Archive for the ‘energy’ Category

Towards a productive libertarian approach on climate, energy and environmental issues

February 10th, 2010 No comments

[This is a work in progress and largely taken from previous posts, but readers might find some value in it in the meanwhile.]

1. Heated but vacuous climate wars

On environmental issues in general and climate in particular, find me someone (like George Will) ranting about “Malthusians” or “environazis” or somesuch, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t understand – or refuses to acknowledge – the difference between:

(1) wealth-creating markets based on private property and/or voluntary interactions/contracts protected by law, and

(2) the tragedy of the commons situations that result when there are NO property rights (atmosphere, oceans), when the pressures of developed markets swamp indigenous hunter-gather community rules, in many cases where governments formally own and purport to manage “public” resources, and when governments absolve purportedly “private” actors from liability for harms to others (such as via grants of “limited liability“).

So what’s the deal? Here’s a perfect opportunity for skeptics to educate the supposedly market ignorant, but they refuse, preferring to focus instead on why concerned scientists must be wrong, how concerns by a broad swath of society about climate have become a matter of an irrational, deluded “religious” faith, or that those raising their concerns are “misanthropes” or worse.

Such pigheadedness is met by those on the left likewise see libertarians and small-government conservatives as deluded and/or deliberate pawns of evil Earth-destroying corporations.

Both sides, it seems, prefer to fight – and to see themselves as right and the “others” as evil – rather than to reason.

While we should not regret that we cannot really constrain human nature very well, at least libertarian and others who profess to love markets ought to be paying attention to the inadequate institutional framework that is not only poisoning the political atmosphere, but posing risks to important globally and regionally shared open-access commons like the atmosphere and oceans (which are probably are in much more immediate and grave threat than the climate). And they also ought to recognize that there are important economic interests that profit from the current flawed institutional framework and have quite deliberately encouraged the current culture war.

2. Why the reflexive libertarian disengagement?

I have on numerous occasions tried to point out, to posters on the Mises Blog who have addressed climate issues, the stunning unproductivity of the approach that they have taken — that of focussing on science and dismissing motivations and preferences, rather than exploring root causes and middle ground, and have continued to scratch my head at the obstinacy and apparent lack of vision.

The following seem to be the chief factors at work in the general libertarian resistance to any government action on climate change:

– Many libertarians, as CEI’s Chris Horner has stated,  see “global warming [as] the bottomless well of excuses for the relentless growth of Big Government.”  Even libertarians who agree that is AGW is a serious problem are worried, for good reason, that government approaches to climate change will be a train wreck – in other words, that the government “cure” will be worse than the problem.

– Libertarians have in general drifted quite far from environmentalists (though there remain many productive free-market environmentalists/conservationists). Even though libertarians and environmentalists still share a mistrust of big government, environmentalists, on the one hand, generally have come to believe that MORE government is the answer, despite all of the problems associated with the socialized ownership of resources and/or inefficient bureaucratic management (witness the crashing of many managed fisheries in the US), the manipulation of such management to benefit bureaucratic interests, special interests and insiders (wildfire fighting budgets, fossil fuel and hard rock mining, etc.) and the resultant and inescapable politicization of all disputes due to the absence of private markets. On the other hand, many libertarians  reflexively favor business over “concerned citizens”, while other libertarians see that government “solutions” themselves tend to snowball into costly problems that work in favor of big business and create pressures for more government intervention. Thus, libertarians often see environmentalists as simply another group fighting to expand government, and are hostile as a result.

– Libertarians are as subject to reflexive, partisan position-taking as any one else. Because they are reflexively opposed to government action, they find it easier to operate from a position of skepticism in trying to bat down AGW scientific and economic arguments (and to slam the motives of those arguing that AGW must be addressed by government) than to open-mindedly review the evidence or consider ways that libertarian aims can be advanced by using the pressure from “enviro” goals.

This reflexive hostility – at times quite startingly vehement – is a shame (but human), because it blunts the libertarian message in explaining what libertarians understand very well – that environmental problems arise when property rights over resources are not clearly defined or enforceable, and when governments (mis)manage resources, and that there are various private steps and changes in government policy that would undo the previous government actions that are at the root of environmentalists’ frustrations.The reflexive hostility is also a shame because it has the effect, in my mind rather clearly, of rendering libertarians largely blind to the ways that large energy, power and certain manufacturing corporations continue to benefit from (and invest heavily in maintaining) the existing regulatory structure, in ways that shift large costs and risks to unconsenting third parties.

– There are some libertarians and others who profess to love free markets at AEI, CEI, Cato, IER, Master Resource and similar institutions that are partly in pay of fossil fuel interests, and so find it in their personal interests to challenge both climate science and policy proposals that would impose costs on their funders.

I felt particularly struck by the commonness of a refrain we are hearing from various pundits who prefer to question the good will or sanity of environmentalists over the harder work of engaging in a good faith examination and discussion of the underlying institutional problem of ALL “environmental” disputes:  namely, a lack of property rights and/or a means to enforce them. 

3. The whys of climate concerns and calls for “clean” energy

I want to get started with a list of policy changes that I think libertarians can and should be championing in response to the climate policy proposals of others.

The incessant calls for – and criticism of – government climate change policies and government subsidies and mandates for “green/clean power” both ignore root causes and potential common ground.  As a result, both sides of the debate are largely talking past each other, one talking about why there is a pressing need for government policy to address climate change concerns, while the other is concerned chiefly about the likelihood of heavy-handed mis-regulation and wasted resources. This leaves the middle ground unexplored.

There are plenty of root causes for the calls for legislative and regulatory mandates in favor of climate policies and clean / green / renewable power, such as:

  • concerns about apparent ongoing climate change, warnings by scientific bodies and apprehensions of increasing risk as China, India and other developing economies rapidly scale up their CO2, methane and other emissions,
  • the political deals in favor of environmentally dirty coal and older power plants under the Clean Air Act,
  • the enduring role of the federal and state governments in owning vast coal and oil & gas fields and relying on the royalties (which it does not share with citizens, but go into the General Pork Pool, with a relatively meager cut to states),
  • the unwillingness of state courts, in the face of the political power of the energy and power industries, to protect persons and private property from pollution and environmental disruption created by federally-licensed energy development and power projects,
  • the deep involvement of the government in developing, encouraging and regulating nuclear power, and
  • the frustration of consumer demand for green energy, and the inefficient and inaccurate pricing and supply of electricity, resulting from the grant by states of public utility monopolies and the regulation of the pricing and investments by utilities, which greatly restricts the freedom of power markets, from the ability of consumers to choose their provider, to the freedom of utilities to determine what infrastructure to invest in, to even simple information as to the cost of power as it varies by time of day and season, and the amount of electricity that consumers use by time of day or appliance.

4. Is a small-government, libertarian climate/green agenda possible and desirable?

So what is a good libertarian to suggest? This seems rather straight-forward, once one doffs his partisan, do-battle-with-evil-green-fascist-commies armor and puts on his thinking cap.

From my earlier comment to Stephan Kinsella:

As Rob Bradley once reluctantly acknowledged to me, in the halcyon days before he banned me from the “free-market” Master Resource blog, “a free-market approach is not about “do nothing” but implementing a whole new energy approach to remove myriad regulation and subsidies that have built up over a century or more.” But unfortunately the wheels of this principled concern have never hit the ground at MR [my persistence in pointing this out it, and in questioning whether his blog was a front for fossil fuel interests, apparently earned me the boot].

As I have noted in a litany of posts at my blog, pro-freedom regulatory changes might include:

Other policy changes could also be put on the table, such as:

  • an insistence that government resource management be improved by requiring that half of all royalties from mineral and fossil fuel development be rebated to citizens (with a slice to the administering agency), and
  • reducing understandable NIMBY problems by (i) encouraging project planners to proactively compensate persons in affected areas and (ii) reducing fears of corporate abuses, by providing that corporate executives have personal liability for environmental torts (in recognition of the fact that the profound risk-shifting that limited liability corporations are capable of that often elicits strong public opposition and fuels regulatory pressure).

5. Other libertarian discussants

A fair number of libertarian commenters on climate appear to accept mainstream sciences, though there remain natural policy disagreements. Ron Bailey, science correspondence at Reason and Jonathan Adler, a resources law prof at Case Western, Lynne Kiesling at Knowledge Problem blog, and David Zetland, who blogs on water issues, come to mind.

I`m not the only one – other libertarian climate proposals are here:

  • Jonathan Adler at Case Western (2000); he has other useful commentary here, here,
  • Bruce Yandle, Professor Emeritus at Clemson University, Senior Fellow at PERC (the “free market” environmentalism think tank) and a respected thinker on common-law and free-market approaches to environmental problems, has in PERC’s Spring 2008 report specifically proposed a A No-Regrets Carbon Reduction Policy;
  • Iain Murray of CEI; and
  • Cato’s Jerry Taylor is a frequent commentator and Indur Goklany has advanced a specific climate change-targeted proposal.
  •  AEI’s Steven Hayward and Ken Green together have provided a number of detailed analyses (though with a distinct tendency to go lightly on fossil fuels).

Several libertarians recently urged constructive libertarian approaches to climate change:

There have been several open disputes, which indicate a shift from dismissal of science to a discussion of policy; the below exchanges of view are worthy of note:

  • The Cato Institute dedicated its entire August 2008 monthly issue of Cato Unbound, its online forum, to discussing policy responses to ongoing climate change.  The issue, entitled “Keeping Our Cool: What to Do about Global Warming“, contains essays from and several rounds of discussion between Jim Manzi, statistician and CEO of Applied Predictive Technologies, Cato Institute author Indur Goklany; climate scientist Joseph J. Romm, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress; and Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, the co-founders of The Breakthrough Institute.  My extended comments are here.
  • Reason Foundation, posted an exchange on Climate Change and Property Rights June 12th, 2008 (involving Reason’s Shikha Dalmia, Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan H. Adler, and author Indur Goklany); discussed by Ron Bailey of ReasonOnline here; here`s my take.
  • Debate at Reason, October 2007, Ron Bailey, Science Correspondent at Reason, Fred L. Smith, Jr., President and Founder of CEI, and Lynne Kiesling, Senior Lecturer in Economics at Northwestern University, and former director of economic policy at the Reason Foundation.
  • Reason Foundation, Global Warming and Potential Policy Solutions September 7th, 2006 (Reason’s Shikha Dalmia, George Mason University Department of Economics Chair Don Boudreaux, and the International Policy Network’s Julian Morris).


Finally, I have collected here some Austrian-based papers on environmental issues that are worthy of note:

Environmental Markets?  Links to Austrians

Ones such paper is the following: Terry L. Anderson and J. Bishop Grewell, Property Rights Solutions for the Global Commons: Bottom-Up or Top-Down?

Who are the misanthropes – "Malthusians" or those who hate them? Rob Bradley and others resist good faith engagement despite obvious institutional failures/absence of property rights

March 2nd, 2009 4 comments

In a series of posts at the self-declared “free market” blog of the fossil-fuel energy industry funded Institute for Energy Research, energy expert  Rob Bradley (former Ken Lay speechwriter and Enron policy wonk) explores his dark forebodings that the “Malthusian wing” of the Obama administration and the environmentalist Left are actually enjoying and welcoming the present economic predicament.  Says Bradley, putting words in the mouth of his Malthusian stalking strawman:

“The economic recession/depression is good, not bad. It lowers our carbon footprint in countless ways. It saves resources. It throttles back industrial society to sustainable levels that were exceeded long ago. Let the downturn continue to get us out of the growth mentality. Let rising expectations fall! Less is more!”

[From: The Malthusian Wing of the Party in Power: When Will They Speak Up?; see also Beware of the New “Limits to Growth” (and looking for ReaganVision to CarterVision).]  Bradley will apparently be transported by paroxyms of self-satisfied delight/misery if a lefty, particularly one inside the Administration, ventures to say something like this.

Bradley may very well prove to be right that someone on the left may assert that an end to the “growth is good” mentality may be a silver lining in our recession.  But in his focus on prognosticating what plots the “Malthusians” may be hatching, Bradley simply refuses to actually engage the “Malthusians” on either their premises or their proposed solutions – namely, that there are real and serious problems that our societies must address and that more government is needed.  Indeed, Bradley doesn’t even venture to explain why he considers the Malthusians to be wrong, apparently assuming that this is self-evident. 

But as I have noted any number of times, there is indeed a wide range of very real and serious issues to be discussed, both as to problems AND to proposed “solutions”, such as I have noted in these two posts:

Too Many or Too Few People? Does the market provide an answer?

Food shortages: Ron Bailey takes up the cry, are Malthus and “Green fascism” on the march?

As a result, Bradley does not appear to be interested in the slightest in engaging productively with the Obama administration or the Left, and so in effect uses the term “Malthusian” as a type of shibboleth (or even an article of faith?) among supposedly “right-minded” people, and as an ad hom against the left.  In this, Bradley echoes others such as George Will who, in a recent editorial about climate change, warned of “dark green doomsayers”.

While I do not agree with the Left that more government is always the right solution, those on the right cannot win these arguments simply by name-calling or by trotting out – as George Will did in his editorial – the 1980 bet that Paul Ehrlich and others lost to Julian Simon over the future prices of minerals and commodities.   But the Ehrich-Simon bet was well-known; why not use it?   Because those who do so have ignored the reason why the Simon triumphed and Ehrlich lost, which was that because people own mineral resources, markets functioned to both to change demand and to provide incentives for future supply (and Ehrlich was no economist).  But none of this logic holds true for unowned or “public”, open-access resources – like the acidifying oceans, tropical forests and the global atmosphere and the climate it modulates – for which there simply are no effective property rights or functioning markets.  Instead, we continue to see see destructive exploitation (and kleptocracy in the countries where powerful elites elevate their interests over those of citizens). 

So, in the context of the issues that the “Malthusians” are now raising – in this case, the atmosphere – the Simon-Ehrlich bet stands for a propositions whose conditions clearly at present are not fulfilled, and which will not be fulfilled without hard work.  Until that hard work of establishing property rights or other effective governance institutionsis completed, people with legitimate preferences as to such resources and who are concerned about the effects of modern market demands on them have little ways of expressing those preferences other than through pressure on policy makers and attempts at moral suasion.

As an aside, let me note that nowhere does Bradley acknowledge that the Obama administration and Left inherited our economic shambles from freedom- and market-loving Greenspan/Bush/Bernanke/Paulson and the Right.  In this, Bradley resembles NRO commentator Henry Payne, who recently was so quick to lay all of the woes of the US automakers at the foot of the Obama administration and Washington Dems.  It’s sad that what may otherwise be legitimate commentary is so skewed by such transparent partisan bias and inconsistency.  Such reflexive partisanship also ignores not merely the responsibility of the Right, but also ignores what appear to be fairly significantly weaknesses in the structure of Western capitalism, which have been commented on by Michael Lewis, Joe Nocera and James Glassman and William Nolan at the WSJ; viz., weaknesses stemming from the weak governance and moral hazard (and strong rent-seeking) that is encouraged by the state grant of limited liaibility to corporate shareholders.

In other words, there are lots of real issues to discuss, from difficult resource issues that require collective action to address to public choice problems inherent in the use of government.

Those who profess a love of reason should turn to it, and not hobble themselves by a reliance on facile assumption and shallow ad homs.  Unless, of course, the aim is not to resolve underlying issues of appropriate institutions, but either to “win” the argument by wresting control of policy (and of related rents) from perceived competitors or, if winning is not likely, to at least satisfy emotional needs by railing at foes while surrendering the field (and the selection of policies) to them.

Let me close with a note of one small irony:  while Bradley is expecting that the Left will embrace the recession as a way to deliberately slow growth, Bradley’s own associate at IER, Austrian economist Bob Murphy has just put up on his personal blog a “wonderful clip” by comedian Loius C.K., who comments:

“Those were simpler times, I think; I just feel that we may be going back to that, by the way.  In a way, good; because when I read things like, “the foundations of capitalism are shattering,” I’m like, maybe we need that; maybe we need some time where we are walking around with a donkey with pots clanging on the sides.  … Yeah, because everything is amazing right now, and nobody’s happy.”

Seems like even Malthusian-haters will only be happy if we’re all more miserable!

Update from Rob Bradley: My BOOKS prove that I'm a free-marketer! (That's why I'm free to boost fossil fuels and bash enviros on my blogs!)

February 7th, 2009 No comments

I noted in a previous post that Rob Bradley, CEO of the Institute for Energy Research and lead blogger at MasterResource, has cheered on big coal and bashed what he calls “Malthusian anti-energy crusaders”,  but ignoring while he does so the questions of (1) whether there are any legitimate disputes as to the environmental impacts of coal production and consumption and (2) the role of government in contributing to or perpetuating these disputes.

In response, Rob says that his bona fides are not to be questioned.  I quote below the relevant portions of the comment thread (emphasis added):

TokyoTom { 02.05.09 at 2:50 am }

Rob, are the John Badens, Terry Andersons, Bruce Yandles, Elinor Ostroms and others who want to find ways to manage our commons better – by improving ownership, incentives and pricing signals – also part of a “Malthusian crusade”?

I just wanna make sure I know who to hate.

As for that big fly ash breach/spill in Tennessee, I’m glad that you didn’t point out how this was a result of government ownership of TVA, with the added benefit that costs will be borne not only by direct and indirect victims, but by taxpayers as well. No sense in pointing out how government is so often in the way, particularly if it detracts from our “we hate enviros!” message. Last thing we ever want to do is to reach a shared understanding with enviros of the institutional underpinnings of problems, since that means our funders might lose some of their fairly purchased, government-given special privileges.

rbradley { 02.05.09 at 9:46 pm }


I have several thousand pages in the public domain on free market theory and history applied to energy, including criticisms of political capitalism.

The ball is in your court to buy and read any of my six energy books–and to visit my website Particularly focus on Enron on this website.

Capitalism at Work (2009) is the latest book that I invite you to read and review.

TokyoTom { 02.05.09 at 10:21 pm }

Rob, does this mean that you are a “free-marketer” in principle, but can’t be bothered to show it in your public policy discussions?

rbradley { 02.06.09 at 9:28 am }


It means that you have to do your homework. I take on opposing views as a matter of course in my books and essays–I hope you understand that I do not have time to regurgitate my arguments in a personal debate with you.

But if you are really a “libertarian,” you need to get more critical toward climate alarmism and the history of Malthusianism–and more realistic towards government failure versus market failure.

I am signing off with you but look foward to your review of Capitalism at Work–a multi-disciplinary treatise on heroic capitalism that as a libertarian you should study.

TokyoTom { 02.07.09 at 4:44 am }

Rob, Roy Cordato (linked at my name) said this:

“The starting point for all Austrian welfare economics is the goal seeking individual and the ability of actors to formulate and execute plans within the context of their goals. … [S]ocial welfare or efficiency problems arise because of interpersonal conflict. [C] that similarly cannot be resolved by the market process, gives rise to catallactic inefficiency by preventing useful information from being captured by prices.”

“Environmental problems are brought to light as striking at the heart of the efficiency problem as typically seen by Austrians, that is, they generate human conflict and disrupt inter- and intra-personal plan formulation and execution.”

“The focus of the Austrian approach to environmental economics is conflict resolution. The purpose of focusing on issues related to property rights is to describe the source of the conflict and to identify possible ways of resolving it.”

“If a pollution problem exists then its solution must be found in either a clearer definition of property rights to the relevant resources or in the stricter enforcement of rights that already exist. This has been the approach taken to environmental problems by nearly all Austrians who have addressed these kinds of issues (see Mises 1998; Rothbard 1982; Lewin 1982; Cordato 1997). This shifts the perspective on pollution from one of “market failure” where the free market is seen as failing to generate an efficient outcome, to legal failure where the market process is prevented from proceeding efficiently because the necessary institutional framework, clearly defined and enforced property rights, is not in place.”

Do you agree?

My focus in reviewing your comments and those of other posters is whether you are contributing in good faith to conflict RESOLUTION – conflict over readily understandable preferences – or to “winning” the struggle over government for the benefit of your clients.

I think that`s perfectly fair.

So far, I don`t see much of an effort at good faith engagement [with the enviros].

Here`s to hoping that you demonstrate here that you are a free-marketer, and not a rent-seeker.

Rob Bradley: EXTRA! In tough times, economy and jobs trump enviro priorities!

February 5th, 2009 No comments

Wow, what startling news.  Thanks for sharing it with us Rob.  Now perhaps you can catch your breath.

Rob Bradley trumpets an opinion poll that indicates that voters care more about more immediate and pressing issues than they do about distant problems like climate change that they can pass off to their children and others, queries in his headline “Global Warming Realism over Alarmism: Is the Public Leading?” and tells us:

Wow, what a victory for energy and climate realism in regard to an issue that future historians might consider to be the Malthusians’ last stand (am I too optimistic?).  …

What might such poll results mean at some of America’s top private foundations that have spent so much time and money hyping the climate issue, including the Pew Foundation itself? … 

Here’s hoping that these foundations demote climate alarmism in favor of meeting here-and-now human needs during these tough economic times. That would be a double win.

It’s hard to see on what basis Bradley sees the poll as particularly revealing, but it is interesting that he hopes that other private foundations – funded by wealthy individuals and firms that have different policy priorities than the individuals and firms that fund Rob’s own foundation, Institute for Energy Research (including, until recently, Exxon), and other foundations that Rob is associated with (Cato and CEI) – will change THEIR priorities to match HIS.  Not a bad idea, to be sure, but is Rob holding out any olive branches or otherwise trying to productive engage PEW or others?  Or is it just that his preferences (and those of the people/firms that fund him) are so obviously better, and ridicule works better than discourse?

Here’s to hoping that Rob Bradley (and foundations that he associates with) will explore ways to engage productively with the evil/idiotic climate alarmists/Malthusians, with the goal of meeting human energy AND environmental needs through better functioning markets. That would be a double win.

Oh, and here are the comments I left to Rob on his post:

No, Rob, the public trails. Not particularly a surprise for a long-term commons problem, especially when we’ve fallen into a depression.

Thank goodness, ‘cuz us Austrians never want to figure out how to address commons problems. At least not ones involving fossil fuels.

Categories: energy, Rob Bradley Tags:

Rob Bradley cheers on coal, but are all those who want to better manage commons and environmental impacts "Malthusian" idiots, or only in the case of coal?

February 5th, 2009 No comments

Rob Bradley has a new post up at MasterResource, cheering on big (and now “clean”) coal, which has apparently received assurances from the Obama administration – after being bad-mouthed by NASA scientist Jim Hansen, Steven Chu and Obama himself – that, despite pressures from the “Malthusian anti-energy crusade” regarding climate change impacts, the recent massive TVA fly-ash spill and opposition to destructive mountaintop removal practices in Appalachia, coal will remain profitable during Obama’s term and central to US energy supplies.  Hooray!

But I wasn’t quite clear on all of Rob’s message, so I asked him a few questions in the comment thread:

Rob, are the John Badens, Terry Andersons, Bruce Yandles, Elinor Ostroms and others who want to find ways to manage our commons better – by improving ownership, incentives and pricing signals – also part of a[n evil] “Malthusian crusade”?

I just wanna make sure I know who to hate.

As for that big fly-ash breach/spill in Tennessee, I’m glad that you didn’t point out how this was a result of government ownership of TVA, with the added benefit that costs will be borne not only by direct and indirect victims, but by taxpayers as well. No sense in pointing out how government is so often in the way, particularly if it detracts from our “we hate enviros!” message. Last thing we ever want to do is to reach a shared understanding with enviros of the institutional underpinnings of problems, since that means our funders might lose some of their fairly purchased, government-given special privileges.

While it’s clear that “free-market” Rob cares little about whether the coal industry continues commercial activities that shift the environmental costs and risks (including potential costs arising from GHG emissions) to others, I forgot to ask Rob whether, as a hearty cheerleader for those poor coal underdogs, he also supports their position that the government should subsidize their change in business model by (a) having Uncle Sam pay the bulk of capital costs for IGCC (integrated gas combined cycle plant) [something like $1 billion for the first one with CCS], (b) giving them a further break (reduced royalties) on the sweet deals they already have for stripping coal from public lands and (c) – now that the federal government is getting into the busy of running the financial sector – making sure that power producers that want to use coal have easy access to credit, by twisting the arms of those uppity Wall Street financiers who with their fancy new “Carbon Principles” and “Enhanced Due Diligence” seem a bit too reluctant to extend credit for coal-fired power plants.

Here’s hoping Rob weighs in further.  I want to make sure I’m not messing up when I try to distinguish the “white hats” from the “black hats”.   From what I can tell so far, seeking to manipulate government policy for your own benefit is evil – as long as you’re not a coal firm, and we call the evil ones “Malthusians”.  Right?

Bob Murphy in Forbes: no to "green" jobs, but otherwise? No advice

November 19th, 2008 No comments

Kudos to Robert P. Murphy for a new opinion piece dated Novermber 15 in regarding  “The High Costs Of ‘Green Recovery'”

The biographical note appended to the piece describes Bob as “a senior economist with the Institute for Energy Research, a nonprofit foundation that applies free-market solutions to energy challenges” – but sadly, Bob’s piece fails (i) to suggest what “free-market solutions” are available for energy challenges, or (ii) to argue why such free-market solutions are actually the best approaches.  While I share Bob’s arguments that a federal “green” jobs program is likely to be counterproductive, I disagree with his generalizations on climate concerns. 

Bob noted the Forbes piece in his blog; I copy my below the comments I made to him there:

Congratulations, Bob, on getting into Forbes, but I must confess that it is a bit of a puzzle that even when you get the bully pulpit you decline to talk about what kinds of actions make sense as energy policy – such as how to improve the energy grid (a centralized push for local utility deregulation, so utilities might have some interest?), how to achieve political consensus on greater exploration (such as royalty checks to citizens), allowing faster depreciation, etc.

It also disappoints that you insist on engaging on climate change issues only from a heavy-handed government redistribution standpoint, while ignoring not only lack of property rights, many parties with differing views of equity, and tragedy of the commons aspects, but also ignoring the obvious superiority of carbon taxes (assuming legislators are going to choose between cap and trade and carbon taxes), which present few opportunities for rent-seeking and can be rebated to reduce the regressive effcts.

Update:  I note that Obama’s campaign energy policy (the “Obama-Biden comprehensive New Energy for America plan“) is here; his slimmed-down outline that describes a plan with the same name is here.

More on Pickens: FOX offers soapbox for Pickens mouthpiece; Milloy responds

September 26th, 2008 No comments

FOX offers soapbox for Pickens mouthpiece Warren Mitchell (former chairman of Southern California Gas Company and San Diego Gas & Electric, and director and head of the compensation committee of Pickens’ owned Clean Energy Fuels); Steven Milloy responds.

Keep up the good work, Steve!

Some of my own thoughts on Pickens’ actions are here and here.

Australia Caves to Hysteria; Signs AGW Suicide Pact

December 4th, 2007 No comments
Categories: climate, energy, environment, Kyoto Tags:

Ron Paul on the environment and energy

October 18th, 2007 2 comments

1.  There is an excellent interview of Dr. Ron Paul now up at Grist, the environmental news and commentary site, that explores some of his views on environmental and energy issues. I am with him in principle but think he has underestimated the seriousness of the climate change problem and not seriously thought through the issues yet.

Selected remarks on international issues include the following (emphasis added):

If it is air that crosses a boundary between Canada and the United States, you would have to have two governments come together, voluntarily solving these problems.”

Q:  “What’s your take on global warming? Is it a serious problem and one that’s human-caused?”

A:  “I think some of it is related to human activities, but I don’t think there’s a conclusion yet. There’s a lot of evidence on both sides of that argument. If you study the history, we’ve had a lot of climate changes. We’ve had hot spells and cold spells. They come and go. If there are weather changes, we’re not going to be very good at regulating the weather.

“To assume we have to close down everything in this country and in the world because there’s a fear that we’re going to have this global warming and that we’re going to be swallowed up by the oceans, I think that’s extreme. I don’t buy into that. Yet, I think it’s a worthy discussion.”

Q:  “So you don’t consider climate change a major problem threatening civilization?”


A:  “No. [Laughs.] I think war and financial crises and big governments marching into our homes and elimination of habeas corpus — those are immediate threats. We’re about to lose our whole country and whole republic! If we can be declared an enemy combatant and put away without a trial, then that’s going to affect a lot of us a lot sooner than the temperature going up.”


Q: “What, if anything, do you think the government should do about global warming?”

A:  “They should enforce the principles of private property so that we don’t emit poisons and contribute to it.

And, if other countries are doing it, we should do our best to try to talk them out of doing what might be harmful. We can’t use our army to go to China and dictate to China about the pollution that they may be contributing. You can only use persuasion.”

Q:  “You have voiced strong opposition to the Kyoto Protocol. Can you see supporting a different kind of international treaty to address global warming?”

A:  “It would all depend. I think negotiation and talk and persuasion are worthwhile, but treaties that have law enforcement agencies that force certain countries to do things, I don’t think that would work.”

Q:  “You believe that ultimately private interests will solve global warming?”

A: “I think they’re more capable of it than politicians.”

Q:  ” What’s your position on a carbon tax?”

A:  “I don’t like that. That’s sort of legalizing pollution. If it’s wrong, you can buy these permits, so to speak. It’s wrong to do it, it shouldn’t be allowed.”

[Note:  This seems ambiguous, but I suppose RP intended to disagree with the concept of permits as well as taxes.]

Q:  “You’ve described your opposition to wars for oil as an example of your support for eco-friendly policies. Can you elaborate?”

A:  “Generally speaking, war causes pollution — uranium, burning of fuel for no good purpose. The Pentagon burns more fuel than the whole country of Sweden.”

Q:  “Do you support the goal of energy independence in the U.S.?”

A:  “Sure. But independence does not mean to me that we produce everything. I don’t believe governments have to provide every single ounce of energy. I see independence as having no government-mandated policy: If you need oil or energy, you can buy it.”

Q:  “What about being independent from the Middle East, so we’re not buying oil from hostile countries?”

A:  “I think it’s irrelevant. We wouldn’t be buying it directly, we would be buying it on the world market. I don’t think the goal has to be that we produce alternative fuel so that we never buy oil from the Middle East. The goal should be to provide all useful services and goods through a market mechanism instead of central economic planning or world planning. That system doesn’t work.”

2.  Dr. Paul also discussed energy and the environment in an interview in June, when he said the following:

Q:  “Especially after the release of Al Gore’s global warming documentary, the environment has been very much on people’s minds.  Where do you stand on global warming?”   

A: “Global temperatures have been warming since the Little Ice Age.  Studies within the respectable scientific community have shown that human beings are most likely a part of this process.  As a Congressman, I’ve done a number of things to support environmentally friendly policies.  I have been active in the Green Scissors campaign to cut environmentally harmful spending, I’ve opposed foreign wars for oil, and I’ve spoken out against government programs that encourage development in environmentally sensitive areas, such as flood insurance.”

Q:  How about KYOTO?  

A:  “I strongly oppose the Kyoto treaty.  Providing for a clean environment is an excellent goal, but the Kyoto treaty doesn’t do that.  Instead it’s placed the burden on the United States to cut emissions while not requiring China – the world’s biggest polluter – and other polluting third-world countries to do a thing.  Also, the regulations are harmful for American workers, because it encourages corporations to move their business overseas to countries where the regulations don’t apply.  It’s bad science, it’s bad policy, and it’s bad for America.  I am more than willing to work cooperatively with other nations to come up with policies that will safeguard the environment, but I oppose all nonbinding resolutions that place an unnecessary burden on the United States. 

3.  The New York Times has a new article on the views of the Republican candidates on climate change, but somehow they managed to miss Ron Paul:

Why are Republicans unhinged on energy policy?

September 28th, 2007 No comments

In a post of the same title at at NRO, Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren of Cato do a great job of demonstrating  there is absolutely no relationship between energy policy and national security.

However, they forgot to provide the answer to their own question – Republicans are “unhinged” on energy strategy for a very simple reason – because “energy security” is a very convenient way of justifying a meddlesome and paternal big government, and the Republican administration is in charge of the pork spigots and can control the flow of favors to special interests. 

Do Taylor and Van Doren find the Republicans “unhinged” only because they expected that Republicans actually meant their disavowals of “nation building” and the like?  Though Americans seem to share a congenital idealistic streak, I suspect that they are not that naive. 

No doubt the Dems will also find “energy security” to be a convenient way to aggrandize their own power, reach into Americans’ pocketbooks to direct federal largess their friends and to keep the US involved in the internal affairs of other countries.  They will have been aided by a Republican administration that was more liberal in the assertion of the right to exercise power than many Democratic administrations that preceded it.