pageok
pageok
pageok
"Alternative Fuels":

With gas prices plunging, the Obama team is still promising to have the government "invest" in green fuel technologies. What a recipe for wasting money! For all the obvious reasons, the odds that government will "invest" wisely are slim to none.

If green technologies must be invested in (and I think there is a sound case the government should encourage this, given the externalities (greenhouse, pollution, foreign policy) of fossil fuels), the way would be to slap a tax on fossil fuels. The money could be used to pay for Obama's promised income tax cut. Better to tax something we don't like (fossil fuels) than something we do (jobs). The tax on fossil fuels will keep prices relatively high, encouraging private investment in alternative sources of energy, free from the inevitable boondoggles of government "investment."

KenB (mail):
I agree heartily, but I don't believe Obama will follow your advice. Instead, we'll take another step along the way to becoming Argentina.
11.25.2008 9:20am
Preferred Customer:
Increasing fuel taxes and ditching CAFE is the only sensible way to encourage conservation, at least with respect to the cars people drive.

There seems to be about a zero percent chance that any politician would support increasing fuel costs, but (unlike McCain and Clinton) Obama did not come out in favor of an asinine "gas tax holiday" when prices spiked, so maybe there's hope.

Really, the time to act would have been this summer--the feds could have enacted a variable tax designed to kick in when the price at the pump fell below, say, $3.00, which would have acted to keep the price of gas at $3 or above. That would have provided certainty for private industry going forward, allowing them to make investments in green alternatives, and would have been politically palatable since it wouldn't have come across as a tax "increase" at the time. A missed opportunity, sadly.
11.25.2008 9:23am
Houston Lawyer:
What income tax cut? He's promising to raise my income taxes. I guess I'm just a Kulak now.
11.25.2008 9:28am
A.C.:
I kind of thought the point of all that was the "government," not the "investment."
11.25.2008 9:30am
Just Dropping By (mail):
With gas prices plunging, the Obama team is still promising to have the government "invest" in green fuel technologies. What a recipe for wasting money!

I'm not going to claim that the new administration will make the wisest choices on how to allocate research funds, but these two sentences perfectly capture why I'm moving further and further away from the Republican party -- the sheer intellectual dishonesty of many of its supporters. If you're going to oppose spending on alternative fuels research, oppose it because you either think the government shouldn't be financing scientific research or because you think some other avenue of research would be a better choice for support. Announcing that it is a waste of money to research alternative fuels (which will take at least a few years to result in anything ready for the market) because the price of gasoline has recently dropped precipitously is, to be blunt, stupid. This is the equivalent of saying that it would be a waste of money to repair a hole in your roof because the rain clouds dissipated. There might be other reasons to not repair the roof, but the fact that it is temporarily sunny is not one of them.
11.25.2008 9:34am
Sarcastro (www):
[Just Dropping By it's the means, not the ends that David Bernstein is attacking.

That being said, I disagree with David that government spending is bad news.

Government spending has yeilded good results in the past. The government subsidized the creation of the canals, telegraph lines, railroads, electrical grid, highways, and the Internet. Government invests in R&D when private firms don't, like in the case of the windows computer interface.]
11.25.2008 9:45am
davidbernstein (mail):
Announcing that it is a waste of money to research alternative fuels (which will take at least a few years to result in anything ready for the market) because the price of gasoline has recently dropped precipitously is, to be blunt, stupid.
Well, I'm not going to call what you wrote stupid, but I didn't say that it's a waste of money to research alternative fuels, I said that if the government wants to encourage such research, as it likely should, the way to do it is to keep the price of fossil fuels high, not to invest in the technologies itself.
11.25.2008 9:46am
Joe Bingham (mail):
Just Dropping By,

Wow, you really didn't read the post, did you? Every time I resolve to be more polite, people come and tempt me to throw around derogatory words. Please... Just... Stop... read... the... freaking... post.
11.25.2008 9:47am
dq (mail):
I completely agree... but don't make this a democrat or republican issue. Both wanted to take away the gas tax during the election.

A carbon tax is the only way this country will become "greener."
11.25.2008 9:54am
A.C.:
Government funding for basic research, which means fundamental principles... good. Yes, even if some of it doesn't result in usable products, because you can never be sure in advance which basic research will and which won't.

Government funding of basic infrastructure that helps the private sector function better... good unless too corrupt.

Government putting incentive structures in place to encourage the private sector to move in a certain direction... could be good, bad, or indifferent depending on circumstances, and you have to argue each case.

Government deciding which new technology to bring to market and which to let die on the vine... very, very bad. The government will never have as much information as the marketplace, so it will often decide wrong and crowd out what would have been right.

You've got to draw these distinctions. The government-all-good crowd and the government-all-bad crowd are equally silly.
11.25.2008 9:55am
Thales (mail) (www):
I agree with DB (and so does that bastion of leftist thought, The Economist) that there should be a carbon tax, and I think government should fund basic and applied research (perhaps with carbon tax revenues) into alternative fuels. I don't think it should try to pick in advance the private sector winners with subsidies. And anything made from corn should definitely not be subsidized--it's even worse, all in, than burning gasoline.
11.25.2008 9:55am
JB:
Bernstein makes good points, but sadly, due to the incompetence of the Republicans, we don't have the choice of doing it his way. We have Obama's topheavy government-central attempts, or the Republicans' head-in-the-sand Inhofe "Global warming isn't happening" approach.

If the Republicans were to make the case that market solutions were the best way to handle alternative fuels and climate change, they would gain a lot of ground. But they're not--they show no sign of willingness to address the issue at all, and thus have left the field to the Democrats.

I hope the 2012 Republican Presidential Candidate says what Bernstein says in this post, when asked about climate change in the campaign. It's the only thing that could stop this issue from being a Democrat landslide-maker.
11.25.2008 9:56am
Terry:
I don't know about the rest of you but I can't wait for my fuel and power to cost more through higher taxes. Not only will it take away from my income directly, but it will indirectly make everything that uses fuel or power to make or ship goods or food more expensive.

We need to subsidize inefficient and intermittant solar and wind power because the private sector won't make any money on that kind of "investment." Besides, how else would we be able to show that the global cooling in recent years (measured by all satellite systems) was entirely natural (as was the warming). Go Green!!

Stupid Republicans, how naive of them to believe that their promised income tax cut would be nothing more than a shell game. Let's start taking away my money with one hand, give some of it back with another and slapping the old "tax cut" label on it.
11.25.2008 10:07am
Curt Fischer:
I can imagine hypothetical scenarios where a general stimulus such as a carbon tax results in private R&D for alternative fuels...but not in this world.

Most corporations have little capacity or talent for long term exploratory research. The past two decades have seen public companies' time horizon shrink to not much farther than the next quarter. Central R&D facilities at many companies have been replaced with R&D integrated into company business units--for example, look at Bell Labs. Such moves may have certain benefits, but fostering a creative research environment focused on generating new ideas which, years later, turn into fundamentally new technologies, is not one of them.

Universities are thus the primary place where exploratory research happens in the US. They are used to getting most of their research money from the Feds.

If you don't like the idea of government investment in technology research, and would prefer that it be funded by private organizations, I guess that is fine. But putting in a carbon tax instead of direct government R&D investment is more a necessary than a sufficient condition for stimulating company R&D. Getting C-level execs and boardroom members to move past their obsession with quarterly numbers is probably one problem that need fixing. Universities would probably need to change the way their graduate degree programs are oriented too.

I'm not an expert in R&D policy, but I'm sure there are many other policy changes that would be needed to shift R&D from universities taking federal money to private companies doing it all on their own.
11.25.2008 10:10am
mga (mail):
If one wants to reduce gasoline consumption and encourage high mileage vehicles, raising the tax on gasline is the best way to do it. It will also never happen. If voters pay an extra fifty cents a gallon in taxes, they know who is resposible for the cost. If Congress imposes higher CAFE standards on automakers, the extra cost will be blamed on the automakers.

The central problem is that a "green" world is going to cost an enormous amount of money and no one is willing to say so publicly.
11.25.2008 10:21am
Terry:
JB, the one's with their heads in the sands are the catastrophic global warm-ongers. Look at the satellite data (which is not affected by the urbanization that renders the land stations unreliable to detect a tenth or hundreth of a degree increase or decrease). The satellite data from Hadley &UAH has demonstrated that "global warming" peaked in 1998 (or as the UN Secretary General once admitted global warming "plateaued" in 1998) and global cooling has occurred in recent years. Look at the satellite data for yourself before you start talking about people with their heads in the sand.
11.25.2008 10:23am
Preferred Customer:

I don't know about the rest of you but I can't wait for my fuel and power to cost more through higher taxes. Not only will it take away from my income directly, but it will indirectly make everything that uses fuel or power to make or ship goods or food more expensive.


Terry, obviously no one wants to pay higher taxes, or impose costs on energy that trickle throughout the economy--the only reason to do so is if there are compelling benefits that could be derived from those policies that outweigh the short term expense. There are at least two benefits, irrespective of your views on global warming:

1. National security: A large share of our energy comes from areas of the world that are either unstable or actively hostile to US interests. Investments in green energy (e.g., wind power, solar, or other energy that could be generated from "fuel" in the US) could decrease the influence that such geographic regions necessarily have over our policies.

2. Evening out "spiky" energy costs. Oil prices tend to be characterized by periods of low prices and low investment, followed by periods of high prices and high investment. This makes developing a coherent business plan for research into alternatives very difficult. Assuming that we eventually do want to replace fossil fuels, since the supply ultimately is finite, it may be useful to have government step in and ease this boom/bust cycle of oil prices in order to give private enterprise a more stable market in which to operate.
11.25.2008 10:26am
Steagles:
JB wrote:
Bernstein makes good points, but sadly, due to the incompetence of the Republicans, we don't have the choice of doing it his way.


Republicans have controlled the White House for 28 of the past 40 years. Plenty of opportunity to deal with the issue of American dependence on foreign oil, at least starting in 1973.

In this decade alone, the GOP had ample time to legislate a blue print for private industry to pursue green technology aggressively. Didn't happen.

As for DB's tax-policy choices, I agree and disagree. A carbon tax is a must. The question is how much.

But DB's opposition to taxing "jobs" seems overbroad. That's not what Obama's proposed during the campaign? First, America does not tax particular jobs. It taxes only net income from labor above a certain amount.

Second, Obama is proposing to allow Bush's tax cuts at the highest level to expire -- not raise taxes on all labor. [Any objection should be directed at Bush's 2001 tax-cut. He's the one who said his tax cuts should only be temporary. And if Bush didn't mean that, I guess he just wasn't leveling with us.]

The issue of taxation is always one of fairness. With a carbon-tax increase, not everyone needs relief.

The United States's fiscal policy has been run like we're a Banana Republic the past 8 years -- massive tax cuts coupled with massive spending increases, which the tax cuts did not pay for. Arthur Laffer's theory has never been supported by reality.

Moreover, the dollar, relative to commodities and other currencies is collapsing. The Fed is now funneling billions of more dollars into the financial system, which will further devalue the dollar, to prop up the economy.

Sorry, DB, the voters seem to have rejected the argument that raising any income taxes, regardless of bracket, is always bad. The opinion of the voters this election was they don't care if it's correct or not.

And the past 28 years, IMO, has not borne out that proposition. At least if measured in terms of where we find our national debt and the dollar. [On the other hand, the longer the dollar slides, the greater the eventuality that America will once again become a net exporter . . . I just don't expect to be alive when that happens.]
11.25.2008 10:28am
Conrad Bibby (mail):
Sarcastro: A lot of your examples of govt investment were in public works construction, not R&D. Based on that model, I would much prefer the govt invest in improving and expanding the electrical grid. It does no good to try to switch to electric cars if we don't have the infrastructure capacity to keep all of the news cars charged up.

As for R&D spending, the problem with using govt funds is that it becomes a competition to get the govt money rather than a competition to build a better mousetrap. Private investors will only invest in enterprises that hold the promise of future profits. Govt bureaucrats have no profit motive, and therefore will make "investment" decisions based on irrelevant criteria, such as the persuasiveness of lobbying efforts, the business' political connections, or pure guesswork.

I'm not suggesting the govt should never fund investment in R&D. I would simply borrow BHO's maxim that we need to use a scalpel rather than a hatchet. We should be in identifying circumstances where govt investment makes sense. We should also explore other ways to incentivize successful private investment in the energy sector. Why not eliminate capital gains on new energy companies? Give them longer patents. Use govt money to fund prizes for coming up with certain technological breakthroughs. Simply throwing a lot of fed money into the pool isn't the answre.
11.25.2008 10:30am
Sarcastro (www):
[Conrad Bibby I agree government spending is best when targeted. Indeed, such a maxim seems self-evident to me. I am not a student of fiscal policy, however. Are there many examples of government not targeting it's spending?

Additionally, it seems infrastructure investment, or "green collar" jobs are a component of Obama's stimulus plan. I’m all for that, since I think the New Deal went well, but your mileage may vary.]
11.25.2008 10:38am
Ms. Mae (mail):
NASA, Manhattan Project, NIH...government research has never led to technological innovation! It's just communism in disguise.


R&D spending, the problem with using govt funds is that it becomes a competition to get the govt money rather than a competition to build a better mousetrap.


Do you have any idea how federal grant programs really work? Badly designed projects, and programs with a history of having no successful outcomes, will not win grants. Grantwinning is largely meritocratic.
11.25.2008 10:40am
Terry:
Preferred Customer,

I agree we should pursue policies to wean off of foreign oil but I do not think that "green" tech will ever get us there.

We have known, reliable sources of energy available that we do not use in oil (ANWR, Off-shore, Oil-shale, etc.) as well as nuclear power and coal-liquification (we have hundreds of years of coal in the US). Use the technology we already have!
11.25.2008 10:41am
ShelbyC:

the way would be to slap a tax on fossil fuels


But this would cause a myriad of gas saving behavior that would be too small to trace, like people comuting shorter distances, driving less, carpooling. Sure, you'd have a great increase in efficiency, but the administration wouldn't get any credit.
11.25.2008 10:41am
Elliot123 (mail):
Exactly what is he going to buy with the money? For example, in wind energy, what is he going to buy with the money? We know how to build very good windmills. What does "invest in alternative energy" mean?
11.25.2008 10:50am
wm13:
"Moreover, the dollar, relative to commodities and other currencies is collapsing."

This morning's WSJ shows the dollar UP 14.99 percent over the past 52 weeks, and 12.24 percent year to date. Oil (which I think counts as a commodity) is DOWN 43.22 percent year to date. So I recommend ignoring everything Steagles says.
11.25.2008 11:09am
SeaDrive:
The Gov't brought us the ethanol programs. Are we happy?

Nixon talked about energy independence, but it was way too early. The technology was not ready. (Nor was the political will, but that is a different story.) I would guess that as of now we are about half way towards the mix of technologies that will replace the current mix of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and fission. It's beginning to be clear that it will have more components with the addition of solar, wind, etc.

From a long range planning point of view, a very important but murky area is the conversion of biomass to liquid fuel. There are contenders in this market that are just now moving to large scale production and we will be learning about unintended consequences of each (as with the effect of the ethanol programs on the corn market).
11.25.2008 11:09am
A.C.:
I believe they extended the production tax credit on wind power last month, before the election. I suppose they could extend it again. My understanding is that development in that area is doing fine with that credit, and without any other heroic government effort behind it. It seems to be most popular in rural America, not exactly Obama territory, because that's where the land for it can be found. (We all know what happened when they tried to put that wind farm off Cape Cod.) The folks carrying the ball are companies like GE and Siemens, not the government. People are already discussing the environmental impacts of putting wind farms on public land.

So, yeah, what Elliot123 said. What else can the government buy? What else is there? I'd be interested in hearing more about that guy in Texas experimenting with all the algae. I guess some government money could go there, as it has in the past, but there seems to be a lot of commercial interest as well. So, again, what is the government's role?
11.25.2008 11:13am
George Smith:
KenB, while I agree that Juan and Michellita are headed in the direction of Argentina, I'm betting on pre-Thatcher England as our ultimate destination.
11.25.2008 11:13am
Sarcastro (www):
[Couldn't the governemnt buy some of those very good windmills?]
11.25.2008 11:18am
the emperor (www):
You're right, and every sensible person knows you're right. What we need is a politician with the guts to make the case for that to the public. To date, I have not seen anyone do it, even supposed environmentalist Al Gore.
11.25.2008 11:26am
Pon Raul (mail):
"the feds could have enacted a variable tax designed to kick in when the price at the pump fell below, say, $3.00, which would have acted to keep the price of gas at $3 or above."

This isn't a great idea. Why would anyone then charge less then $3 a gallon if doing so would require them to pay a tax that makes up for the difference?
11.25.2008 11:28am
trad and anon (mail):
What income tax cut? He's promising to raise my income taxes. I guess I'm just a Kulak now.
Step 1: Increase the top marginal income tax rate by three percentage points.
Step 3: Serfdom!
11.25.2008 11:34am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
I agree with this sentiment in principle, but we are aware that there is a reason no Democrat or Republican will propose raising gas taxes, right?
11.25.2008 11:38am
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

To date, I have not seen anyone do it, even supposed environmentalist Al Gore.


Your'e wrong. As usual, Gore was ahead of the curve in proposing an increase to the gas tax in 1993.
11.25.2008 11:41am
SG:
If the Republicans were to make the case that market solutions were the best way to handle alternative fuels and climate change

Market solutions are the best way to handle alternative fuels, but are not the best way to handle climate change. Unless we're very, very lucky, the most economically efficient energy sources are unlikely to be the most ecologically benign. Given that assumption, climate change will be a collective action problem and will require governmental action.
11.25.2008 11:46am
q:

But DB's opposition to taxing "jobs" seems overbroad. That's not what Obama's proposed during the campaign? First, America does not tax particular jobs. It taxes only net income from labor above a certain amount.

Taxing labor is pretty much taxing "jobs," insofar as society values jobs because of that labor. Bernstein's basic point is that we should tax things we don't like (carbon), not things we do like (people working).


Sorry, DB, the voters seem to have rejected the argument that raising any income taxes, regardless of bracket, is always bad. The opinion of the voters this election was they don't care if it's correct or not.

It's unreasonable to say the voters accepted Obama's announced policies wholesale and rejected McCain's policies wholesale. But even if it was reasonable, it's not surprising that a majority of people would support a tax increase on 1% of the highest-earners. A negative externality if I ever saw one.

Basically, it's useless to say the best policy is simply what our representatives say is the best policy, just because the majority voted for them. There are more sophisticated ways of determining the consequences of certain policies.
11.25.2008 11:49am
SG:
I agree with this sentiment in principle, but we are aware that there is a reason no Democrat or Republican will propose raising gas taxes, right?

I'd like to see a revenue neutral carbon tax, with the revenue raised offset by an elimination of payroll taxes. Given the current energy sources, a carbon tax would in essence function like a consumption tax (which I'm in favor of) and eliminating payroll taxes should provide some economic stimulus, especially with job creation. I *think* you could make it work politically.
11.25.2008 11:50am
PragmaticLiberal (mail):
Im tired of disingenuous posts from cynical conservatives that they support environmental goals through a politically non-viable gas tax. The moment a gas tax is enacted, conservative talk shows and publications will launch a vicious campaign against it, and Prof Bernstein will be mysteriously silent.

Yes, billions will be wasted in the fiscal stimulus, but at least its viable and more likely to be of use than the trillions sunk in to Iraq, or the financial system.
11.25.2008 11:52am
Electricfunk:
Why don't we set up a program similar to the X-prize instead of taxing people into the dirt. Putting the equivalent of a sin tax on gas is idiotic. Don't even get me started on how much of a boondoggle government funded R&D would be.
11.25.2008 11:53am
q:

Market solutions are the best way to handle alternative fuels, but are not the best way to handle climate change.

Markets that properly price things are the best way to balance environmental need with modern, human needs (for lack of a better term; I do realize the environment is important insofar it affects human livelihood); if all we cared about was the environment, we could always go back to the stone age, but nobody except the extremists would make that trade-off. The trick is getting the market to properly price things, and a carbon tax goes a long way to getting there.
11.25.2008 11:53am
Eli Rabett (www):
The big problem is the free rider issue, thus Eli Rabett's simple plan to save the world

Nations wishing to make major progress on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions should introduce emission taxes on all products. These taxes should be levied on imports as well as domestic goods at the point of sale, and should displace other taxes, such as VAT, sales taxes, and payroll (e.g. social security, health care) in such a way that tax revenues are constant, and distributed equitably.

These should be introduced as an Emissions Added Levy (avoiding the bad jokes). EAL would be imposed on sale for emissions added in the preceding step and inherent to the consumption of the product, as would be the case for heating oil and gasoline. Manufacturers would pay the EAL on electricity they bought, and incorporate this and the levy on emissions they created into the price of the product they sell.

Imports from countries that do not have an EAL would have the full EAL imposed at the time of import. The base rate would be generic EALs based on worst previous practices in the countries that do have EALs, which would be reduced on presenting proof that the actual emissions were lower.

All countries with EAL systems would reserve a portion (say 5%) for assisting developing countries with adaptations (why not use acclimations?) and mitigating programs.

By basing the levy on emissions rather than carbon all greenhouse gases stand on a common level, sequestration is strongly encouraged as well as such simple things as capturing methane from oil wells and garbage dumps (that gets built into the cost of disposal). The multipliers would come from CO2 equivalents on a 10 year basis.
11.25.2008 11:57am
ys:

trad and anon (mail):
What income tax cut? He's promising to raise my income taxes. I guess I'm just a Kulak now.
Step 1: Increase the top marginal income tax rate by three percentage points.
Step 3: Serfdom!

No, this is so 19th century! The proper way to deal with Kulaks is to use cattle cars to move them to where they belong. That way you'll beautify the place where they will be dumped while putting the underutilized cars to work - a nice stimulus package.
11.25.2008 12:00pm
Dick King:

Announcing that it is a waste of money to research alternative fuels (which will take at least a few years to result in anything ready for the market) because the price of gasoline has recently dropped precipitously is, to be blunt, stupid.


I can't help but to remember that when offshore drilling was on the docket, one of the arguments used against it was that it would take several years to add to our oil supply.

-dk
11.25.2008 12:02pm
Eli Rabett (www):
The lesson of the 70s is that no one will invest capital in energy efficiency or non-carbon based generation if there is not a floor on coal and oil prices.

As to taxes, what matters to people is the total tax bill. Carbon taxes could be used to offset reductions in payroll or sales taxes. Eli much prefers a tax to cap and trade which can more easily be gamed.
11.25.2008 12:04pm
Preferred Customer:

This isn't a great idea. Why would anyone then charge less then $3 a gallon if doing so would require them to pay a tax that makes up for the difference?


I don't think anyone would, but the point of the policy is to keep gas prices at $3 or above, in order to encourage conservation and to give a stable price point for alternative energy providers to use in their business plans. It's not necessarily to extract revenue for the government--that would be an incidental benefit, if it ever occurred.
11.25.2008 12:04pm
trad and anon (mail):
The moment a gas tax is enacted, conservative talk shows and publications will launch a vicious campaign against it, and Prof Bernstein will be mysteriously silent.
You mean the moment a gas tax is proposed. Right now a gas tax is an idea with less support than your average lolcat. But if Obama were to say he actually supported such a thing conservatives would start an all-out-war.
11.25.2008 12:11pm
SG:
You mean the moment a gas tax is proposed. Right now a gas tax is an idea with less support than your average lolcat. But if Obama were to say he actually supported such a thing conservatives would start an all-out-war.

If a gas tax were proposed by itself, it would certainly be opposed. If a gas tax were proposed as part of a larger tax reform proposal (reducing and/or eliminating some taxes, creating and expanding other taxes) I'd hope it would the proposal would get a fair hearing. It doesn't mean it would automatically be supported, but a revenue neutral gas tax doesn't seem inherently offensive.
11.25.2008 12:25pm
David Welker (www):
A few points.

Fuel taxes are probably regressive. And they are also only partially avoidable. (You still have to drive to work and get groceries. You can't just change what car you drive instantly.)

I think to get a really serious amount of alternative fuel research going, these taxes might have to be pretty high. That is probably the last thing our economy needs right now. In contrast, direct spending by government could provide economic stimulus.

Anyway, it is not as though there are no disadvantages to this proposal.

Final point, Bernstein's assertion that this is a good way to "waste" money sounds a little bit faith-based. How does he know that such funds will not result in research that leads to some sort of new discovery? Clearly, he does not know that.
11.25.2008 12:30pm
David Welker (www):
Just Dropping By,

I think using the term "stupid" does not add but rather detracts from your argument.
11.25.2008 12:32pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Since WW II, the federal government has spent our tax dollars on research that would increase our national security, even when the chain of causation appeared rather long. For example, back in the 70s, the Department of the Army paid a friend of mine to study hydrogen embrittlement of steel, because the Army ran on oil, oil well drill bits were made of steel, and the hydrogen that accompanied oil deposits made the bits brittle, which made them wear out quickly. Research into alternative fuel development would thus also increase our national security, especially because, as McCain tirelessly reminded us, we "send $700 billion a year to people who don't like us very much" for fossil fuels.
11.25.2008 12:33pm
Dan Weber (www):
The big problem with replacing the income tax with a carbon tax is that it would work.

It would definitely cut down on carbon emissions, and so the folks who love to push for that couldn't any more.

It would definitely be economically conservative (better to tax consumption than production), but after the people on the other side of the fence have that done, what else are they going to rail about?

By giving the liberals and conservatives exactly what they want, they can't demand to be sent back to Washington to fix the problems The Other Side has caused.

(Yes, I'm a little over-the-top here. But just a little.)
11.25.2008 1:00pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Research into alternative fuel development would thus also increase our national security, especially because, as McCain tirelessly reminded us, we "send $700 billion a year to people who don't like us very much" for fossil fuels."

What alternative fuel?
11.25.2008 1:05pm
Kazinski:
There is nothing wrong with research into alternative fuels, especially fuels that can be used in military vehicles. After all we are not going to have E85 flex fuel destroyers, or M1 tanks in our arsenal.

Research is one thing, but absolutely no fuel subsidies. That is where the real waste comes in.
11.25.2008 1:18pm
first history:
With gas prices plunging . . . .

This alone demonstrates the shortsightedness of Republicans (and people in general). Anyone who believes that gas prices will remain at < $2.00/gallon for a great length of time is a fool. As soon as the worldwide economic recovery begins, oil prices will increase, and we will be right back where we started. The International Energy Agency predicts oil demand will increase 45% over the next 22 years, with China and India accounting for over half of incremental energy demand to and the Middle East emerging as a major new demand center, while at the same time output from currently producing fields will decline sharply. The US Energy Information Administration forecasts the average price of a barrel of oil to be around $63 next year, but will no doubt be higher in future years as the economy recovers and demand increases.
11.25.2008 1:18pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Bernstein writes:

"Better to tax something we don't like (fossil fuels)..."


But we do like fossil fuels-- that's we we use so much of them. And we like like fossil fuel for a good reason: energy density. Nothing else so readily stores so much energy in such a small volume so cheaply. Without that high density we wouldn't have cars and trucks.

What we don't like about fossil fuels is the cost and the need to import so much of them. What we need is a reliable source of fossil fuels at a reasonable price, and we have it-- the Canadian Tar Sands. However if oil drops below $60 a barrel, then Tar-sand-derived oil is not profitable enough. Thus it makes sense to tax imported oil so it costs at least $60/barrel. At present, that's not too much of a tax, but the signal would be unmistakable-- the price of oil will stay around $60 for a long time, and we can rely on that.

What are these "alternative" fuels that need so much costly research? Hydrogen? Hydrogen is more an energy storage than a source because you still need feedstock energy to make the hydrogen. Hydrogen leaks, hydrogen degrades metal and hydrogen can be dangerous-- hydrogen really can't compete. A new high energy density battery? Very good idea and this technology should receive a lot of attention, but I wouldn't bet on it. Pretty much all the "alternative" fuels don't replace liquid fossil fuels, and only provide an alternative feedstock. That's their basic problem.

Show me how wind turbines are going power your car without a very long extension cord or a radically new battery technology.
11.25.2008 1:23pm
Smokey11:
I'm enjoying the irony of reading this on the internet, which started as a government-funded project.
11.25.2008 1:27pm
Eric Henriksen:
DB -

If I wanted to be snarky I could point out that had you spent the election season focused on policy issues rather than on Ayers and other such errata you might now have a better understanding of what Obama's energy plan actually consists of beyond the simplistic sales pitch.

Obama has proposed a Cap &Trade + Auction scheme which would achieve much the same thing as a carbon tax. Personally, I would prefer a straightforward carbon tax because it's more transparent and easier to implement, but Cap &Trade is viewed by many as the more politically viable approach.

The investment aspects of Obama's plan are mostly focused on an assortment of taxbreaks, direct funding for pure research, and infrastructure upgrades. Insofar as his plan calls for investments which would put the government in the position of having to pick the winning horses from a field of competing technologies, he has proposed the creation of a Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund which would be modeled after the CIA's In-Q-Tel program.

Gristmill has covered the highlights and also has the full plan available in html format.
11.25.2008 1:34pm
Kazinski:
Eli,
The problem with your EAL is that it will condemn hundreds of millions of people to continued poverty. And poverty is much worse for the environment than prosperity.

The developed world has the capacity to build the nuclear power plants needed to produce manufactured goods with the lowest EAL. However the developing world doesn't have the capital to upgrade their entire power systems. The EAL will make their goods uncompetitive, and will further restrict their access to capital.

We need to have an environmentalism with a human face.
11.25.2008 1:35pm
davidbernstein (mail):
Eric, I dunno, today I read that the Obama Administration is planning to "invest in" (waste money on) windmills.
11.25.2008 1:44pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Thi is the most promising energy story I've seen for a long time. Mini nuclear reactors powering 20,000 homes for $25 million. (I don't know if that includes the steam generating plant.) They are buried 50 feet underground in concrete cubes two meters square. No moving parts. Rods are not used. The reactor design has been used for fifty years by students.
11.25.2008 1:47pm
Elliot123 (mail):
11.25.2008 1:52pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
Yeah, that's the solution. Tax gas until we're up to $7 a gallon like Europe. That will really speed the recovery. And it's not like gas makes up a much larger portion of lower income people's spending than the rich, so it won't be regressive at all.

How did this blog get a reputation of being libertarian-ish again?

The best thing would just be to cut taxes and spending, cut taxes and spending, and then cut taxes and spending. Then the market would sort things out. Oh, and stop the Federal Reserve from printing money and creating credit.

But if you were a politician and wanted to appear to be doing something while actually causing the least harm possible to the economy you could encourage businesses and individuals to spend on green initiatives by offering very generous tax deductions and credits. It would reduce the overall tax load and as money flowed to that area the successful firms and their competition could earn profits by actually serving customers and fund their own R&D.

One thing that might be worth a look is making utilities buy power from people with solar panels when they feed it back into the grid at about the market price at the time when it was produced. Most current arrangements have the meter run backwards, which allows the utilities to take the very expensive peak power and charge other users the expensive peak rates and then pay the solar panel guys back with much cheaper off-peak power. If they had to pay the solar guys at about the spot price it's possible it would make the incentives to install extra solar production more attractive.

High gas taxes, in my opinion, would be Krugtarded.
11.25.2008 2:02pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Eric Henriksen:

The Obama energy plan at your "full plan" link does not give one confidence that he understands economics and energy technology. The plan as written there is littered with trendy buzz words that don't stand up to scrutiny. For example
Invest in Basic Research: Obama will federal double science and research funding for clean energy projects including those that make use of our biomass, solar and wind resources.
All of those projects have severe technical problems which we could go through one by one. With the possible exception of biomass, none would produce the liquid fuels we need for our fleet or cars and trucks. However biomass is usually a net consumer of fossil fuel because of the energy inputs. Obama cannot repeal the laws of thermodynamics.
11.25.2008 2:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Mini nuclear reactors won't supply liquid fuels. You could charge an electric car, but without a radically new battery that car won't travel far enough.
11.25.2008 2:12pm
Virginian:

Obama cannot repeal the laws of thermodynamics.


He can heal the planet and control the oceans. I would think that he could also repeal the laws of thermodynamics if he wanted to.
11.25.2008 2:14pm
ForWhatItsWorth:
David B: "...Eric, I dunno, today I read that the Obama Administration is planning to "invest in" (waste money on) windmills...."

His new name will then be, Barak "Don Quixote" Obama..... right?
11.25.2008 2:23pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Mini nuclear reactors won't supply liquid fuels. You could charge an electric car, but without a radically new battery that car won't travel far enough."

Correct. I doubt there is any source that meets all out needs. But, for many (not all) drivers a hybrid that goes 40 miles electric on a charge would nearly eliminate them as consumers of liquid. We have those batteries.

I note the mini nuke was developed with government money at Los Alamos, and I also note it wasn't alternative fuel.
11.25.2008 2:24pm
James Gibson (mail):
This is how a rational idea turns into irrational. What started as a discussion on the value of a tax on fuel to help bridge the gap between all these expenses to resurrect the economy, degenerated to CAFE standards and carbon taxes.

CAFE standards simply got us into this mess by driving the invention of the Mini-van or SUV, which the Clinton's backed back in the 1990s. How many people did I know who owned these monsters because they were the In-thing, and not because they had a legitimate need for such a big vehicle. We need rational systems, not rigid standards that allow the PT Cruiser to be called a car for Smog check, but treated like a truck for fuel economy.

As for carbon taxes, you mean Carbon scam. The Carbon tax people are pushing this to get into the carbon credit and trading business. That's the next hedge fund system were the advocates will make millions trading and speculating until the majority of the world figures out its just a scam.

What we need is something rational. Such as a 15 cent gas tax, reducing to 10 cents when gas reaches $2.50 a gallon (reg) and then dying when Gas gets to $3.00. The idea is to artificially keep the price elevated to keep people actively conserving, otherwise the SUVs will start coming out of mothballs and oil usage will rise again. As for the money generated send 5 cents on every gallon to fund improvements in fuel efficiency and hybrid development. As for the rest, put it to the cost of these bailouts to keep the budget from going completely out of whack.

By the way, I left room for a 5 cent gas tax to be put on by the individual states, like California. States that also have let their financial situation go completely out of control banking on the realestate market, hedgefunds, etc. Otherwise some of the Federal tax would have to go to bailing out these states.

How long will this tax exist, anyone's guess. I long concluded that the rise in oil prices was due to speculation that the US would invade Iran and the speculation kept building on itself. Now with the Hedgefunds dying this speculation has dropped and so has the prices. This should last for several years as the oil price drop in the early 80s took over a decade to undue.
11.25.2008 2:29pm
Virginian:
The federal govt should be supporting a program to massively increase the number of nuke plants (a big part of this support must be legislation to prevent contstruction-stalling lawsuits) so we too can get 75-80% of our power from nuclear. Similar efforts must be made to support modernizing and expanding the transmission infrastructure (with similar legislation to prevent lawsuits and NIMBYism). Then fund research into batteries, so that plug-in hybrid and pure electric vehicles have acceptable ranges.

In the meantime, exploit all domestic oil supplies.

Solar and wind will never provide more than a tiny fraction of our energy needs. They are simply not reliable enough (the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine), and have a huge footprint.
11.25.2008 2:31pm
James Gibson (mail):
Also to A Zarkov and Elliot123: if the NRDC has anything to say on it, Obama probably won't advocate any form of nuclear. He's being pushed towards Solar while other in his party are pushing Windmills. Hydro-electric is out because the Greens are trying to dynamite dams, not build them.

As for Obama's use of Buzz words, thats all he is is Buzz words. When he stated we could cut oil consumption by tuning our cars and checking tire pressure, he showed all he is is a student of political mantra's. We don't check tire pressure, we put nitrogen in to maintain pressure. We don't tune cars, we have the car's computer self-adjust the fuel mixture while driving. Even his call for a new CCC and the begining of WPA projects part two show he doesn't have a new idea in his head, just a head full of tried concepts that just need a new advocate.

My hope is the people he puts incharge of the Department of Energy, commerce, EPA, etc have the brains and the new ideas to get us out of this mess.
11.25.2008 2:40pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"But, for many (not all) drivers a hybrid that goes 40 miles electric on a charge would nearly eliminate them as consumers of liquid. We have those batteries."

The problem is the cost of the battery and how many charges before you need to replace it. The electricty to charge the battery isn't free either. Advocates of these alternative vehicles schemes often neglect the cost of capital. Then there is the energy it takes to manufacture the battery and disposal costs.When you add all this up, the electric car loses its appeal. If we use Canadian Tar Sands as a liquid fuels source, then we don't have to replace our auto fleet. Being able to use the already installed capital base is a real plus. Moreover, I'd like to know where Obama is going to get the investment capital for all this. The Citi-Group rescue is coming in at $300 billion and that's added to the already committed $3.5 Trillion on other bailouts. Then Obama wants to spend $500 billion on a new "stimulus package."

Please someone tell me where all this money is coming from to spend on alternative technologies. We are not only broke, we're deeply in the hole.
11.25.2008 3:08pm
David Welker (www):
A. Zarkov,

Your proposal has the disadvantage of leaving us dependent on oil. And it really does not matter if we use oil from Canada or oil from Saudi Arabia. Oil is a fungible commodity.

Ideally, we would find alternatives to oil which would permanently reduce its value and thereby improve our national security. You may say this is impossible until your blue in the face. I am sure that many felt that way about many other technological advances.

The only way to expand the realm of technological possibility is through research.

Some, like Bernstein, would prefer to provide incentives for such research through increasing taxes on fossil fuels, thereby giving the private sector a greater incentive to develop alternatives. I think that is a very expensive way to fund such research, given the state of the economy and the fact that such taxes would be regressive. But, it sounds like we are on the same page when it comes to the basic idea that we need to develop alternatives. You, in contrast, appear to prefer to take actions to reinforce the feasibility of the status quo.
11.25.2008 3:18pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"The problem is the cost of the battery and how many charges before you need to replace it. The electricty to charge the battery isn't free either. Advocates of these alternative vehicles schemes often neglect the cost of capital."

Of course that's a problem. I haven't encountered anything that doesn't have them. So what? The market and industry have solved thousands of problems before, so I see no reason to think they are insurmountable today.

And those tar sands? Go get 'em! It will take a huge amount of heat to get that stuff. The mini-nukes are perfect for the heat needed for retort extraction in remote locations.

Technologies will naturally replace each other as they prove themselves. Some are suitable for one need, some for another. We do have to point out the problems with each, but that's because they have to be solved and managed, not so we can dismiss the technology.
11.25.2008 3:28pm
devil's advocate (mail):
<blockquote>
I think the New Deal went well
</blockquote>

Homework: <i>The Forgotten Man</i> Amity Shlaes

<blockquote>
NASA, Manhattan Project, NIH.
</blockquote>


Space Shuttle, Clean Coal, DOEd . I think the broad sweep of history is against good results of government "investments". The bailout is prime example number one.

That said, production subsidies are a worse dislocation than research as mentioned on several threads above.

The best thing about a carbon tax is that it is regressive. So everybody wants it lower. But too much is conceded in ticking off a few purported externalities to justify a carbon tax without conceding the obvious, that its exceedingly useful and efficient.

And externalities such as foreign entanglements can be readily addressed by domestic exploration. The policy choice is not between a carbon tax and a war in Iraq.

Brian
11.25.2008 3:30pm
devil's advocate (mail):

that it's exceedingly useful and efficient


fossil fuel that is.

don't know what I did to turn off html in my post above, just takes talent I guess.
11.25.2008 3:34pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The mini-nukes are perfect for the heat needed for retort extraction in remote locations.

Oh boy, thousands of potential dirty bomb supplies spread all over the globe! What a grand idea!
11.25.2008 3:37pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Oh boy, thousands of potential dirty bomb supplies spread all over the globe! What a grand idea!"

The NRC disagrees. It's a design approved by the feds for use by students in universities spread all over the country.
11.25.2008 3:42pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Space Shuttle, Clean Coal, DOEd . I think the broad sweep of history is against good results of government "investments".

Water treatment for drinking and waste water. Name any private investment that has saved or improved more lives in the last one hundred fifty years, or in the entire history of mankind--other than soap--and we can start talking about how government wastes research money.
11.25.2008 3:44pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
It's a design approved by the feds for use by students in universities spread all over the country.

The design you link to has apparently not been built yet--it is a new one. The research reactors on college campuses in this country--and I believe there are a couple dozen or so--are all of conventional design, basically small water cooled reactors. And since 9/11, the security of these reactors has been mentioned as a serious concern since they do not have anywhere near the safeguards (as far as physical security--because of their small size the chance of a nuclear accident is much less than a commercial plant) as their commercial cousins.
11.25.2008 3:49pm
darrenm:

We have Obama's topheavy government-central attempts, or the Republicans' head-in-the-sand Inhofe "Global warming isn't happening" approach.


Out of curiousity, I bothered to look up what Inhofe actually said. Inhofe does not say "Global warning isn't happening". In a floor speech on January 4, 2005, he declare criticizes the claims of "catastrophic global warming" and the idea the "man-induced global warming" is anywhere near what some claim.

http://inhofe.senate.gov/pressreleases/climateupdate.htm
11.25.2008 3:59pm
A.C.:
I know why I can't have a car that plugs in. As I have said on innumerable threads, I don't have a house because I've been waiting out the ridiculous real estate boom. That means I live in an apartment building and park on the street. In a different space every night. Where am I supposed to plug my car in? And how does the electricity I use get charged back to me?

Actually, my more immediate problem is that I'd like to get a motorbike for short trips around town. They get good mileage, but I'm not going to get one because I have nowhere to keep it where it won't get ripped off. That's what happened to my regular bike.

This environmental stuff isn't just technological. A lot of the environmental innovations people come up with depend on the person implementing them having control of some real estate, often a significant amount. I've had people tell me that the only correct way to live is to go off grid and grow your own food, which is preposterous in an upstairs apartment.

Is there something disjointed about needing a house in suburbia so that I can compost, grow my own tomatoes, plug in my car, and keep some fool from making off with my bike?
11.25.2008 4:02pm
MarkField (mail):

Water treatment for drinking and waste water. Name any private investment that has saved or improved more lives in the last one hundred fifty years, or in the entire history of mankind--other than soap--and we can start talking about how government wastes research money.


Also basic sanitation rules: garbage collection and rules against refuse dumping; mosquito eradication; numerous other public health measures; food safety regulations; etc.
11.25.2008 4:07pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
garbage collection and rules against refuse dumping; mosquito eradication; numerous other public health measures; food safety regulations; etc.

That of course falls under regulation, which is also bad and evil.

Most people don't even realize that the reason the pork we eat is trichinosis free (and free of almost all diseases--you can actually eat pork rare if you wanted to) is that the federal government actually had to pass a law to prohibit the feeding of garbage to hogs destined for human consumption. Don't feed pigs garbage and they don't get human diseases.
11.25.2008 4:21pm
PC:
Also basic sanitation rules: garbage collection and rules against refuse dumping; mosquito eradication; numerous other public health measures; food safety regulations; etc.

Socialist!
11.25.2008 5:01pm
SeaDrive:


CAFE standards simply got us into this mess by driving the invention of the Mini-van or SUV,...



This logic of this argument escapees me completely.
11.25.2008 5:08pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Why is it Kazinski that as soon as someone suggests a way to deal with environmental problems, people whose entire contribution to curing poverty is to suggest cake as nutrition suddenly start whining about how it will hurt the poor who they never gave a damn for? Just asking so you can save the litany about how you contribute to xyz.
11.25.2008 6:00pm
BillW:
CAFE standards simply got us into this mess by driving the invention of the Mini-van or SUV, ...

SeaDrive: This logic of this argument escapees me completely.

CAFE standards were different for cars and trucks, with the latter lower. Auto makers improved their fleet averages for cars by cutting production of low-mileage vehicles like station wagons. Car buyers who wanted that sort of vehicle switched to vans and trucks converted to serve as passenger vehicles — minivans and SUVs.
11.25.2008 6:17pm
RPT (mail):
Mark Field:

Water treatment for drinking and waste water. Name any private investment that has saved or improved more lives in the last one hundred fifty years, or in the entire history of mankind--other than soap--and we can start talking about how government wastes research money.

Also basic sanitation rules: garbage collection and rules against refuse dumping; mosquito eradication; numerous other public health measures; food safety regulations; etc."

As Mr. Thomas confirmed, these are all interferences with the market, hence bad.
11.25.2008 6:25pm
alex9190:
There are examples of government-sponsored research initiatives creating revolutionary technologies. The Manhattan project is one example. Or consider the development of flat-screen TVs, which is dominated by Korean companies due to massive Korean government investment in the early-to-mid-nineties. See, `` US display industry on the edge,'' IEEE Spectrum, May 1995.
11.25.2008 6:54pm
Kazinski:
Eli,
Actually I have far greater cred as a humanitarian than just making meaningless contributions to xyz. I shop for almost all my clothes Walmart, making a far greater contribution to alleviating global poverty than mere contributions.

But I might also ask, why is it that so many AGW alamists, environmentalists, and trade protectionists, are so callous to the billions of people struggling at the margins around the world and want to deny them the fruits of rising prosperity. Not only that prosperity has been demonstrated time and again as the best program there is for population reduction, which is the most important factor in the long run for the environment.
11.25.2008 7:15pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

I know why I can't have a car that plugs in. As I have said on innumerable threads, I don't have a house because I've been waiting out the ridiculous real estate boom. That means I live in an apartment building and park on the street. In a different space every night. Where am I supposed to plug my car in?

Another abuser of the commons who thinks he's entitled to store his car at taxpayer expense. Rent space in a garage for your planet-destroyer instead of occupying valuable pavement. Reimburse the landlord for the current you use -- that should be part of the technical data.
11.25.2008 7:25pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
The only problem is that we get all our goods and services via fossil fuels. A tax on fossil fuels becomes a tax on everything.
11.25.2008 7:41pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
David Welker:

"Your proposal has the disadvantage of leaving us dependent on oil. And it really does not matter if we use oil from Canada or oil from Saudi Arabia. Oil is a fungible commodity."

What's the matter with being dependent on oil? Oil is great stuff. We're dependent on oxygen too, but we don't worry about oxygen because it's plentiful and free. If we exploit the Canadian Tar Sands, enhanced recovery, offshore oil and Alaskan oil, we've got a secure supply for a long time. I compute the Tar Sands alone would supply us with 47 years of fuel for automobiles using a very conservative conversion efficiency of 10%. Canada is not a hostile country or potentially hostile country like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Mexico. The issue is not supply alone. It's price and a secure supply.

"You may say this is impossible until your blue in the face. I am sure that many felt that way about many other technological advances."

I didn't say impossible, I said too costly. Besides your are using a faith-based argument here. Somehow if we do enough research then something wonderful will happen. It might, but I wouldn't bet on it. For example, we cannot exceed the theoretical maximum efficiency of a heat engine. For steel this means we are already achieved close the maximum, and that will not improve no matter how much research is done. Of course we could go to some kind of ceramic engine and run it hotter for greater efficiency.

Research is fine, but the prudent approach is to use known technology for long range planning.
11.25.2008 10:54pm
American Psikhushka (mail):
Eli Rabett-

Why is it Kazinski that as soon as someone suggests a way to deal with environmental problems, people whose entire contribution to curing poverty is to suggest cake as nutrition suddenly start whining about how it will hurt the poor who they never gave a damn for?

It's because you suffer from the common arrogant liberal conceit that only liberals can possibly care about poverty, etc. A lot of libertarians, as adults that actually understand economics, realize that the best way to reduce poverty is to have strong, vibrant economies that raise societal wealth and everyone's standard of living. They also realize that redistributism is largely harmful and counterproductive. For example communism is the ultimate in redistributism and the results are increased poverty, declining standards of living, economic stagnation, and often starvation. One can claim that they "care about the poor" while causing those conditions, but the truth is they will be harming the poor and everyone else.
11.25.2008 11:09pm
John Moore (www):
One problem with "green" alternative energy is that most forms require replacing a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure, not to mention obsoleting most of our vehicles and many of our industrial facilities.

That will go over real well in an economic downturn. For that matter, it would be ecnomically disastrous at any time if enough is done to cut CO2 emissions significantly.

Another problem is that there are a zillion different approaches to alternative energy, and it is utterly clear that so far, the "right" one hasn't emerged. Do we want another ethanol fiasco? If so, let's have the government choose the next great solution!

For national security purposes, it might be reasonable to set a floor on oil prices in the US, taxing oil to raise it to that floor. This would allow businesses to make long term investments and would encourage innovation, and allow the US to use its vast hydrocarbon assets.

-------------

The primary energy problem we face, however, is the insistence on low to zero CO2 emissions. This is based on an excessive use of the precautionary principle. The science of anthropogenic global warming is pathetic - which is why senior atmospheric scientists (once their retirement is secure) keep popping up and saying so.

The scary scenarios are not based on the physics of CO2 albedo effect, but rather on assumed positive feedback that amplifies that effect. Without that feedback, doubling CO2 is simply not an issue.

Models are used to measure this feedback ("climate sensitivity"). These models are not predictive. Instead, they attempt to measure "climate sensitivity" in conditions which have never been measured. They are inherently uncalibratable. They cannot deal well with the chaos in weather (and it's hard to simulate climate without either simulating weather or assuming it). There are many other problems with AGW science. The climatologists I know are horrified by the AGW politics.

On top of this, there is, as Eli noted, the free rider problem. I have yet to hear any solution to this, including Eli's.

So, if the science is weak and the solution inadequate (due to free-riders, among other things), it makes sense to expand our horizons.

First, we have lots and lots of hydrocarbons in the US and Canada - possibly more than the rest of the world put-together (oil sands, oil shale, coal, coal, oil, natural gas and coal). These hydrocarbons can be used to generate electicity, and iportantlm also be used as (lower grade than light crude) feedstock to produce gasoline and other fuels for mobile use. The only significant problem? CO2-phobia.

Nukes, unfortunately, are not going to do the job. NIMBY's and eco-whackos make nuke projects too expensive and unpredictable to attract enough investment. Harry Reid's Nevada, even though it houses the waste from many hundreds of underground nuclear tests, simply refuses to accept waste from our existing plants. We would have to invade Nevada to be able to bury the waste.

One other thing the government should do, however, is continue government research both into climate and into all sorts of energy technologies. It should also fund precautionary research into ameliorating the effects of all sorts of environmental processes, from AGW to earthquakes to hurricanes.
11.26.2008 2:08am
John Moore (www):
@American Psikhushka
It's because you suffer from the common arrogant liberal conceit that only liberals can possibly care about poverty, etc. A lot of libertarians, as adults that actually understand economics, realize that the best way to reduce poverty is to have strong, vibrant economies that raise societal wealth and everyone's standard of living.


This conservative agrees. The poverty issue is something which the left has never understood. The environmentalists don't realize that every time they knock a piece off of the GDP, some people in fourth world countries die. They ridicule this fact as "trickle down" - hence in their minds discrediting it.

The new administration is proposing to create a couple of million jobs working on alternative energy, etc. Supposedly this will help the economy. BUt it is more likely to hurt the economy, with consequent effects downstream towards the fourth world.

These sorts of programs are a result of the "broken window fallacy."

You can create jobs by going around breaking windows. Then window manufacturers and installers get more money and jobs.

Voila, we have "created new jobs."

Hopefully most folks here can see the folly in that.

Alternative fuels is a similar fraud. The jobs created by forcing alternative fuels are jobs doing work that did not have to be done before in the economy - just like repairing those broken windows. And it will cost - instead of breaking windows, we are discarding (obsoleting) current energy infrastructure.
11.26.2008 2:21am
Joey33 (mail):
Why don't you just move into an old folk's home in Florida and get it over with. Then you could complain all you want and you'd fit right in!
11.26.2008 2:57am
Elliot123 (mail):
"Nukes, unfortunately, are not going to do the job. NIMBY's and eco-whackos make nuke projects too expensive and unpredictable to attract enough investment."

We probably need to define exactly what "the job" is. It may be something that no single technology or fuel source can do, or it may be one which is best done by a variety. It's hard to know unless we also know what "the job" is.

So, what's "the job."
11.26.2008 11:00am
John Moore (www):
@Elliot123

Sorry I wasn't more specific. "The job" is provide significant electicity generation.
11.26.2008 11:58am
Smokey:
Eli Rabett:
The big problem is the free rider issue.
That's true. And "Eli" is one of the biggest free riders.
11.27.2008 12:02am