Good news from the EPA

by John Quiggin on April 19, 2009

The US Environmental Protection Authority has announced that emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases are a threat to public health, which opens the way for them to be regulated under the Clean Air Act, a measure once promised by George Bush as a presidential candidate but ferociously resisted by his administration.

As Brad Plumer explains here, the regulations will transform the Congressional debate over bills to introduce a national cap-and-trade system. In the absence of EPA regulations, and assuming continuation of current practices regarding the filibuster, the Republicans in the Senate could block any action as long as they could muster 41 votes (and of course, ratification of a treaty like Kyoto requires 66 out of 100 votes). But now the effect of a filibuster will be to leave the EPA to deal with the issue by regulation, which might include establishment of emissions trading schemes, as well as technological mandates to adopt best practice technology. Almost certainly, some Senate Republicans will prefer a deal where they get to protect some favored interests to a system of regulation over which they have no say.

The only other possibility for the Repubs, flagged by leading delusionist Senator Inhofe would be to pass legislation overriding the EPA determination. But Inhofe seems to have been drinking too deeply at the well of delusion, or else to be engaging in feelgood gestures – the likelihood of getting a Congressional majority for such an action is close to zero.

The EPA move is obviously a major step forward, and means that all governments in the developed world are now committed to reducing CO2 emissions (regardless of how much some would like to backslide on their commitments). The big question now is whether international negotiations can produce an agreement to stabilise the global climate or whether it will be politics as usual, with everyone trying to offer as little as possible.

At this stage, the omens don’t look that good. On the other hand, if you compare the situation now to that of, say, five years ago, when Bush and (in Australia) Howard were blocking any action at all, and climate section “sceptics” were still widely regarded[1] as serious participants in scientific debate, there has been a lot of progress.

fn1. Of course, they are still widely regarded that way in some quarters, but only by people who can’t be regarded as serious participants in debate of any kind.

{ 46 comments }

1

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 5:40 am

My prediction: filibuster in the Senate, heel-dragging through every stage of the regulatory lobby apparatus. It’s probably just as easy for industry to cut a deal through regulation as it is through legislation, and it delays matters for longer. Plus if the regulation has to be done under the Clean Air Act, it won’t be really suited to greenhouse gasses as well as something specifically designed for them would be, and industry will get to complain about that too.

Long-term enlightened self-interest would say that industry would be better off making a legislative deal now and then adjusting to it. But given that large American businesses preferred to go bankrupt rather than support health care reform, they are not really motivated by enlightened self-interest. The decision makers are motivated by class interest / ideology.

2

Slocum 04.19.09 at 1:23 pm

But for the U.S., is an international agreement really necessary now? I mean, all the EPA has to do is determine what the safe level of CO2 is to protect public health and then develop a plan for U.S. industries to reduce CO2 output until safe level have been achieved. Pretty simple. Isn’t that the way the clean air act has always worked?

3

Marc 04.19.09 at 1:47 pm

They will probably work on a proportional reduction in US emissions.

4

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 2:03 pm

Slocum, you’re not serious, right? I’ve lost track of whether you’re one of the delusional right-wingers or somebody who likes to mock delusional right-wingers.

But as mockery this fails, doesn’t it? Even they wouldn’t be that silly. Deciding on a unilateral “safe level” of drawing from a global commons?

5

Tom Fuller 04.19.09 at 2:29 pm

I believe this may turn out to be a mistake. If it’s used as a stick to force cap and trade through Congress, I can see the upside. However, if the EPA ends up making substantive regulations on CO2, it will a) likely err and b) give Republicans a stick with which to beat us for several years. Unelected bureaucrats! Calling a gas that is essential to life a pollutant! etc.

As most of you would (mistakenly) characterise my views as climate skepticism, you may feel free to take my thoughts with a grain of salt. But I hang out with them, metaphorically speaking, and I think I can see where the pushback will originate.

6

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 2:53 pm

Tom, see comment #1 above. Of course EPA will “err”: that’s part of the GOP game plan. There is no better option, because a few centrist Democratic senators have forced this to be a filibuster-able bill. Got a better option, other than “do nothing”?

7

Tom Fuller 04.19.09 at 3:11 pm

Er, actually, I do. I think the bulk of our emphasis should be on connecting the 1.6-2 billion humans who currently don’t have access to electricity to some grid, any grid, anywhere. Using the Millenium Development Goals as a mechanism…

The industrial world has gone from burning wood to coal to oil to gas. We are now trying to move less than 1 billion people (EU and US) from gas to a new means of generation. If we instead focussed our efforts on moving those in the third world from wood to oil or gas, we would lower CO2 emissions (deforestation causing 20% of manmade CO2, and less efficient forms of fuel releasing more pollutants, including CO2). We would reduce emissions of CO2. We would help the people on this planet who need it most. And you would get to shut cranks like me up forever.

Decarbonization proceeds at about 0.4% per annum. Energy efficient increases by about 1% per annum. I think our policy goal should be to make improvements in decarbonization at least equal to improvements in energy efficiency.

Thinking quantitatively, which would be more beneficial in your opinion? Moving 2 billion people from wood to natural gas, or moving 700 million from oil and natural gas to, well, something?

8

Daniel Rosa 04.19.09 at 3:59 pm

To Tom Fuller: that sounds a bit like a false dichotomy. It seems to me that the answer is both, if possible.

9

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 4:17 pm

Tom, that’s false. It’s not your-opinion-is-wrong wrong, it’s factually wrong. The people burning wood would not emit less carbon if they were moved to electricity generated via gas. They’d emit more. Electricity generation inefficiencies, grid inefficiencies, wood being biomass in the first place, people using more energy because now they can … the reasons why you’re wrong are so many that I can only consider your point to be another form of denialist obfuscation. If you’re sincere, then you’re so careless, you should be ashamed of yourself.

To forestall straw man #2, of course people without access to electricity should have it. So connect them to the grid, or give them independent power generators. The process of converting the grid to non-CO2 generating sources, or of developing local generators that are not CO2-generating, will help with that.

10

Tom Fuller 04.19.09 at 4:48 pm

Hi all, obviously I would encourage doing both–but as far as priorities go, I think that in this case the humane thing to do for the poorest on the planet is also the smartest thing we can do to combat greenhouse gases, pollution and conserving resources.
Rick, I’m glad your’e so convinced of your opinion. You might look at this before instantly assuming that I am careless or a denialist. You might start using that calculator before making judgements about the character of people you don’t really know very well.

I actually thought that this was so basic and well-known that it didn’t need much in the way of referencing–guess I was wrong.

Energy Comparison
1 pound of wood = 6,401 BTUs = 1.9 KWH
1 pound of coal = 13,000 BTUs = 3.8 KWH
1,000 cubic foot of natural gas = 1,000,021 BTUs = 299 KWH
1 gallon of oil = 138,095 BTUs = 40.5 KWH
1 gallon of propane = 91,500 BTUs 26.8 KWH

Natural gas provides the highest efficiency level followed by oil. Wood offers the lowest efficiency per pound at 1.9 KWH/lb and is followed by coal with twice the efficiency at 3.8 KWH/lb. Oil offers almost a 70% efficiency improvement over coal and propane is just slightly more efficient than coal.

Fuel Energy Efficiency
Wood = 1.9 KWH per pound
Coal = 3.8 KWH per pound
Natural Gas = 6.9 KWH per pound (liquid and gas measures are calculated at 6.3 pounds per gallon)
Oil = 6.4 KWH per pound
Propane = 4.3 KWH per pound

http://greenecon.net/how-to-measure-fuel-efficiency-energy-costs-and-carbon-emissions-for-home-heating/energy_economics.html

11

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 5:12 pm

Denialist. You use stats for home heating efficiency for a comparison which you stated as being between burning of wood by people off the grid and connecting them to the grid. Converting heat energy into electricity involves large losses. So does sending it over a grid. And, of course, CO2 within wood has just been taken out of the atmosphere / ecosphere, and returning it doesn’t add CO2 to the system in the same way that digging up natural gas does.

In other words, all of my original objections stand. Denialist.

12

Tom Fuller 04.19.09 at 5:13 pm

As this is pretty obviously all off topic, anyone who wishes to insult me further can do so at http://newsfan.typepad.co.uk/liberals_can_be_skeptics_/

13

Tom Fuller 04.19.09 at 5:14 pm

Denialist! Denialist! The parrot isn’t dead–it’s a denialist!

14

Tom Fuller 04.19.09 at 5:19 pm

Do the math. 700 million people move from 50% coal generated power to 0% coal. 2 billion people move from 100% wood/animal dung as fuel (killing more of them than does malaria) to some combination of coal/oil/gas. Just do the math instead of chucking insults at people you’ve never met.

What a jerk.

15

Walt 04.19.09 at 5:45 pm

Tom, you’re not really cut out for the Internet. Someone with your delicate sensibilities would be better served by throwing a dinner party or something.

16

Tom Fuller 04.19.09 at 5:48 pm

In case you do want to do the math… “The population of Mozambique’s capital Maputo relies to a large extent on wood fuel to meet its energy needs. The paper, based on a sample of 168 non-domestic and 240 domestic consumers, shows that domestic households constitute the most important wood fuel users in the city. Domestic consumption is now between 0.9 and 1.0 m3 of woody biomass per capita, an increase of more than 10% compared to data from the 1980s. This increase occurs despite a growing importance of alternatives such as paraffin, gas and electricity, and can be explained by the substitution of firewood by charcoal. The paper also shows a strong correlation between fuel consumption and socio-economic factors such as household size, area of residence and income. A striking feature is that similar to poorer families higher income households tend to use charcoal in combination with non-woody fuels, contradicting FAO’s (1993) “fuel ladder”. The paper argues finally that the importance of social economic factors inflicts a dynamism on fuel consumption patterns, which makes it necessary to monitor them on a regular instead of an ad hoc basis, as is the case now.”
Wood fuel consumption in Maputo, Mozambique
Roland Brouwer, and M.P.Mário Paulo Falcão
Department of Forest Engineering, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, Mozambique CP 257, Mozambique
Received 4 February 2003; Revised 15 October 2003; accepted 13 January 2004. Available online 20 April 2004

17

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 6:00 pm

No one who has looked into this at all could possibly not understand why burning “wood/animal dung” does not add to the overall carbon in the atmosphere, while burning fossil fuels does. Therefore Tom is a denialist — confirmed by a quick Google, which shows him spouting various denialist talking points elsewhere.

Tom, why should we waste any more time on you? You’re dishonest, you’re probably a paid flack, and you’re just trying to move the thread from what it’s about to a straw man of your own devising.

18

Slocum 04.19.09 at 6:08 pm

Slocum, you’re not serious, right?

No, you’re right — I was taking a piss.

If I were advising congressional Republicans, I’d suggest them adopting Rick Mahorn’s ‘pull the chair’ low-post defense. That is, Democrats have been promising to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while promising not to harm domestic industry or raise taxes or energy costs to the consumer substantially. That is flatly impossible, but Democrats have been able to get away with promising these mutually exclusive things because they’ve had the Republicans conveniently blocking them. So perhaps Republicans should get out of the way and let them run (or stumble).

My thoughts on the EPA regulating CO2 is that the Clean Air act was never designed or intended for global climate issues, and it should not be used as a ‘hack’ or ‘kludge’ to avoid the problem of democratically passing greenhouse gas regulation. To do so is a mistake, I think — if there is no majority behind greenhouse gas reductions when a transparent, honest accounting of the costs is on the table, then one of two things will happen, either:

1. AGW theater — a bunch of actions that look like strong measures, but in fact achieve little and cost little, or

2. Shortly throwing the bastards out of power that promised minimal costs but delivered big costs (which must happen if behavior is actually to change–as demonstrated, for example, by the gas price spikes of last summer).

19

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 6:35 pm

There is near-zero chance of the GOP trying a low-post defense. Nothing in contemporary politics can be understood without understanding the disjunction in interests between elites and their parties. The GOP leaders don’t care about GW one way or another; they don’t even really care much about industry. They care about outrage.

20

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 6:40 pm

And, by the way, your “it is flatly impossible” is also wrong. Not as provably wrong as Tom’s — but the cost of anti-GW measures is a couple of percentage points of the economy. (Stern Review estimates -1.0 to +3.5% of GDP, with an average estimate of approximately 1%, sicne revised to 2%). Here we get into what you mean by “substantially”.

21

Slocum 04.19.09 at 7:27 pm

And, by the way, your “it is flatly impossible” is also wrong. Not as provably wrong as Tom’s—but the cost of anti-GW measures is a couple of percentage points of the economy.

But even if that estimate of GDP effect is correct, that is beside the point. The point is that Americans are not going to live in smaller houses unless it costs much more to heat and cool the bigger ones. And they’re not going to buy small cars, drive less, and take public transit, if gas remains $2/gal. And the well-off lefties I know who profess to be very worried about AGW are not going to stop flying all over hell for the fun of it unless the cost to do so gets just too damn high. Or at least that is the way it seems so far — I’ve yet to detect any change in their behaviors based on environmental concerns alone.

The carbon costs (however they are imposed) must raise transport fuel prices and must raise home electrical and natural gas prices by a non-trivial amount to produce anything other than a trivial change in behavior — *that* is the point.

22

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 8:21 pm

“And the well-off lefties I know who profess to be very worried about AGW are not going to stop flying all over hell for the fun of it”

Aw, dude, you’re a denialist too, huh? Figures. Got those figures for Al Gore’s house all handy?

The point is to replace the infrastructure. Once the power plant runs on non-fossil-fuels, use as much electricity as you want. Once the cars run on electricity, ditto. Changing consumer behavior always was a loser issue; it’s a favorite of industry types who don’t want anything to be done, because it causes a vague feeling of guilt and nothing else. Even if everyone “stopped flying all over for the hell of it” who could, the result would be negligible.

23

John Quiggin 04.19.09 at 8:49 pm

Slocum, given that your ad hom is on my post, I’ll take it as directed at me. I have taken active measures to reduce my air travel, and to offset what I can’t eliminate.

http://www.uq.edu.au/rsmg/carbon-neutrality-policy-rsmg

I’ve also encouraged my university to adopt similar measures more broadly and to develop proper videoconferencing facilities.

As a regular reader you might have noticed this, since I’ve raised the point repeatedly here, for example:

https://crookedtimber.org/2008/05/05/videoconference-bleg/
https://crookedtimber.org/2007/06/23/the-myth-of-the-myth-of-the-paperless-office/
and
https://crookedtimber.org/2009/03/04/albany-moscow-video-conference/#comment-268133

24

Rich Puchalsky 04.19.09 at 9:08 pm

John, there will always be someone, somewhere, who is “flying all over hell for the fun of it”. Slocum et al can just come back with something like “But what about all those other people?” He’s making a bad faith argument that does nothing but mark him as another boring confusionaire.

I think it’s more straightforward to just smash into the ad hom directly. People use infrastructure mostly because they have to, and all the volunteerism in the world isn’t going to make a dent in the problem. Nor is changing behavior via consumer price signals going to do it. Consumers are forced to use whatever infrastructure is lying around; they can’t individually decide that they are going to de-build their local coal power plant, or only drive using one of a fleet of cars that hasn’t been designed or built. The fake austerity suggested by right-wingers is just a dodge, intended to protect corrupt and entrenched economic interests from their competitors in newer industries, nothing more.

25

onymous 04.19.09 at 9:36 pm

So when Tom was banned, it didn’t apply to all of CT?

26

John Quiggin 04.19.09 at 10:31 pm

We’re just a bit slack on the collective enforcement side (an expanded policy coming soon), and I was asleep while my Western Hemisphere commenters were arguing. Tom, consider yourself globally banned from CT.

27

Slocum 04.20.09 at 1:07 am

Slocum, given that your ad hom is on my post, I’ll take it as directed at me. I have taken active measures to reduce my air travel, and to offset what I can’t eliminate.

No, it was not directed at you–I don’t have any idea what kind of traveling you do. I live in Ann Arbor — I was talking about people I know. One guy is a scientist who actually studies climate change professionally. But I know the family — you’d be amazed (or maybe you wouldn’t) at the all non-professional traveling they do. Concern about AGW seems to have had no effect at all — but perhaps they salve their consciences by buying offsets for all the travel (they’re wealthy enough to do so–they’ll certainly be able to buy their way out of whatever carbon restrictions come along).

Many of these people I know have kids who are university age. So you’d assume maybe they’d encourage their kids to go to school closer to home to minimize the climate impact of travel, right? Not a chance. Multiple college visits across the country by air is SOP. And when the kids inevitably go to those east or west coast schools, there are many more flights back and forth for kids to come home for holidays and for parents to go visit. But of course I couldn’t ever point this out to any of them or I’d be about as popular in real life as I am on CT virtually. And obviously they would never call each other on it.

But it’s not as if they think that environmentally-motivated changes in personal behavior are irrelevant. They recycle like mad. They tote their re-usable grocery bags. They participate in fund-raisers for ‘Recycle Ann Arbor’. They try to buy local at the Farmer’s market. These things are just inconvenient enough to make them feel virtuous, but not inconvenient enough to have any noticeable impact on their lifestyles. But reducing travel *would* be a real sacrifice that would affect their lives — which is why my sense is that they’ll never do it unless they simply can’t afford to do otherwise.

Rich Puchalsky: The point is to replace the infrastructure. Once the power plant runs on non-fossil-fuels, use as much electricity as you want. Once the cars run on electricity, ditto. Changing consumer behavior always was a loser issue; it’s a favorite of industry types who don’t want anything to be done, because it causes a vague feeling of guilt and nothing else. Even if everyone “stopped flying all over for the hell of it” who could, the result would be negligible.

When (if) the power plants run on non-fossil fuels, electricity will cost a great deal more than it does now. The idea that wind and solar are going to replace coal at the same cost is a total fantasy. As we shall see. And it is not primarily ‘industry types’ who have advanced the idea of smaller houses, smaller cars, density, mass transit, ‘food miles’, etc — those are favorite issues on the environmental left, as anyone could easily discover that with the barest minimum of googling.

Are you really telling me that the typical environmental lefty believes that Americans can carry on living as always (big cars, big houses, big lawns, single-driver commutes around the suburbs), but spend no more of their income on energy, and still reduce carbon emissions by 90% by 2050 — and that anyone who says otherwise is an industry stooge trying to scare you? Really?

28

Tom Fuller 04.20.09 at 1:56 am

Mr. Quiggin,

Thanks for banning me globally from CT. As Henry Farrell was the one who rescinded the ban, you might have checked with him prior to doing so (see below). Was there some behaviour recently that caused you to ban me? You might pass on my regards to Mr. onymous–love those grasses. Guess you’ll just have to continue preaching to the converted.

Kind regards,

Tom Fuller

fromHenry Farrell
toTom Fuller

date13 April 2009 14:10
subjectRe: Banning
mailed-bygmail.com
Signed bygmail.com

hide details 13 Apr (6 days ago) Reply

Dear Tom

Given your apology, I am unbanning you – but putting you on a strict
warning to be a fair bit more careful in future, and to think
carefully about how you put arguments etc so as to minimize the heat
and maximize the light.

Best

HJF

OK, I’ve unbanned you, though I the tone of your response gave me pause. I’ll put that down to annoyance at our administrative inconsistency, and remind you to stick to a polite tone fron now on. JQ

29

Rich Puchalsky 04.20.09 at 3:04 am

“I live in Ann Arbor—I was talking about people I know.”

Talk about predictable. Thanks for mindlessly carrying out the same rhetorical stupidity that I said you would. See, John? It doesn’t matter to tell them what you do. There’s always somebody somewhere…

“The idea that wind and solar are going to replace coal at the same cost is a total fantasy.”

Uh huh. I guess I’ll take your word for it — wait, maybe not! In fact maybe I just cited a reputable source that says 2% of GDP.

For the rest, I could say something about how, yes, probably a majority of the austerity environmentalism these days originates with corporate stooges. But that would have to get into subtle distinctions between that and, say, what Duncan Black writes about livable urban communities with mass transit, and that in turn would require that you be a person worth talking to and not a denialist.

30

onymous 04.20.09 at 3:07 am

When (if) the power plants run on non-fossil fuels, electricity will cost a great deal more than it does now. The idea that wind and solar are going to replace coal at the same cost is a total fantasy.

Depends on what you mean by “a great deal”. I’m paying ~ 10% more on my electric bill to get energy from wind and hydro rather than coal. Options like this are available in quite a few places; obviously, we need vastly more infrastructure to make it the standard for everyone, and that will cost money. But not necessarily “a great deal more”. And anyway, the real point is that there are huge costs of using coal, in the form of its climate effects, which we’re currently not paying.

31

Matt Austern 04.20.09 at 5:13 am

I agree that in a sane world we wouldn’t be using the Clean Air Act to fight global warming. But then, in a sane world we also wouldn’t have the filibuster or similar antidemocratic institutions. If you’re going to make a very concerned and serious objection based on procedural issues, you’d better think hard about just how much democratic legitimacy your preferred procedure has.

32

derrida derider 04.20.09 at 5:20 am

Tom and Slocum miss the point of carbon taxes/tradeable emissions quotas. Yes, they raise the price of transport and electricity, but in doing so they raise a helluva lot of tax money. This money is then used to cut other taxes, which lowers the price of everything else. So the net cost to the average person is pretty minor.

In fact, with the right tax cuts and credits you can do a big redistribution (compared with the present) from the well off to the average joe – something many think the US sorely needs. Of course if you disagree with this you can structure the tax cuts towards the better off instead – but in either case the net cost to the overall economy is small.

33

Thomas Jørgensen 04.20.09 at 8:37 am

Allow me to point at the elephant in the room named France. It is demonstratably a straightforward exersise in engineering to decarbonise the electric grid entirely, and at a price wholly competetive with fossile fuels, via the use of standardised nuclear reactors.

34

Slocum 04.20.09 at 10:47 am

derrida derider: Tom and Slocum miss the point of carbon taxes/tradeable emissions quotas. Yes, they raise the price of transport and electricity, but in doing so they raise a helluva lot of tax money. This money is then used to cut other taxes, which lowers the price of everything else. So the net cost to the average person is pretty minor.

Except there are no plans to make carbon taxes or credits revenue-neutral — not in the U.S. anyway. Instead they are penciled in as a way of reducing, to some extent, the enormous deficits that Obama administration plans to run. Or, to put it another way, the revenues from the sales of carbon credits are counted on to help pay for the major expansion in the size and scope of government that is underway. But perhaps voters will respond positively in 2010 and 2012 to higher energy costs in exchange for bigger government — we’ll see.

Personally, I’d favor revenue neutral carbon taxes at a level tied directly to the 10-year moving average of global temperatures. But nothing like that seems to be on the table at present. And I am not in favor of much bigger government and using carbon credit revenues or carbon taxes to pay for it.

Uh huh. I guess I’ll take your word for it—wait, maybe not! In fact maybe I just cited a reputable source that says 2% of GDP.

What happened to 2-3%? And, in any case, that is a prediction for the economy overall. It does not mean that there will be only a 2-3% increase in energy prices. I don’t know anyone (other than you) who thinks a 2-3% increase in energy prices is going to drive major changes in energy usage and carbon emissions.

That was my point talking about the lefties I know, by the way. In general, I like them and think they’re people of good will. But when it comes to making changes that would meaningfully reduce their carbon footprints, they have feet of clay. So, absent economic considerations that would force them to change, I see no prospect of it happening. And if they won’t do it unless forced, I’m quite certain that average Americans won’t either.

Thomas Jørgensen: It is demonstratably a straightforward exersise in engineering to decarbonise the electric grid entirely, and at a price wholly competetive with fossile fuels, via the use of standardised nuclear reactors.

But unfortunately it is not a demonstrably straightforward exercise in U.S. politics to decarbonize the grid via nuclear power.

35

Rich Puchalsky 04.20.09 at 2:00 pm

Slocum, I’ve rarely seen such an exercise in sustained dishonesty as your last comment. You’ve carefully avoided obvious troll signatures — you didn’t call me a jerk — but your comment is one dishonesty or stupidity after another.

“the revenues from the sales of carbon credits are counted on to help pay for the major expansion in the size and scope of government that is underway.”

It’s largely Keynesian spending. Calling it “an expansion in the size and scope of government” pretends that we’re only Keynesians during boom times.

“Personally, I’d favor revenue neutral carbon taxes at a level tied directly to the 10-year moving average of global temperatures. ”

Do you have any idea how ignorant of how global warming works you have to be to think that the 10-year moving average of temperature is what we should be responding to? Since you claim not to be ignorant, then you must be aware of how dishonest this is. Confusion of timescales is one of the key denialist tropes.

“What happened to 2-3%? ”

Christ, the quote is right up there! If you want a range, it’s -1% to 3.5%. The average estimate is 2%. You don’t get to cite the range instead of the average and then drop off the lower end.

“I don’t know anyone (other than you) who thinks a 2-3% increase in energy prices is going to drive major changes in energy usage and carbon emissions.”

If energy goes up a lot more, than other things have to come down for the total to be -1 to 3.5%. And there you go with your “I don’t know anyone” bit, as if the world’s experts can be dismissed because you don’t personally know them.

Outside of some market ideologues in the U.S., it’s not a widespread belief that market pricing is what is going to drive this conversion. Decisions about major energy plants are a governmental matter, always have been, although they like to conceal it in the U.S. The people of France, who as someone about points out haven’t decarbonized through austerity, don’t agonize about it — once the power plants are changed, who cares?

“That was my point talking about the lefties I know, by the way. In general, I like them and think they’re people of good will. ”

I don’t think that righties like you are people of good will. I think that you are generally stupid, ignorant, and / or evil.

36

Zamfir 04.20.09 at 2:37 pm

Rich pulasky: Outside of some market ideologues in the U.S., it’s not a widespread belief that market pricing is what is going to drive this conversion.

Actually, I know very European technocrats who do not only believe that pricing is a good solution, but even use it as pretty much the only mechanism in their models to estimate economic cost, which they use for very government-centered-technocratic non-market driven decisions.

37

Slocum 04.20.09 at 3:23 pm

It’s largely Keynesian spending. Calling it “an expansion in the size and scope of government” pretends that we’re only Keynesians during boom times.

No — the revenue from cap & trade is permanent. The plan is, for example, to use it as a permanent funding source for universal health care. I would expect those on the left to think that’s a good idea — not to deny it.

Do you have any idea how ignorant of how global warming works you have to be to think that the 10-year moving average of temperature is what we should be responding to? Since you claim not to be ignorant, then you must be aware of how dishonest this is. Confusion of timescales is one of the key denialist tropes.

I’m not confused — just not entirely convinced. The more temperatures continue to rise, the more convinced I’ll be, and the more I’ll be willing to favor major energy price increases and energy use changes. And I think this is the way the politics are going to shake out, too. That is, if temperatures do NOT continue to rise, the political will is just not going to be there for the strong actions you favor. That’s my prediction, anyway.

If energy goes up a lot more, than other things have to come down for the total to be -1 to 3.5%.

The gas price spikes of last year did not result in an immediate drop in GDP (it took the bursting of the housing bubble to do that). Still, many people thought the gas price increases were kind of a big deal despite the negligible effect on overall GDP.

Given budget projections, in the U.S. it seems extraordinarily unlikely that taxes are going to be going down in any significant way in coming years. So what most people are likely to see are flat or higher taxes (CT had a thread on instituting a VAT in the U.S. just a couple of days ago which you may have seen) to go along with higher fuel prices and electricity and heating costs (driven by cap & trade). That is what voters will be responding to. But maybe the government will, at the same time, be providing enough new services that most voters will think it’s a good deal overall.

I don’t think that righties like you are people of good will. I think that you are generally stupid, ignorant, and / or evil.

How does Rich go about getting banned around here, anyway? Or does this fit the CT model of civil discourse?

Zamfir: Actually, I know very European technocrats who do not only believe that pricing is a good solution, but even use it as pretty much the only mechanism in their models to estimate economic cost…

Thank you. But be careful — Rich now probably thinks you’re stupid, ignorant, and/or evil. And he won’t be shy about saying so.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.20.09 at 3:47 pm

“Or does this fit the CT model of civil discourse?”

It’s not civil to lie, slocum. Why should people pretend that you are a person of good will, when you aren’t?

And of course you missed the humor in Zamfir’s comment.

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Slocum 04.20.09 at 4:40 pm

It’s not civil to lie, slocum.

You seem to define ‘lies’ as ‘statements I disagree with’. It’s generally considered pretty damn rude to call someone a liar without specifying what it is they said they said that they knew was false. Perhaps you would do me the courtesy of point to what it was I said here that I knew to be untrue.

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John Quiggin 04.21.09 at 5:30 am

Contra Rich Puchalsky, I think prices are crucial. Without getting prices right, nothing else is likely to work. An obvious instance: the relative effectiveness of fuel economy standards in the US and high fuel prices in Europe in reducing consumption. That’s not to say there is no place for controls, just that they will be ineffective or counterproductive if price signals tell people to keep on consuming.

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Barry 04.22.09 at 1:48 pm

“Dear Tom

Given your apology, I am unbanning you – but putting you on a strict
warning to be a fair bit more careful in future, and to think
carefully about how you put arguments etc so as to minimize the heat
and maximize the light.

Best

HJF”

Henry, I don’t even *have* children, and I still understand the problem with that. You just undercut JQ’s authority. Given Tom’s previous and ongoing attitude, expecting change for the better is expecting what is unlikely.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.22.09 at 5:31 pm

Looking back at this old thread: “the relative effectiveness of fuel economy standards in the US and high fuel prices in Europe in reducing consumption”

Neither did enough. Nor will any likely amount of price signaling be enough as long as people have to drive gasoline-powered vehicles. Once they are replaced, no amount of low prices for gas are going to get consumers to move back to gas, because there will no longer be an infrastructure of gas stations supporting it.

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John Quiggin 04.22.09 at 8:24 pm

“Nor will any likely amount of price signaling be enough as long as people have to drive gasoline-powered vehicles. Once they are replaced, no amount of low prices for gas are going to get consumers to move back to gas, because there will no longer be an infrastructure of gas stations supporting it.”

Quite a few points here. The first difficulty is not to get rid of the existing gasoline infrastructure, but to create an infrastructure for an alternative and to get the alternative right. This is going to need both higher carbon prices (to make the alternatives attractive) and regulatory intervention.

The same is true, with an even bigger role for prices, in relation to electricity deamnd. There are a lot of opportunities for conservation here, but (apart from a few no-brainers like CFL lighting) it’s hard to tell which are worthwhile except by looking at price signals.

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Rich Puchalsky 04.22.09 at 8:51 pm

“This is going to need both higher carbon prices (to make the alternatives attractive) and regulatory intervention.”

I disagree. I think it’s going to take a single central-government decision, basically. Without that, no amount of higher carbon prices will work, because there is no other way for people to translate high carbon prices into non-use of carbon. You can’t just decide to start e.g. driving an electric vehicle unless there is a network of charging stations, support for developing them (probably at a loss), regulatory support, etc. Nor do you need price signaling to get you to convert if the government simply mandates that people convert. All that price signaling does is cause the lower class to pay a whole lot of their income in carbon taxes that they can’t avoid paying and can’t afford.

The same is true of conservation. Tell the electric companies, or other providers, that they have the responsibility to generate negawatts, then let them figure out how to do it in their areas. The technical staffs that they have or will hire can figure it out better than “the magic of the market”.

I think this whole attachment to pricing on the part of even left economists shows how much it has taken hold on the imagination. Pricing is fine in order to make decisions about production. This isn’t production, not really. It’s a societal decision about infrastructure.

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Tom Fuller 04.23.09 at 12:01 am

Hi folks,
I won’t be participating in your discussions in future, but I just thought I would stick up for Henry here in response to Barry’s comment–he ‘unbanned’ me and wrote that long before John Quiggin got ‘tipped’ (I could think of a more pungent description) by onymous that I had been banned.
ATB
Tom

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Rich Puchalsky 04.23.09 at 12:07 am

“long before John Quiggin got ‘tipped’ (I could think of a more pungent description) ”

I’m sure that on reading that, Henry is very happy that he unbanned Tom.

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