I got bitched at by some flaming queen two weeks ago at the Cuff when I made the same damn argument. I was called a facist for suggesting we can not simply stop all carbon emissions overnight. We have to phase it out while encouraging businesses to develope clean technology. This is not a new argument but the liberals have never articulated it very well.
But what the hell do I know, I only have a BA in Economics....
In other words, going cold turkey on emissions will in fact destroy our economy unless we figure out new ways of doing business.
which is why prop 1 was a good idea. 50 miles of light rail was a new way of doing business, and the opportunity cost was some money for roads, which were/are going to get build anyway.
The debate shouldn’t be framed by caps, it should be framed by liberals coming in with a pro-business pitch, pushing for massive investments in the transition to green technologies, like rapid mass transit for one.
YES. This is my whole beef with erica types. they think everything has to be punative. that you have to punish people, tax then, inconvenience them, take things away, in order to make them change.
we live in a pragmatic country. people can't be forced into things. they have to be sold. give people better options--real mass transit, hybrids or biodiesel that are cheaper to operate, etc.--and you'll have not only more people jumping on board, but heaven forbid, it might help the economy, too.
when it comes down to it, environmentalists aren't going to save the planet. businessmen will. someone--probably a japanese automaker--will come up with the first mass-marketable non-internal combustion engine, and it will change the direction of economics in their favor for fifty years.
in the process, they'll do more to reduce green house gases than a thousand "turn off your lights for an hour" or a thousand cities placing twenty cent taxes on plastic grocery bags.
Make green technology a better option, and people will choose it. But only if it is a better option. That's the challenge. The challenge is to give people an option that is better than technology that has been around for 50-100 years.
This whole "Gee, the conservatives have a point, the liberals ought to get with it" theme of Josh's really got tired a long time ago.
The confluence of issues that is climate change+energy security+peak oil defies the usual liberal-vs.-conservative divide. Any real solutions will need to transcend that divide. Al Gore is right to say that our politics and perception haven't come close to catching up to the depth of the problem of climate change. Hey, even Al Gore himself, visionary though he is, hasn't caught up.
In terms of specific solutions, though, the following should be obvious:Biofuels bad.
When are liberals actually going to get involved in the energy business? i think that might be another set of problems though; how do you encourage a kid in college to pursue a degree in engineering or business when the liberal path of least resistance is to get a degree in psych, or english, or some other field detached from the things they claim to care about.
Fail. You can spend as much as you want on technology but no one is going to deploy it ***in time*** without government mandates (via carbon taxes or cap and trade or whatever).
In other words
1) we have the technology we need to get started NOW
2) tech development is being used as a delaying tactic
3) the longer we delay the more expensive and drastic the necessary cuts, and the more folks can argue "maybe tomorrow we'll do something, when the technology comes"
Had to post this. Democrats HAVE been working on this issue. For a long time. Look no further than Rep. Inslee's Apollo Energy Independence Project. He's been pushing for this since at least 2003. And other Dems have gotten behind it, but it has been stymied by Republicans every time.
It' good to hear that maybe, just maybe, Republicans are catching up.
I don't get it. Are you saying someone's going to invent edible robot cows?
@4 - what are you talking about? The "liberal = humanities major" meme is tired and old; the scientific and engineering world has liberals aplenty, and grows increasingly liberal as the right wing becomes increasingly anti-science.
No, the market solution is to impose caps and then let industry come up with the technologies. When we said, "No more leaded gas," the industry came up with the catalytic converter. When we said, "No more CFCs," the industry came up with new propellants for aerosols. When we say, "No more carbon emissions," the industry will figure it out.
It's the economic punishing that gives them the motivation to figure out something new.
And again, the damage to the economy from the effects of global warming is plenty crippling, so take your pick: a recession followed by a thriving green economy, or losing downtown Seattle, half of Manhattan, most of Florida, entering into a depression the likes of which the world hasn't seen since the Black Death, and then figuring out the green technologies, and spending a century trying to get somewhere near back to the economy we once had.
Also, what @5 said. Conservatives' opposition to environmental regulation comes less from any sober evaluation of economic costs than it does from protecting specific well-entrenched interests, as well as ordinary knee-jerk reactionaryism. They'll say "Let the market work it out" as they pursue policies which ensure that never happens.
"The debate shouldn’t be framed by caps, it should be framed by liberals coming in with a pro-business pitch, pushing for massive investments in the transition to green technologies, like rapid mass transit for one."
Well, sorta. We will need both. Hard yet reasonable emissions caps to push the market toward a greener future, and gov't investment in new technologies to help it get there. But politically it makes sense to me to get the caps in place first - once we have a consensus that emissions reductions need to happen, it'll be a lot easier to budget money for green technology.
@2 some dude:"This is my whole beef with erica types. they think everything has to be punative. that you have to punish people, tax then, inconvenience them, take things away, in order to make them change."
I'm certainly not going to disagree that ECB's environmental commentary is as shrill as her grasp of economics is weak. But, large scale emissions reductions are simply not going to happen until consumers face some kind of penalty for contributing to carbon emissions. Calling it "punative" or "taking something away" misses the mark: emissions caps would simply internalize the very real cost of carbon emissions which we currently don't pay when we buy gas, heat, whatever.
@11 - i disagree. consumers will buy green if it is a better deal. For example, look at all of the hybrids right now. Many people are buying them, but how many more would buy them if the government gave a 10k tax bonus?
Instead of making people "pay" for something they're getting for free, say to people "hey this car will cut your monthly gas tab in half, and with this tax break, your monthly car payments will be the same as any other car".
Basically there are two ways you can approach it. You can try to bully big business by putting caps and regulations on them (which can and are effective, but not 100% effective), or you can go to the consumer and help to encourage them to demand the kinds of cars that are better for the environment.
Look at Ford. They're FUCKED because of their shortsighted over investment in SUVS. They're struggling to find a new market. The japanese automakers can see the future and are developing green technology. But the market isn't quite ready for it because it is too expensive.
But if you can help drive consumer demand, then sooner or later someone at Ford will realize that there is money to be made because the government has made favorable market conditions.
Incidentally, this is EXACTLY what the Japanese government did.
So let's skip the whole "people need to learn a lesson that there's no such thing as free lunch" bit and go straight to the "buy this because it's cheaper and better".
Without any GHG audit of prop. 1 and with most benefits of rail to the suburbs coming in the 2040s, 2050s and 2060s the prop. was environmentally suspect. GHG costs were front loaded -- during our crisis -- benefits came much later, perhaps too late to help.
The biofuels debalce teaches us to not assume a supposed "green" innovation is green....till we do the GHG math.
Re light rail and its GHG effects: got math?
There is no magic bullet, and there is no single "this" we should be doing. There are several prongs to the attack, and while research into new technologies is the most important one, simple conservation can make a big difference too.
Cressona's point about biofuels is a good one. Unfortunately, at this moment the ENTIRE THRUST of the "alternative fuels" movement has been captured by Big Corn, and they are still promoting their incredibly destructive ethanol and biodiesel stuff, and getting a great audience in Washington DC. This stuff is ten times worse than petroleum, and every responsible environmentalist should be working to STAMP OUT PLANT BIOFUELS (Algae may be a different matter).
Biofuels are a prime example of bad old magic bullet thinking -- "if we just do this, voila!"
I think Gitai is absolutely right: use caps to (a) squeeze out some of the flab in the system and (b) force the market to come up with a market solution.
Some of the things we could do to start are completely painless: use a little less energy to do common tasks. If the CAFE standards were remotely realistic, and applied to SUVs, we could give people incentives to buy an efficient car instead of an SUV -- that's millions of vehicles of savings right there, and would, within just a year or two make Saudi oil unnecessary. Enough? Of course not.
Cap and trade, it's the only thing that has ever worked in the long run.
it isn't a meme, it could be statistically proven that a. people with liberal political views are in greater numbers in humanities fields b.conservatives are in greater numbers in mathematical and scientific and economic fields. being a conservative doesnt mean you're a bible thumper.
@13 - Generally speaking the standard equation as it stands today in our area is limited to road based transportation--cars, bus, trucks, etc.
In order to truly move forward, a new element--mass transit--needs to be added.
I do not have any studies or statistics on hand, but generally speaking, the benefits of something like light rail are going to be long term and will only truly start to pay dividends after the system matures and dense development is able to catch up.
So I have no doubt that it wouldn't "pencil out" for a while.
But altering the course of something like our metropolitan area is like stopping a freight train. It takes a while to change course, but you have to invest in something and nurture it for the long term before you will see long-term benefits.
But if you have some short term drawbacks with longterm payouts, should that disqualify an option?
This is purely speculation on my part, but it seems that a primary source of GHG in light rail (after construction) would be from the locomotives, correct?
The powerplan in a locomotive can be replaced, so any calculation would need to be qualified that it is based upon assumptions about what GHG emissions would be as technology improves.
That aside, in the meantime a network of rails will be developed upon which cleaner trains could run.
The investment is in the infrastructure, which becomes more valuable as population density increases.
I'm not an engineer (just a liberal with an English degree).
Josh are you positioning yourself for a corporate social responsibility job after the Stranger? Or just working for a mainstream Democrat?
This either/ or divide is false here. The energy alternatives already exist. The challenge is to build economies of scale. Placing a cap creates an economic incentive to develop these economies of scale. A cap is not anti-market. That's just scare-mongering.
People told us decades ago that a gas tax for alt trans would kill the economy. But a war in Iraq has helped triple gas prices without killing the economy-- but the profits are going to big oil rather than developing socially responsible alternatives.
There is no difference between this and the question of roads/ alt transportation. The Stranger opposes increasing freeway capacity (a cap) to shift consumer demand toward alternatives that are not yet adequately funded (alt transportation) with the belief that growing demand (produced by gridlock) will help increase funds (via fares), alternatives (changed lifestyles), and political support for more socially responsible transportation options in the long term. Why not apply the same logic to this issue?
@2 I agree. It's pretty hard to get he vast majority of people to punish themselves in a democracy. One can talk all they want about road diets, carbon taxes, and the like, but unless people want them, they will not happen, and if by some magic they did, the next election would undo them. The solution is not to make driving and other environmentally negative options inconvenient and worse, but to make transit and being eco-friendly better and more convenient.
I think we should work with other developed countries to build pebble reactors (and other safe nuclear) in as many places as possible. Go to a country that is looking to use a lot of fossil fuels and tell them we will help them generate power more cleaner and will even foot part of the bill.
At the same time we invest in developing alternative fuels and technologies for transportation, and power generation. We could be the leader in this regard and like the Marshal Plan, grow our economy while helping the world.
@12 My question/concern with getting everyone to buy hybrids is what do we do with all the existing cars? They aren't going to vaporize overnight--they will be sold to others or kept as second cars and the net number of cars using gas (because yes, even the hybrids use gas) increases. Can we come up with a solution to get rid of the existing cars--besides crushing them because even a crushed car takes up space. (granted, it no longer uses gas but still...)
short term I don't know what to say, but if the technology can improve after however many more iterations, perhaps retrofitting old cars would be an option -- just take the old engine out and put in a new one. We're still a ways away from that, I'd imagine, but that would be a pretty big market.
My take is that there is going to be waste. But people buy new cars every 5 years as it is. And hybrids are actually worse for the landfill because of all their batteries. But it is a step in the right direction, right?
@11 - I think punishing the people is a shitty way of pushing something and will cause a cultural backlash. Right now, the ecological people are riding a wave of environmentalism brought on by strange weather and movies made by ex-Vice Presidents. Liberalism is riding a wave caused by an extended war time, unimployment, and high inflation. Environmentalists are going to ride this wave to its shrill end.
But, it won't last. Using tolls on workers trying to get across will just send them to pay more money to Big Oil by driving out of their way in traffic to get around a lake. Especially for those who work in areas which do not have bus stops within miles. For instance, the only bus stop around my work is 1 mile away, and only comes 2x a day: 10am and 4pm.
Punishing people into doing things will help things to a point, but also will drive people away from environmentalism. Lets tighten down the carbon emission caps on car companies and force them to create new technologies. Big Business should be tasked with creating new technologies for the same cost as other technologies. People will backlash against too much impugning on their freedoms.
What I think needs to happen isn't a waiting around for the corporations - that's a sissy cop-out - but they need to be pushed around. Unfortunately, for us, that's hard to do with lobbyists running the government as much as they do. After all, isn't lobbying just another way of greasing the wheels of justice?
This set of pro-business reasoning is so facile in so many ways. What about restraining emissions with a fundamentally different economic model? Lets start with the myth that growth is necessary across the board. What kind of growth are we talking about? Growth in non essential consumer products or growth in improving the the water supply in the global south?
Following this line of reasoning, caps would be bad for which parts of which economies? What does bad mean in this context; bad for whom, in what way, how much profit would not be made by whom? would jobs really be lost? if so whose?
Another point is that the liberals have been promoting cleaner technologies for I don't know how long, whereas the business types have been promoting more profitable (for them) technologies that are definitely not clean, such as reliance on the internal combustion engine for transportation.
Thus the destruction of the Los Angeles public transit system years ago by the auto industry.
It was carter who saw the energy crash coming and started
to address energy issues whereas it was Reagan who stopped Carters energy independence programs.
Oh and some dude, people are always being forced into things. When gas hits 6 to 10 dollars a gallon you can be sure that other choices will become very pragmatic, indeed. The question is: do you start preparing people for this now and have massive government investment in new tech or do you wait for the market to come up with a profitable(for them) tech solution?
What if the time it takes for the private sector to develop such technology is too long and too expensive (read not profitable) for the private sector to sustain? What if it takes a generation to grow, educate and employ enough college educated scientists to develop alternative energy/technology? Bellevue, you encourage such career development from elementary school by paying for magnet schools all the way up through post graduate education in the energy field.
Some projects you can't just throw money at to fix. some things take time.
Here is an example of a non-profit based economic model that alleviates emissions:
Most other countries realize that a rail infrastructure needs to be subsidized and that it pays dividends in many indirect ways (such as reduced dependence on cars and gas). But here in this country, we are stuck with expensive rail as a non-option to car and air travel.
Thus government can play a crucial role in developing energy technologies that may not be profitable by our current economic model but actually may be feasible and good for the economy, to say nothing about global warming.
This is not as Josh says a pro-business pitch.
- To reach sustainable levels of GHG emissions requires not just new technologies but lifestyle changes. That's the bugaboo no one wants to talk about, conservatives, liberals, whatever. Everybody seems to think we can have it all at the same time - green jobs, green technologies, economic prosperity and envirionmental justice - and cut emissions at the same time. That's the theme of many of my favorite people. (Really - I do love them, but I think they are off base.) For example, Gregoire got hammered because she refused to embrace the science-based goal of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050. Well - do the arithmetic. Here in Washington, if we actually achieved that goal and didn't in the interim have a pandemic disease, our per capita emissions in 2050 would be just about that of today's Bangladeshis. Right. No matter how good the new technologies, there's no getting over physics or thermodynamics. Whatever transportation and energy systems we have will still require some fossil fuels (never mind the number of products we rely on that are made out of fossil fuels.)
- So: reaching science based goals on a NATIONAL or GLOBAL level requires not only new technologies but also reduced consumption. You know the new TVs coming on the market? They consume two to three times as much energy as the old ones - and how many homes now have more than one TV? Cell phones, laptops, etc - all require electricity to recharge and there are more of them every day. How many people are truly forgoing flights home for holidays or drives to the mountains for a hike or wine from France, or toys from China (oops - maybe we're now doing that one at least) etc, etc. The point is that we can't maintain our level of consumption simply through new technologies.
- But what REALLY frosts me in all this debate and articles like the NYTimes' is the focus on "new technologies." Millions of tons of GHG emissions could be avoided and billions of dollars saved with existing, off the shelf, every day inexpensive technology - energy efficiency. US industries could cut their energy use by 20% with energy efficiency - investments that pay back within two years. (McKinsey and Lawrence Berkely National Lab studies.) If every home in the US were built to California standards, residential energy consumption would be cut be a third by 2020. And these levels of savings don't even include turning down the heat or hanging out the laundry - or scary thought - bathing every other day instead of every day.
This fixation on new technolgies is lunacy - and typical. Somehow, we'll just engineer our way out of this mess - we won't really have to change our ways. Even here in Washington, the story is the same. There are great tax incentives for solar power - great, as in BIG. And even with the tax incentives, residential solar projects may pay back their investments in 10? 15? years. But a tax incentive to encourage you or me or energy intensive hospitals or laboratories, etc to save money and energy by choosing a high efficiency appliance or furnace or other piece of euqipment? Nada.
Go figure. A big part of the solution is right here, right now and it's cheap. But apparently not good enough.
@24, but those "lifestyle changes" are just not going to happen. We can talk all we want about it, but when it comes right down to it, people will choose their own comfort over the lives of people in the third world. Most of the affects of global warming will not hit the US all that hard for many years.
We will keep on growing our economy and getting more and more stuff until we cannot. If technology cannot save us then we are pretty much fucked.
lifestyle changes can only happen when the incentive for the lifestyle change exists. I like taxes for these things.
Exactly. Getting all gas cars off the road? Not going to happen. 99% of the population is against it. Rail mass transit? Never in a million years going to reach more than a small fraction of the population; 10% would be a miracle. These "lifestyle changes" you're talking about are nonsensical. You have a better chance at getting everybody in the US to start wearing dreadlocks and face tattoos than making cars go away.
Discussions on the subject that don't proceed from reality are doomed.
This is total bull.
The cost to acheive the Kyoto Accords and a carbon-neutral lifestyle is estimated as at best 1.5 percent of total worldwide GDP.
In other words, less than we spend on sub-contractors for FEMA.
In fact, if you export green tech, you end up increasing the GDP, decreasing pollution, and creating American jobs.
The problem is you're listening to Republicans, who try to get a bigger share of the pie for them, when you should be MAKING MORE PIES.
oh, and @4, we're investing in it - I think I have around $140,000 in energy firms (if you include utilities with high wind energy investments) ...
Yeah, and elenchos has how much?
@28 mmmm, pie, I like pie. Please make more pie...
Seriously in regard to exporting green tech. this sort of goes back to what I was saying about buying new cars here. Though I could definitely be wrong about this, I'm assuming that a lot of used cars from the US end up as the clunker cars that folks in the third world are driving. And I would assume that them drving those cars effects the environment as well. So how exactly do we export green technology to poorer countries? Well, that last point is valid regardless of my random car point--how do we export green technology to the third world?
Wind Turbines (multiple companies in King County and adjacent counties), Plug-in Hybrid Conversions of existing cars/trucks (multiple firms in King County and adjacent counties), and other such things.
Look, green tech will happen whether we participate or not - they just held a conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal in Santa Barbara CA and a lot of investors paid a lot of money to attend and figure out how they can get rich investing in it and creating new firms to do so.
Now take your greed for my slices of pie and get back to baking ...
Green Tech is certainly a part of the picture. The problem is currently preventing Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, to say nothing of Exxon and Shell, from receiving the bulk of the government research dollars, because they are unlikely to spend them wisely.
I regard ethanol and biodiesel to be the world's biggest environmental threats right now, worse than Canadian shale oil, maybe worse than Chinese factories. Yet they are getting all the money. It's as if we were fighting terrorism by sending nuclear materials to Al Qaeda and telling them to "come up with something".
So Fnarf, when you say 99 percent of the cars off the road isn't going to happen, is there any leeway there? What if the price of gas goes up to 6 dollars? what if it goes up to 12 dollars? What if you just can't get the gas because its rationed and driving gas powered cars without proof of rationed gas becomes a crime? What I'm getting at is that it is not a matter of what if but when these things happen. I think we can safely say that the price of gas is not going down anytime soon, so its just a matter of when it reaches the point where most (maybe not 99%) people have to stop riding around for anything but essentials. Very expensive essentials.
Unless you have alternatives...
The problem with your description there, Rant, is that GAS IS CHEAP. $4 a gallon gas is cheap. When you look at the history of the price adjusted for inflation, it's barely at a peak, and most of that is the collapsing dollar. $6 a gallon is cheap, and it's not there. $12 a gallon? Nobody is saying that except loons.
Slightly more expensive gas is having a slight effect on driving habits now. But you're talking about removing cars completely. It's never going to happen. Something like 75% of the people in this country live in places where alternatives to cars are not possible, and if you take their cars from them, they're going to starve to death.
Any program for the future that is based on completely transforming the American economy is going to fail utterly before it even gets started. Incremental change is possible; total change is not. Unless you're an Evergreen hippie.
@33 - on this Fnarf and I agree, our current tax support of inefficient biofuels like ethanol from corn are nutso - although I could see algae or switchgrass supplies and cane sugar as well.
Look at last Friday's Wall Street Journal (front page for the reading impaired like Fnarf) and you'll see a story about how vehicle sales dropped - but when you look at the chart that is in the continuation of the article, you see that even though Toyota sales dropped - THEY DID NOT DROP BUT INCREASED for SMALL CARS and HYBRIDS and cross-overs (not quite sure exactly what those are so won't say much about them).
In other words, we have reached the pricing points where people ARE changing behaviour, the market IS switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles, and the invisible hand of liberal capitalism is doing it's job.
Get rid of the subsidies for ethanol and gas/oil in the US and this will ACCELERATE.
The market cares nothing for your politics - only results.
I like how people think technology is going to save them. Any day now, some miracle technology is going to allows us to live exactly as we live now painlessly into the future. How messianic and ahistorical. Are you pro-business people really that teleological and naive. When I read some of these posts, I actually welcome the ecological collapse.
I hope they deliver pot and pizza to your bunker, Jay. You're going to need them in a few days.
Will, a "crossover" is one of those small SUVs that are almost like cars (but classified as light trucks for the purpose of emissions and fuel-efficiency standards). Not very green -- but not appreciably worse than big cars. And almost any new vehicle that's not a jumbo SUV is a huge step forward in terms of emissions and fuel use. Remember that it saves far more gas to go from a 10 MPG vehicle to a 25 MPG vehicle than it does to go from, say, a 30 MPG vehicle to a 70 MPG vehicle, should such a thing exist.
It's the hogs that are doing the worst damage.
One fun fact is that an economic slowdown that hurts car sales can work AGAINST emissions and fuel efficiency, as it delays X number of upgrades to newer vehicles, most of which are more efficient and cleaner than older ones.
Yeah, I must be a lunatic to actually pay attention to foreign policy and know that one of the biggest emergent problems in the world is resource collapse. But of course when you're a can-do ideological liberal, you just assume the problem is going to get solved through good ol' fashioned know how, because hey, nothing too bad has happened yet. I don't think that ecological collapse is right around the corner, but thanks to douchebags like you, it probably will be in 50 years. Not your problem though, I guess. Because it's all a conspiracy by the man dood!
BTW: I love non-experts who confidently talk economics, ecology and technology like pros, or at least pseudo-pros. But hey it's just the Internets innit? I troll fart shit more accurate.
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