Saturday, April 28, 2007

TigerHawk Speaks with Energy

I found a worthy comment by Tigerhawk, a pearl buried deep in one of his own less lustrous posts. It is a well-written summary of what I would consider an eminently sensible energy stance. I wish I had written it, but the least I can do is revive it.

As I’m sure you are aware, many conservatives, President Bush excepted, spend a lot of time ranting against the Global Warming Conspiracy. They claim variously that no such effect exists, that its potential destructiveness is exaggerated to the point of alarmism, and that, if it does exist, it is the product of a natural cycle and has no policy implications. Their major objection, IMO, is that the intellectual thrust for a response to Global Warming comes from the Left -- from the UN, from the environmentalist organizations and from Al Gore, whose mere voice annoys them.

I salute Tigerhawk for being able to distinguish the source from the content of an argument. As President Bush has done, he acknowledges the likely existence and anthropogenic origin of Global Warming. He implies that something should be done and argues convincingly that it should consist of a Carbon Tax (!) and strong support for nuclear energy. A truly enlightened viewpoint! I can’t help but wonder why he didn’t put it on page one, above the fold. Perhaps he feels that his peer support may be tepid.

Since there has been a lot of speculation on the subject, my views on climate change are these:

1. In all likelihood, the world's climate is changing rapidly.

2. The cause may or may not be anthropogenic, and it may or may not be due to carbon in the atmosphere. It is, however, more likely than not due to both.

3. If we can reduce the incremental carbon dumped into the atmosphere while setting all other considerations equal, it would be a good thing.

4. Notwithstanding #3, a rapidly changing climate will require humans to generate more inanimate energy, not less. We will need more energy to deflect the impact of the climate, grow crops under arduous conditions, move people around, and so forth. Any plan to cut carbon, therefore, should also incorporate increased, rather than decreased, energy requirements.

5. Some of that energy can certainly come from conservation.

6. Some of the carbon reduction can certainly come from conservation.

7. By far the most efficient mechanism to achieve both is taxation. I have long advocated a carbon tax.

8. The "hair shirt" environmentalists will not persuade Americans, Chinese, Indians, or anybody else to destroy their lives in defense of the planet's climate. At least not until it is demonstrably too late. They are especially unlikely to make their case if they themselves claim exemption from the sacrifice.

9. The biggest problem, by far, is the reliance of the United States and China on coal to produce electricity. The only way to produce the power generated by the hundreds of coal-fired plants in the U.S. and China is to replace it with nuclear power. The problem, of course, is that virtually all mainstream environmentalists oppose nuclear power as well -- their activists cut their teeth fighting nukes -- so their only recourse is to "hair shirt" sacrifice.

10. Hence, the political stalemate.

By TigerHawk, at Mon Apr 23, 09:01:00 PM

Fossil Fees and Nukes. The only thing I would add is that the Carbon Tax should be administered by the Federal Reserve with an explicit mission to suppress greenhouse gases and promote the new economy.

I myself am not opposed to "hair shirt" environmentalism. I try to practice it. I believe we should be provident, generous and self-disciplined. Unfortunately, we’re not. So we have to find policies that work in the Real World. Eh? So obvious even a troglodyte can apprehend it.

The following are some of my posts on related issues:

Carbon Capture
Conspiracy Theories
New Oil
Wind vs Nuclear
Lung Operation (with links to other posts)
Plug In
Bush Concedes to Science
Slate on Gas
The Anxiety of Complexity
Weak Hand
Bush War on CO2
Stewart Breaks the Mold
Never Put off for Tomorrow
Jerking Us Around with Oil

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