the persistence of big corporations in the U.S.A.

More broadly, entrepreneurs, however brilliant &innovative, will never solve climate change unless they can make money doing so. And not just make money, but make more money than they can make on better computers or the next Wii or iPod or blockbuster drug. Right now they can't make money fighting, say, carbon dioxide emissions, because petroleum and coal provides cheaper energy than the alternatives. If climate change is real and dangerous, then the price of producing, refining and burning petroleum doesn't reflect the costs it is inflicting on the environment and us. So the cost should be higher. Who can raise the cost? Only governments, through taxation.
6.7.2007 9:53pm
Occam's Beard (mail):

If climate change is real and dangerous,

Ah, there's the rub. After any number of doomsday scares, a little skepticism is definitely in order, so we don't have our own little climatological Heaven's Gate. A basic precept of the scientific method: the more implausible the hypothesis, the more rock-solid must be the data before it is provisionally accepted. And computer models are most certainly not data, as the name "models" implies.

Remember William Thompson (Lord Kelvin), the preeminent scientist of his age, whose calculation of the age of the earth (from its cooling rate) was off by almost three orders of magnitude because he didn't know about - and therefore did not include - heat from radioactive decay. Moral: GIGO.

So the cost should be higher. Who can raise the cost? Only governments, through taxation.

And there's the other rub. This is one of the many reasons why the global warming hysteria ...er...movement encounters such skepticism: its proponents reflexively go to government intervention in the economy, regulation, and taxation - which, by happy coincidence, was just what they were proposing before global warming hit the front pages. Convenient, yes?

The market can and will raise the cost, if such cost turns out to be justified (which it won't).
6.7.2007 10:13pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I challenge you to find two things that were NOT invented in the US.

Well gee, the radio (Marconi), high definition tv (which the U.S. lags both Europe and Japan in), LCDs, the VCR, DVDs and CDs. Many of the patents granted in the U.S. should never have been granted because they are obvious or merely are tweaks on existing patents. Many of things you mention were invented years ago. There is no doubt this country has lost its edge in cell phone technology and if it hasn't already, will soon lose it genetic research.
6.7.2007 10:31pm
rc:
Keypusher has a good point. "So the cost (of oil) should be higher. Who can raise the cost? Only governments, through taxation."

I may not be a fan of taxation, but just like the fed manipulates the interest rate in order to throttle the economy, it's in the people's interest to throttle fossil fuel usage. But high gas costs also slow the economy, so we can't do too much of that.

You know what would really help? Domestic oil supplies, so that OPEC can't floor oil costs to kill alternatives, and nuke plants to make carbon-free power. And what is the only thing standing between us and these easy and present promises of progress? Hippies.

Folks like Brian K insinuate that the only reason Bush doesn't invest in granola research is because he's mean. But what he doesn't realize is that Euro-style policy and hippie obstructionism create greater obstacles than Bush could ever hope for.

This is how hippies work: they find a pet project, like saving cute birdies, then condemn hundreds of thousands humans to slow death by malaria rather than allow a single little chick to risk a thin egg shell due to DDT exposure. More appropriate to the global warming debate, hippie policy has dominated NGO work in africa to the point that a project can't be approved unless it is 100% self-sustainable. This severly limits the number of projects, as photovoltaics are much more expensive than any sensible, partial solution. So natives keep on burning wood.

These examples are but a taste demonstrating how enviro-alarmists have improper priorities and no economic sense. The American entrepreneurial spirit goes against this mindset... and that's one of the reasons it works.

The critical environmental developments of this decade are most likely to come from companies like shell, chevron, exxon... maybe from the feds... but certainly not from the screeching hippie dirt-footed hairy-pitted self-righteous hot air cooperative.
6.7.2007 10:36pm
Brian K (mail):

The market can and will raise the cost, if such cost turns out to be justified

The market is incredibly poor at taking responsibility for externalities. That is the reason why we have government restrictions on when/where/how mining can take place, against clear cutting forests, against dumping industrial waste in lakes and rivers, against spewing noxious substances into the air, etc. These regulations didn't sprout up for no reason at all...they sprouted up because companies were doing all of the above in order to maximize profit.

For every proponent of global warming there is one person who reflexively dismisses global warming based on little more than not liking the proponent. You seem to be one yourself.
6.7.2007 10:36pm
Brian K (mail):
YAY! more strawman from rc. what a surprise. if you can't argue against someone on the merits then go for the cheap insult. I think its actually very funny and a little sad.

Whatever gave you the idea I was a hippie? I wasn't even alive in the 70s. When did I say Bush was against global warming because he's "mean?" I have no idea how you managed to get that out of my posts seeing as how I never gave any reason for why i think bush is against global warming. Do you have proof of a single one of the claims you make? Somehow I doubt it...you don't seem like the type of person to let facts get in the way of your reflexive hatred for anyone who dares to hold a viewpoint that opposes yours.


self-righteous hot air

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black,
6.7.2007 10:46pm
rc:
Allow me to condense the evidence I've posted suggesting that Kyoto-style limits won't help global warming, and that hippies oppose the attitudes (like American enrepreneurship) that might help it.

Kyoto syle policy won't help because: Europe has already demonstrated that it won't meet its obligations. Also, Russia, China, and India can simply chug away. Lastly, hippie policy demostrates a marked lack of proper priorities or economic sense (see: DDT and 'sustainable' African development).

Hippies oppose real change because: Closing ANWR keeps us even more dependant on OPEC, which will dump oil if it senses a legitimate threat to their energy dominance. Also, nuke power offers abundant and carbon-free energy, but it is politically 'radioactive' in this country, because of hysterics about waste.

If the world is truly going to be devastated in fifty years, why all the obstructionism simply because there's a risk that in a thousand years we might maybe have a localized poison zone somewhere in the Arizona desert?

European policy makers and environmental alarmists are dishonest (or at least tunnel-sighted or short-sighted) obstructionists who are doing more harm than Bush.

BrianK: "I think its actually very funny ..."

I'm glad you enjoy my posts.
6.7.2007 11:35pm
Occam's Beard (mail):

For every proponent of global warming there is one person who reflexively dismisses global warming based on little more than not liking the proponent. You seem to be one yourself.

No, it's not a reflexive dismissal, but instead an intellectually mature attitude, to treat with skepticism something that a) is unprecedented, and b) does not have compelling evidence supporting it, and c) for which the proposed "solutions" would be a pain in the butt (something the grownups call "doing a risk-benefit analysis").

I'm a professional scientist (albeit a chemist, not a climatologist), and the global warming silliness is redolent of the flawed logic that characterizes my first year graduate students who come into my office claiming to have found a unicorn, based on a hoofprint. Before I believe in unicorns, I want to see a horse with a horn growing out of its head. Hoofprints don't make it for me. Apparently they do for you.

I'm not saying anthropogenic global warming is impossible; just that the evidence now in hand does not support the hypothesis, and that I'm not willing to trash our economy on such a flimsy basis. Thirty years ago it was global cooling, with proposals to spread soot on the Arctic to avoid global famine in the 1980s (Google it); pretty good thing the grownups ignored that one, isn't it?

Bottom line: doomsday scares come and go, and their advocates invariably try to make up in passion what they lack in reason.

(BTW, global warming is so last week. The current scares are cell phones killing off honey bees (famine! crops not pollinated!) and WiFi causing health problems among neurotics. So you're at least one scare behind the avant garde.
6.7.2007 11:58pm
TJIT (mail):
rc,

Throwing bricks and slogan chucking might be entertaining but they don't provide much information or education.

If you want to move from entertaining yourself to providing information and who knows possibly persuading a few people, you might want to change your approach.

Cheers,

TJIT
6.8.2007 12:16am
TJIT (mail):
ATRGeek said
But thermodynamics is not a problem for biofuels--they work just fine in internal combustion engines. In fact, you really can run a regular diesel engine on vegetable oil.

and

Similarly, much greater use of electricity in cars (eg, plug-ins and plug-in hybrids) isn't a thermodynamic issue. It is actually a battery issue--the actual drive trains work very efficiently.
Which are true as far as it goes. It misses the fact that biofuels are a bust because a mass and energy balance on their production shows it takes more energy to make biofuels then they provide when combusted. That is the problem.

Same thing with the electric cars, they run fine but where does the energy come from and what is its energy balance and environmental impact. That is the important question.

Alternative energy production and research to date has predominatly consisted of rent seeking programs to enrich private companies at public expense.
6.8.2007 12:24am
rc:
TJIT: "If you want to move from entertaining yourself to providing information..."

WHOA! That's a big -if-.

But if it's information or a position you are looking for, my 10:35pm post contains two clearly stated positions, backed up by six facts/examples that I've illustrated in my past posts.

Of course, most people can't get past the mockery, but that's the very part that gives me satisfaction. After all, this is teh internets, right?

Anyone who distrusts a market-based solution to global warming needs to show why trusting demonstrably misguided hippies is a better idea. Anyone who favors economy-wrecking carbon limits needs to prove why a more drastic project might turn out better than the failed Kyoto accord.

My scorn toward pro-kyoto yay-hoos is A) fun to write about, B) indicative of my frustration toward the whole situation, and C) justifiable, given the reasons I have outlined previously.

Anyone who thinks I'm wrong and doesn't mind being called a hippie may now try to blow my card-house down.
6.8.2007 12:44am
Brian K (mail):

I'm a professional scientist (albeit a chemist, not a climatologist)

What's your point? I'm an engineer and soon to be doctor (real doctor, not PhD). Does being a chemist give you some special insight into global warming that no one else has?


a) is unprecedented, and b) does not have compelling evidence supporting it, and c) for which the proposed "solutions" would be a pain in the butt (something the grownups call "doing a risk-benefit analysis").

a) global warming is not unprecedented. it has happened several time in the past. b) a great many very smart people disagree with you. c) so just because a solution is difficult, we shouldn't do it? do you teach that to your students? how would you feel if you had diabetes and your doctor said to you "we can manage your diabetes but it requires that you exercise and eat healthy and take insulin shots. its not fun and it will be a pain in the ass for both of us so i'm just going to recommend that you ignore it. i'll see you again in a few years when we amputate your foot but you won't see me because you'll be blind. take care"


I'm not willing to trash our economy on such a flimsy basis.

Who says we have to trash our economy? exxon shell companies? do you really trust them? it most certainly isn't unprecedented that a company would lie. There are reasonable proposals out there that require a fairly small short term hit to the economy.


WiFi causing health problems among neurotics

I hate to burst your bubble but this one has been around since the discovery of electricity and/or radio in various forms.
6.8.2007 2:04am
Ken O:
Because global warming research is the research that is getting funded. Any scientist who wants research money will agree that global warming is a problem . Mind you . I do believe something has been thrown out of whack .

I want clean air, clean water , and food that isn't loaded with chemicals . I am not an environmentalist or a hippy . I see goverments role as keeping businesses honest . It is a role it doesn't do all that well many times .

The governemtn can handle most of the jobs it has now . Giving it the job of developing alternative fuels . Is a sure way to guarentee it will not happen . And a sure way to make sure global warming happens or gets worse . Is to have the us government declare war on it .

The government is not the answer . Over the next few year as electricity bills go up, Heating bills go up, the priceof gas goes up . then American consumer. Will embrace Cheep alternative sources of power . And/or Use the sourse there more conservatively .

A lot of the innovations though are going to come from China . The Stuff the works will just come over here and be embraced quicker than most other parts of the world .

Where america Excells . Is not our ability to innovate . It is our willingess to toss old things out and embrace new innovative things . That is the real american way .

To those who commented that euro's seem anti american . Most of the world is just anti us government. The See the american people and the government as two different identities . A lot of american are getting real angry at the Fed to and not justthe cooks and bush haters .
6.8.2007 2:06am
Brian K (mail):

Kyoto syle policy won't help because: Europe has already demonstrated that it won't meet its obligations. Also, Russia, China, and India can simply chug away.

This is only a problem with kyoto as written...you can't generalize it to all kyoto style policies.


see: DDT

I see it, but it doesn't show quite what you want. I see you're still factually challenged. DDT use was stopped for many reasons including environmental, increased resistance among bugs, decreased effectiveness against malaria, administrative/cost. also a lot of the anti-DDT rhetoric came from oil companies who owned patents on alternative insecticides. Its amazing what you can learn by reading...you should try it some day.

ANWR is not the cure all that you make it out to be. It will take 5-10 years to develop, cost many billions in taxpayer money and the amount of oil up there is most likely grossly exaggerated (see the exaggeration of reserves by oil companies in mexico a while back). Even if we fully utilize ANWR by tomorrow it would still not be a threat to OPEC...we just import way too much oil. the only realistic threat is conservation...something that bush as conservative allies have yet to push for.

I am actually an advocate of nuclear energy despite your abysmal attempt to stereotype me as a hippie.


European policy makers and environmental alarmists are dishonest (or at least tunnel-sighted or short-sighted) obstructionists who are doing more harm than Bush.

I am amazed you were able to say that with a straight face. I don't bush even knows how to be honest and he most certainly has done a great amount of harm to our country.
6.8.2007 2:22am
Brian K (mail):
I forgot to add that DDT is still used against malaria carrying mosquitoes. Rather than blanket spraying with the stuff we have moved on to more effective anti-malaria methods such as embedding the insecticide into the mosquito nets.
6.8.2007 2:25am
rc:
BrianK "you can't generalize it to all kyoto style policies..." Why can't I? We already know that the next carbon credit scam is going to be more ambitious than Kyoto, and no European country was able to meet its Kyoto target, unless that target was so broad as to be useless.

The current call is for no more than 2 degrees gain, with a final goal of 50% of 1990 emissions. There is no way in bloody hell that Europe is going to stick with that hugely ambitious goal, and I have the track record to prove it. Just saying 'yeah huh!' does not change the past.

"Who says we have to trash our economy? exxon shell companies? do you really trust them?" I'd much rather trust the people who actually present solutions to the energy problems our country faces, yes. I'd also make a bid for common sense.

"I am amazed you were able to say that with a straight face." For all you know, I'm laughing like a loon. It's a hobby of mine, point of fact.

"I am actually an advocate of nuclear energy..." Then you know that as long as the environmental lobby is in charge, no reasonable steps will be taken in that direction. Seems we have things in common...

"the only realistic threat is conservation...something that bush as conservative allies have yet to push for." And something the hippies don't strongly advocate, either. Where are the calls for reinstating the 55mph speed limit? How about requiring all new commercial buildings to conform to LEEDS or etc? Solar water heaters on every roof? These smart ideas are not advocated, because the hippies want the government to provide an answer, and they want the evil evil corporations and producers to pay the price. But to change our comfy consumer lifestyles? Hell no! Al Gore might have to give up carbon offsets like the self-righteous scam that it is.

"Its amazing what you can learn by reading...you should try it some day. " Well, I'm reading your posts, and intellectual elitism isn't scoring you any points with me. You may be an engineer and studying to be a doctor, but you weren't alive during the seventies. That means you didn't weather the oil scare, when the middle east turned off the taps. People freaked out, but then they got over it. The problem with hyperbole is that people eventually learn the truth, then they don't take you seriously.

"I don't bush even knows how to be honest and he most certainly has done a great amount of harm to our country." Just another reason why he shouldn't cripple our country with economy-killing carbon limits.

The "open frontier" is truly the solution to these problems, not hippie alarmism.
6.8.2007 3:43am
davod (mail):
Brian K:

WRT ANWAR: There are not many oil discoveries where the projected amount is much lower than output. Improvements in extraction methods can make even the oldest wells productive.

Just think of the boost to the economy of Alaska while the pipelines and other infrastucture are being built. Surely, not such a terrible way to spend money.

Not to mention the increase in wildlife after the infrastucture provides safe havens from the extreme temperatures.

Many if not all of the projections of naysayers of the first project have proven false. Yet you and yours continue to attack the very projects which could help with self sufficiency. Why is that?
6.8.2007 12:20pm
davod (mail):
Brain K(6.7.2007 9:46pm)
You weren't even alive in the 70s. That surely does not excuse not conducting the basic research required to show that the same groups screaming about global warming were worried about global colling then.

Surely, this should give you some pause from your religeous zeal to follow the GW proponents.
6.8.2007 12:28pm
Brian K (mail):

That surely does not excuse not conducting the basic research required to show that the same groups screaming about global warming were worried about global colling then.

Nor does it excuse you from realizing that many of the same people screaming about economic ruin should we even attempt to solve global warming are the same people that scream about economic ruin whenever any proposes an increase in government regulation, taxes or minimum wage. Last time i checked we weren't a country of sustenance farmers just barely making enough to feed half of our family.

So I have to ask what is your point? is it that we should ignore everyone? or is it that we should conveniently forgive groups for past exaggerated claims solely because they happen to share the same "religious zeal" against global warming as you do?


Just think of the boost to the economy of Alaska while the pipelines and other infrastucture are being built. Surely, not such a terrible way to spend money.

Think about the boost that the economies of silicon valley and other tech heavy areas will get if we mandate stricter clean air requirements. Why is that a terrible way to spend money?


Not to mention the increase in wildlife after the infrastucture provides safe havens from the extreme temperatures.

How would a leaky oil pipe provide safe haven to animals? why do animals that have evolved to thrive in the extreme temperatures even need a safe haven?
6.8.2007 3:22pm
Brian K (mail):

I'd much rather trust the people who actually present solutions to the energy problems our country faces, yes. I'd also make a bid for common sense.

I haven't seen any propose actual solutions to our energy "crisis." not the democrats or the republicans. at best all the policies do is kick the problem down the road a few years.


Then you know that as long as the environmental lobby is in charge, no reasonable steps will be taken in that direction. Seems we have things in common...

Except that its news to me that the environmental lobby is in charge. The current score is around 1/2 (mass v epa) to 1000.


intellectual elitism isn't scoring you any points with me.

but it sure is a lot funnier than your constant hippie bashing. i can pretty much predict which hippie insult you'll throw at me but there are an endless number of "you're stupid" insults i can throw back.


That means you didn't weather the oil scare, when the middle east turned off the taps. People freaked out, but then they got over it. The problem with hyperbole is that people eventually learn the truth, then they don't take you seriously.

Which would probably explain why a lot of people aren't taking the conservatives claim of economic ruin seriously. if we could weather the oil scare without long term economic harm we can certainly take a few steps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the air.


Where are the calls for reinstating the 55mph speed limit? How about requiring all new commercial buildings to conform to LEEDS or etc? Solar water heaters on every roof?

To the former sentence: who in their right mind wants to drive 55!? that takes all of the fun out of driving. to the latter sentence: people have proposed ideas like that they just get voted down by the fear mongering conservatives and their deep pocketed lobbyist friends. i would expect you to know that hippies don't have nearly enough money to battle well financed companies interested in maintaining the status quo.
6.8.2007 3:34pm
Occam's Beard (mail):
Brian K:


What's your point? I'm an engineer and soon to be doctor (real doctor, not PhD). Does being a chemist give you some special insight into global warming that no one else has?

I cited my profession in response to your suggestion that I was one who reflexively dismisses global warming. I do not. My point was that I am accustomed to employing the scientific method. (BTW, I don't consider either engineers or physicians as scientists, any more than I do auto mechanics, and for the same reason. Neither a technical background nor a lab coat a scientists makes.)

a) global warming is not unprecedented. it has happened several time in the past.

This is disingenuous, and therefore mendacious. Allegations of anthropogenic global warming, which is the topic of this debate, ARE unprecedented. Of course global warming/cooling has occurred many times over geologic time, something that appears not to give AGW enthusiasts pause for thought - but should.

b) a great many very smart people disagree with you.

(Heaving an Al Gore Sigh™.) A shabby argument from authority, and beneath contempt intellectually. Scientific issues are not decided by a show of hands, but by dispositive data, which are not to hand on this issue, or there wouldn't be a debate (no one debates whether gravity bends light, for example). One man with dispositive data trumps 100,000 "very smart people" with opinions. You should be familiar with the H. pylori story. Many "very smart people" considered Marshall and Warren lunatics -- until they generated dispositive data. So don't give me the "all the cool people think so" argument. It's embarrassing.

c) so just because a solution is difficult, we shouldn't do it? do you teach that to your students? how would you feel if you had diabetes and your doctor said to you "we can manage your diabetes but it requires that you exercise and eat healthy and take insulin shots. its not fun and it will be a pain in the ass for both of us so i'm just going to recommend that you ignore it. i'll see you again in a few years when we amputate your foot but you won't see me because you'll be blind.

Nice straw man. I've no problem with difficult solutions, provided they are to problems that clearly exist. The question here is whether or not the problem even exists (would global warming necessarily be bad? Who knows?), and if it does, whether there's anything we can do about it. My point was that a drastic "solution" to a quite probably non-existent problem failed a risk-benefit analysis.

A more cogent example than yours would be a doctor saying "Looks like you might be getting a sore, it might be melanoma, we better amputate right now." That is a precise analogy: it's not 100% clear whether we're getting a sore, but assuming we are, it's not clear what's causing it, and the "solution" of amputation is drastic given the shakiness of the data.
Who says we have to trash our economy? exxon shell companies? do you really trust them? it most certainly isn't unprecedented that a company would lie. There are reasonable proposals out there that require a fairly small short term hit to the economy.

I'll ignore the anti-oil company populism of the Clearisil set.

Unless we substitute nuclear power for petroleum (something few AGW proponents seem to support), cutting back on use of petroleum-based energy sources would trash our economy. We've done this experiment: OPEC's relatively modest restriction of oil exports in 1973 sent the American economy into a tailspin (ask those of us with gray hair). The only difference is that an external agency - OPEC - rather than the US government (as you propose) cut back on our use of petroleum. Our economy runs on cheap, readily available energy sources. No matter how our use of them is curtailed, curtailing in and of itself will inevitably clobber the economy. That's why an OPEC minister having a gas pain as he leaves an OPEC meeting causes the stock market to tumble.
WiFi causing health problems among neurotics

I hate to burst your bubble but this one has been around since the discovery of electricity and/or radio in various forms.

My point precisely. Doomsday scares have been around forever, sometimes updated a bit to make them topical.

I've seen so many doomsday scares come and go that it's difficult to keep a straight face. Population bomb, silent spring, global economic collapse, global famine, global cooling (in 1975; going to devastate the population in a decade, but here we are), ozone layer, shark summer, killer bees, Y2K…the list goes on and on. In the 50s, people used to say that the weather was changing because of nuclear tests.

Every generation appears to need its own doomsday scenario, to give its cognitively challenged members a cause, and to give the slightly brighter ones a shibboleth, a social sign and countersign that they're both cool. The passion that "this one is for real" is reminiscent of nothing so much as a 17-year old defending his puppy love, and saying the grownups do not understand. Of course they understand. They've already lived through their puppy love phase; you're living through yours now. In ten years, when someone mentions anthropogenic global warming, you'll cough and shuffle uneasily, grin sheepishly, and say "well, it seemed real at the time" - assuming you admit to believing it at all. Trust me. You will.
6.8.2007 3:38pm
Dick Eagleson:
Mr. Thomas, the point about the relative youth of large U.S. companies is not "bullshit." Look at the European Top 50 companies. By my count, 14 of the U.S. top 50 have been founded since WW2. On the European top 50 list the comparable number is exactly one - Vodafone.


Look at the top 50 corporations, it's full of oil, financial services, insurance, drug, companies and retailers with the odd manufacturer hanging in there.


I'm not sure what the nature of the complaint is here. Is it your view that none of the named industry groups reperesent significant sources of innovation? That's a hard case to make. Let's take them one at a time:

Oil - there has been enormous innovation in the oil industry in recent decades and nearly all of it was pioneered by U.S. firms, including oil field services firms such as the much-demonized Halliburton. The development of software to analyze geology, directional drilling, deep water drilling, enhanced recovery - all or mostly U.S. companies in the lead.

Financial Services/Insurance - credit cards, ATM's, on-line services, money-market accounts and much more are definitely innovations and all were U.S. inventions.

Drugs - No one can seriously argue that the drug business is not one of the most innovative. The U.S. has more and larger drug companies than does Europe. There are no drug firms on the Europe top 50 list.

Retail - There are a lot more big retailers in the U.S. than in Europe and most retail innovation still comes from the U.S.; especially such things as UPC and RFID tags, checkout scanners, POS automation generally and advanced use of IT for inventory and logistics management. Most retailing concepts and categories, such as enclosed malls, convenience stores, video rental stores, fast food and "big box" stores - to name a few - are U.S. inventions.

Even in the field of prosaic services such as delivering packages, who is more innovative - UPS in the U.S. or Deutsche Post in Europe?

If anyone thinks company categories are still important, per se, here's some more breakdown data pulled from the U.S. and European top 50 lists:

Oil - Europe: 6, U.S.: 5
Financial Services/Insurance - Europe: 23, U.S.: 14
Drugs - Europe: 0, U.S.: 3
Retail - Europe: 4, U.S.: 8

Some further contrasts:

Autos - Europe: 6, U.S.: 2
Telecom - Europe: 3, U.S.: 2
Non-Auto/Petroleum Mfg. - Europe: 4, U.S.: 10


Dell, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Microsoft are the only tech companies in the top fifty.


The European top 50 list includes no tech companies.


The first two are strictly computer and peripheral manufacturer. Except for its mainframe and large computer business, IBM has turned into a consulting firm.


Not true. Both H-P and IBM are among the world's largest software producers.

On the separate issue of whether or not Europe is dying - it pretty much is. As Mark Steyn points out "the future belongs to those who show up for it." Europe is, increasingly, a no-show in this respect. There is no European country whose native population is reproducing at anything approaching a level replacement rate. Many are at or below 2/3 of replacement rate. The only way Europe won't diminish to half or less of its current "native stock" population by 2100 is if significant enhancements to average human lifespan come online in the next, say, 30 years. Even then, the trend toward self-extinction of European "legacy" populations will not reverse, merely slow.
6.8.2007 3:58pm
Aleks:
Re: On the separate issue of whether or not Europe is dying - it pretty much is.

The death of Europe is as much a doomsday scare story as global warming: both are based on legitimate problems but with the added assumption that current trends will continue indefinitely to the point of ruin, and are generally believed by people for idelogical reasons: rightwing pique over Euroe's failure to sign onto the grand Iraq fuasco, or leftwing environmentalist Luddism.

Re; The only way Europe won't diminish to half or less of its current "native stock" population by 2100 is if significant enhancements to average human lifespan come online in the next, say, 30 years.

Within living memory the population of Europe was half of what it is today. Was Europe "dead" then?
6.8.2007 4:46pm
rc:
Brian K: "Last time i checked we weren't a country of sustenance farmers just barely making enough to feed half of our family." Why don't you check back in fifty years? It's interesting that you said 'feed HALF of our family,' because present plans call to cut the US economy in half (or at least emissions), while China Russia and India steam ahead. You can argue the exact numbers, but this is the definition of economic suicide.

"at best all the policies do is kick the problem down the road a few years." That's better than capping ourselves in the head.

"Which would probably explain why a lot of people aren't taking the conservatives claim of economic ruin seriously."

Fifty percent of 1990 carbon emissions. Fifty percent! ! ! ! You look at that number and you shrug your shoulders. Are you insane?

"i would expect you to know that hippies don't have nearly enough money..." That's cause they suck at actualy producing anything of value. That's why they shouldn't be givven acces to the economy's throttle.

Occam's board: "A more cogent example than yours would be a doctor saying "Looks like you might be getting a sore, it might be melanoma, we better amputate right now.""

I like it.
6.8.2007 5:11pm
Dick Eagleson:
Aleks,

The death of Europe is as much a doomsday scare story as global warming: both are based on legitimate problems but with the added assumption that current trends will continue indefinitely to the point of ruin, and are generally believed by people for idelogical reasons: rightwing pique over Euroe's failure to sign onto the grand Iraq fuasco, or leftwing environmentalist Luddism.

Ideology has about as much to do with my beliefs about future European "native stock" populations as it does with my beliefs about the future path of an anvil pushed from an airplane. In the end, it's all about physics.

One reason the Global Warming hypothesis is so - legitimately - contentious is that there are still vast areas of potentially relevant causation/mitigation factors that are poorly understood or not yet even identified. Hardly a week seems to pass now without some new wrinkle appearing to disrupt the allegedly "settled" issues of : (a) whether ot not Global Warming is actually happening, and (b) if it is, whether or not human agency is a decisive factor in that occurrence.

No such uncertainties afflict national population predictions. While scientists continue to discover that such things as the amount of atmospheric soot falling from the sky have non-trivial effects on, say, polar ice cap expansion/contraction, it is highly unlikely that we will soon discover that there are significant numbers of European babies - heretofore entirely unremarked - appearing, say, spontaneously under cabbage leaves.

Human reproduction is, compared to global climate variation, superbly well understood. With respect to native populations, the only relevant variables are current population and the trend of birthrates. After that, the calculation is, to a very good first-order approximation, on rails.

Within living memory the population of Europe was half of what it is today. Was Europe "dead" then?

Aleks, it's the trend that counts - the sign of the derivative of the function, to put it in mathematical terms - not the particular value of the function at an arbitrary point. European birthrates once regularly exceeded the replacement rate of 2.1 per woman capable of childbearing. Today, they do not. The native stock population of Europe will, at a fairly well-defined future point, once again be at half of its current value.

Consider an analogy. At one point in my childhood, I weighed 100 lbs. Now, as an adult, I weigh over twice that. The only way I will ever likely weigh 100 lbs. again is if I contract some wasting disease, like cancer, that will eventually kill me. Are my future prospects equal at these two points on my - I hope, hypothetical - lifetime weight curve? Europe has a fatal wasting disease. Absent a radical change in European attitudes/behavior, Europe as we have come to know it, will decline and then die.

I take no pleasure in saying this. I count no ideological "coup" points. I do not see Europe as a problem for America. On the contrary, I see the future effective absence of Europe as a problem. Our problem is not with other advanced nation-states such as those in Europe. It isn't even - long-term - with majority-peasant nation-states like Russia and China. Our current - and, I believe, most of our future - problems are with pseudo-states such as those in the Middle East and Africa where the basic structure of society is still tribal barbarism.

As I see it, there are two great socio-political challenges in the 21st century:

1. Effect the transition of existing nation-states with majority peasant agricultural populations into modern, diverse, urban-majority, industrial/post-industrial societies such as we, the current Europeans and the advanced smaller societies of Asia now have.

This project is already well underway and - now that both India and China have cut away the ideological abatross of socialism - seems likely to go to effective completion without much additional explicit work on the part of America.

India is already one of the oldest functioning democracies in the world and will share an increasing confluence of interests with us as years pass, plus the resources to be of considerable assistance in jointly advancing those interests.

Despotism is losing ground, incrementally, in China. The current dictatorship will - shorn of its Marxist legitimation - disintegrate within a generation. At that point, China can reunite on the Taiwanese, not the Red Mandarin model.

Russia will matter increasingly little as it "enjoys" European-style demographic trends. It's current leadership still embraces the old iron dream of imperium handed down from the czars, but will increasingly lack the wherewithal to pursue even a modest additional iteration of empire.

2. Effect the transition of inherently aggressive/chauvinistic tribal barbarian social orders into peaceful, modern national societies.

This second chore is anything but on automatic pilot and will likely consume the vast majority of American time and attention with respect to volitional foreign policy over the next century or so. It will not be easy and it will not be quick, but it is necessary and, so, must be done.

The current theaters of operation in Iraq and Afghanistan are simply opening fronts in what will likely be a multi-generation struggle to extinguish obsolete social forms that cannot coexist with modernity.

It would be nice if the Europeans were around to help. Alas, I fear we must prepare to do the needed work without any expectation of significant assistance from that quarter. Fortunately, there will be India.
6.9.2007 10:25pm
ATRGeek:
TJIT,

I'm not sure what you are arguing anymore. Biofuels do require energy input, but they primarily get that from the sun (incidentally, that is actually just as true for using plants for food as for fuel).

As for electricity, we already know there are relatively clean ways to produce electricity. Of course, currently they are more expensive than coal, which is why they had not been widely adopted (although nuclear has its adherents).

However, you originally argued that "You can't spend you way out of the fundamental physical barriers to petroleum replacement," and the higher costs of cleaner electricity production is exactly the sort of problem you can spend on. Moreover, there is nothing about physics that makes other forms of electricity production necessarily more expensive, and indeed the gap has been steadily closing over time.

So, to be blunt I think your original argument--that there are "fundamental physical barriers to petroleum replacement"--is pretty much bunk. In other words, sure, there are a variety of real problems to be solved before any of the notable alternatives become economically viable. But your claim that physics renders these problems unsolvable has no basis as far as I can tell.
6.9.2007 11:54pm
Aleks:
Re: No such uncertainties afflict national population predictions.

You have got to be kidding. We're talking human behavior here, not some simple Physics 101 experiment like (uour example) pushing an anvil out of an airplane). Human behavior is the least deterministic phenomonon we know of. Extrapolating anything at all from present circumstances when dealing with human beings has about as much certainty as wagering at a roulette table.

Re: The native stock population of Europe will, at a fairly well-defined future point, once again be at half of its current value.

OK, sure. But why is this a problem? If a Europe with a population less than a tenth of today's was the global hegemon, why would a Europe with half its current population be a calamity? And if you look at history, the last time the population of Europe fell in a major way (and that due to a traumatic calamity, the Black Death) the long term result was actually positive for the culture: capital was freed up, dysfunctional social structures were destroyed, and overall European civilization was reinvigorated however grim the process seemed to those who lived through it.

Re: At one point in my childhood, I weighed 100 lbs. Now, as an adult, I weigh over twice that. The only way I will ever likely weigh 100 lbs. again is if I contract some wasting disease, like cancer, that will eventually kill me.

This is not a valid analogy. Perhaps a better one (given what has happened with population in the last century and half) would be if you porked out to 500 lbs and needed to get back down to 200. That "wasting" would not be at all unhealthy but would be quite beneficial.
By the way several other nations' populations are also shrinking: Japan, most notably. Why is no one fretting over the "death of Japan"?
6.11.2007 2:46pm