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    « Gimme a break, please | Main | Now, I'm the teacher »

    March 18, 2008


    Cam Beck

    "if we believe what the scientists are telling us about heading toward an environmental doomsday."

    That's a pretty big "if."

    Here's a pretty good article I found that challenges the Al Gore wing of environmental policy:

    Looking at it pragmatically, though, if government could achieve the sort of electoral groundswell it would need to sustain such a punitive measure, then people would already behave in a way that would render it unnecessary.

    It's a historical fact that when people feel as if their government is working against them, they will seek changes to that government by whatever means they have at their disposal. Luckily (though not always for the best), in our country, those means are readily at hand.

    Enacting laws that directly reduce the quality of life of the people will result in electoral suicide for those who passed them. Consequently, they won't get passed.

    David Reich

    Thanks for sending along that study by the National Counil for Policy Analysis. While the environmental activists may be exaggerating somewhat, I do believe we have been impacting the global environment. Photos and other studies do show the polar ice caps shrinking -- it's not just theory.

    I looked at the NCPA website, and here's their mission, taken right from theior site:
    The National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy research organization, established in 1983. The NCPA's goal is to develop and promote private alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector. Topics include reforms in health care, taxes, Social Security, welfare, criminal justice, education and environmental regulation.

    They are against government regulation. I also looked at who funds them. 21% comes from corporation (which ones?) and 62% from foundations (in turn, formed or funded by what companies with what special interests?)

    I also respectfully disagree with your last statement above, Cam. Why will enactment of laws to protect the environment necessarily reduce the quality of life? I don't see it that way.

    Cam Beck

    "Photos and other studies do show the polar ice caps shrinking -- it's not just theory."

    What the temperature has been doing over the past 6 billion years is not theory, it's history. Theory is when we try to guess what has caused it and what we should do about it.

    In the historical case, the net change isn't so great as to cause alarm. Disagreements in the theory lead to disagreements in policy.

    "Laws to protect the environment" require money to enforce. This money can come from a number of sources, but for the moment let's assume taxes. By necessity taxes come at the expense of people, who as a result of the taxes they pay (directly or indirectly) they have less money to spend on other things.

    That is how any law affects peoples' quality of life.

    So when you say that they must be forced to pay more for an item through taxes to coax them to do what you think is right, you are removing from them, not only the freedom to choose what transportation product they can directly afford, but also what they have left over to spend on other things.

    The same is true when you tax corporations or force them to invest in technologies that are designed to meet the same end. They have less money to spend on payroll, or else they must find other means to reduce payroll costs, such as by moving their operations to another country.

    "They are against government regulation. I also looked at who funds them. 21% comes from corporation (which ones?) and 62% from foundations (in turn, formed or funded by what companies with what special interests?)"

    And who funds those who claim the sky is falling? In many cases, government through grants. They would not get the same funding if they said, "There's nothing to worry about."

    Since no one's motives are to be trusted, we must then examine their claims as objectively as we can.

    Mario Vellandi

    On a similar note to Cam, legislation is only a solution of last resort, because it embodies the failure of design. If the intent is to increase the number of cleaner cars on the road, here are some measures that can be taken:

    - Provide financial incentives for purchasing vehicles that meet certain minimum gas usage, or emission standards.

    - Establish voluntary guidelines, and progressive minimum standards in accordance with the advancement of automotive technologies and their decreasing costs.

    I think the free market will largely affect the number/type of vehicles purchased. The incentives will help as will a cultural leniency toward lighter fuel-efficient cars. But a weakening dollar and the subsequent rise in oil prices will gradually take its toll on macro-purchasing behavior.

    I mean this in a positive way because I see the U.S. as spoiled with low energy and utility prices (namely water) that as a result of subsidies (though well intentioned in one regard), leave us vulnerable to inflation and a laggard in adopting more resource-efficient technologies and processes. What is the incentive in adoption if the marginal savings are low?

    In our case, I think the free market and a variety of incentive programs on the national, state, and local level are our best bets. Since the topic is so big and relative, I'll pass on making any absolute assertions.

    David Reich

    Wow, I've hit a nerve.

    I am not at all a fan of government control, and I generally prefer a free market. But if we are not moving to do something to avoid a disaster, then maybe -- just maybe -- we need to take stronger steps. I also believe cigarettes should be outlawed, but I have a very personal reason for feeling that way. My father was a smoker and died from lung cancer.

    I do believe there is a big environmental problem on our doorstep -- or rather, on our children's or grandchildren's doorstep. Even scientists don't agree on the specifics, but something seems to be happening with the environment. If you don't buy it, then of course, you won't buy the idea that something needs to be done. I disagree. So at election time, we'll be in different camps, and that's ok.

    Cam Beck

    David -
    No nerves hit here. Just enjoying the conversation. :)

    Lewis Green


    Man, I also am one who believes we get better solutions when government gets out of the way, and I think we are seeing some proof of that today.

    With gas prices rising (although relative to Europe, gas remains an inexpensive commodity in the U.S.), we are seeing train and bus traffic rising. Also, surveys indicate people are looking at creative ways to reduce personal auto travel. And although the auto industry is slow to more, it is moving.

    I love the planet and I do believe we are experiencing global warming, for not the first time nor the last. Is pollution exacerbating the problem. Likely yes. Will businesses and citizens respond to make improvements to the environment without government regulation. Yes, and those solutions will be real, innovative and effective. Government regulation won't be.

    Great conversation.

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