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"The Climes, They Are A-Changin`"; Or, Dylan Does Copenhagen

December 6th, 2009 No comments

Apologies, but I can`t resist:

I saw a news item earlier today – “Copenhagen climate summit borrows Dylan’s voice” – that indicates that the COP 15 organizers (the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which Pres. George H.W. Bush & Congress made US a party) are making informal use of Bob Dylan`s “A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall” as a conference theme (“UN to release ‘Hard Rain’ film with Bob Dylan tune on eve of climate talks | Spero News“). 

Well, a different Dylan song popped into my head; tweaked very slightly, it goes like this:

The Climes They Are A-Changin’

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the climes they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the climes they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the climes they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the climes they are a-changin’.

Dylan`s original, The Times They Are A-Changin` is here.

I intend no offense here to anyone; those with different predilections on climate and the problem of government and rent-seeking will see this and other Rorshach Blots differently.

But for readers that have made it this far, I note the following:

[update] Bob Murphy, Rob Bradley and the Austrian Road Not Taken on Climate by two fossil-fuels gunslingers

October 28th, 2009 No comments

[Update: I copy at bottom a follow-up exchange I had on Bob`s thread with another reader – radio silence from Bob.]

Bob Murphy has a new post up at his blog, “CBO Testimony Misleads on Cost of Cap-and-Trade“, that draws attention to a new blog post at the Institute of Energy Research that Bob says he “had a lot to do with”.

The IER post rightly criticizes some of the numbers that the Congressional Budget Office has released, but the IER is playing games itself.

I left the following note at Bob`s (now substantially goosed up for the benefit of readers):

TokyoTom said…

IER? Isn`t that the “free-market” blog that bans libertarians who are not on their pro-coal, pro-pollution wagon? [Oops, I confused this with Rob Bradley`s MasterResource blog; IER is different, in that IER is – much more clearly than MR – an active rent-seeking front for fossil fuel interests, which Exxon made clear last year when it publicly announced that it would no longer fund IER`s “unproductive”, climate-skeptic position.]

But while we`re on the subject, let`s not forget:

– Austrians` fundamental objections to cost-benefit analysis;


that the mining, transport and combustion of coal, in addition to whatever climate “cost” it
might have to various people whose preferences can`t be measured, have
very real and significant costs in terms of damage to persons and property;


that federal law authorizes this (via the “Clean Air Act”, surface mining laws and ownership of the TVA), and grandfathers the very worst
midwestern utilities, the oldest 10% of which (41 or so) are  estimated to be responsible for 43% of the
$62 billion in annual  damages (not including damages from harm to ecosystems, effects of some air pollutants such as mercury, or climate change)(according
to the latest NAS report on the indirect costs of fossil fuels);

– that our federal government and states own most of the coal deposits and are otherwise addicted to the royalty revenues and complicit in turning a blind eye to damages;

– the future “costs” that the IER analysis refers to (in 2050) are not discounted to present value;


that alternative policies – such as

are never advanced, much less their costs weighed [that is, no attempt is ever made to engage opponents in good faith or to seek mutual gains by working to resolve underlying problems];

– the costs/consequences/risks and equities of “do-nothing” policies are hardly considered, and when so are heavily discounted;

– that deliberate “geo-engineering” holds no promise as a panacea, and itself is fraught with issues about statism, preferences, risks and liaibility;


the need for investment in infrastructure and change in laws to adapt
(and foster adaptation) to very real ongoing climate changes are never
discussed; and

– no one at IER ever seems to question the
unstated presumption that utilities and our transportation industries
have somehow homesteaded an ownership right over the global atmosphere – or the massive role that our federal government and states play as coal and other energy resource owners),
so that it`s perfectly okay to dismiss the preferences of those who
have concerns at home [those “religious” nuts like Exxon, and our Academies of Science] and those abroad in the least developed countries
that are most vulnerable to damages (much less to suggest how those
injured should be aided).

In other words, those defending the
status quo seem to have abandoned any Austrian training (or to have no
familiarity with its concern for problem-solving and awareness that
[as Block points out] common law protection of private property rights was hijacked a century
ago, with massive pollution and rent-seeking problems being the result
).

Someone
ought to post a few of these thoughts over at IER; Rob Bradley somehow
finds comments of this type over fundamental principles to be “ad hominem” arguments [of the kind that very quickly tested his patience and got me banned, without any word to his co-bloggers, who found my comments worthy of considered response].

Sure, we should fight over policy, but let`s not ignore principles or put our heads in the sand.

October 28, 2009 10:10 AM

*  From the NAS report:

Coal accounts for about half the electricity produced in the U.S.  In
2005 the total annual external damages from sulfur dioxide, nitrogen
oxides, and particulate matter created by burning coal at 406
coal-fired power plants, which produce 95 percent of the nation’s
coal-generated electricity, were about $62 billion; these nonclimate
damages average about 3.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour (kwh)
of energy
produced.  A relatively small number of plants — 10 percent of the total number — accounted for 43 percent of the damages.  By 2030, nonclimate damages are estimated to fall to 1.7 cents per kwh.

[update:

Supporters of cap and trade always turn to the
argument that opponents are burying their heads in the sand. It’s not
true. This legislation won’t do anything to help the environment. It is
merely a front so that the administration and the Democrats can say
they did “something.” We don’t need legislation that is going to cost
every single American household and won’t even be able to achieve its
stated goals. Write your Congressmen at
http://dontcapandtradeourjobs.net/?tr15.

[A], you`re missing my higher -level poinht, which is that IER is
rather apparently UNINTERESTED in engaging productively or on a
principled basis on this issue; rather, they are simply sniping (though
they make excellent points) at the cap-and-traders).

Though,
of course, from the view of those financing them, this form of
engagement may very well be “productive”, if it delays any action that
will lower returns to coal, rail or utility investors.

What`s
regrettable is that this obfuscation, which has been going on for
decades, is what is likely to saddle us with extremely costly, porky
and ineffective “climate change” policies.

Ringside seat on the fight to steer the Chamber of Commerce`s climate bus

October 7th, 2009 No comments

On the heels of my post about Apple leaving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here are a few more links and excerpts for eager readers (who have been spared a longer post that vanished into the ether as pixie dust crashed Mozilla and my prior unsaved draft) (emphasis added).

1.  The Chamber`s opaque policy-making mechanism on climate, and the trigger for the wave of departures from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce;

see long article at NYT:

U.S. Chamber of Commerce staff decides the trade group’s climate and
energy policy positions without approval from the board of directors,
Nike Inc. charged as it formulated a plan to call for greater chamber
openness.

Nike, which last week left the chamber’s board of directors but decided
to remain a chamber member
, described a lack of transparency at the
group that conflicts with how the chamber describes its operations. …

“We just weren’t clear in how decisions on climate and energy were
being made,” said Brad Figel, Nike’s director of government relations.
“They’re not being made at the board-of-director level, because we’re a
member of the board of directors. We were not consulted. We’re
convinced that’s not really where the action on climate change is being
made.”

The chamber reaches its positions through a “democratic
process” that is “driven by members,” chamber spokesman Eric
Wohlschlegel said yesterday. …

“Policy is developed and recommendations are made to the whole
board,” spokesman Wohlschlegel said yesterday. “It’s an open and
voluntary process, and it’s formulated by a majority of our members
that represents the broader business community’s perspective and not just the interests of one sector, one energy sector … or one sector of the economy.”

He
would not address Nike’s statement, however, that while it had
representation on the board of directors, the board did not vote on
climate policy positions. Wohlschlegel would not say when the board
last took a vote on its position on climate legislation. …

“They told us these decisions were made by staff [and not pursuant to the Board`s committee system],” Figel said. He
said that Nike was told that “this is a longstanding chamber policy,”
and that “once the policy is established, a lot of these decisions can
be made at the staff level.”

Last spring, Figel said, Nike told
the chamber that it wanted to be consulted on climate issues. After
that, he said, “there were several decisions that were made by the
chamber that we weren’t consulted on.”

In particular, Figel said, Nike recoiled at a chamber official’s
call for an EPA trial similar to the Scopes Monkey Trial on
evolutionary theory
[regarding EPA`s steps to employ regulatory authority affirmed by a Supreme Court decision during the Bush administration].

“That’s not helpful in any way,” Figel said. “That put a lot of companies on edge, how they phrased that.”

The
statement this summer by William Kovacs, a chamber senior vice
president, that the science of global warming should face a public
trial similar to the Scopes Monkey Trial thrust the trade group into a
new realm, [Kenneth] Green [resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute] said.

“That was beyond the pale in terms of
aggressiveness that I’ve seen in a trade association
,” Green said. “At
that point, they were really inserting themselves into the political
process in an extremely visible way, not just a matter of lobbying for
their companies but really engaging in the bigger cultural argument. I
wouldn’t be surprised if that wasn’t what scared some people away.”

Note (from Marc Gunther at Salon in April):  ” Nike—along with Starbucks (SBUX), Levi Strauss, and Timberland
(TBL)—helped form a green-business coalition to lobby for strong
federal actions on climate. The coalition is called BICEP: Business for
Innovative Climate and Energy Policy
.”

From blog of Marc Gunther (who is a Fortune contributing editor):

To be sure, the chamber, which calls itself “the voice of business”
and spent about $62 million lobbying Congress last year, also has lots
of members from the oil, coal and energy-intensive industries who
oppose federal regulation of greenhouse gases. Its 122-member board
includes executives from Consol Energy, Massey Energy, Peabody Energy,
and the Southern Co.

The smart thing for the chamber to do would be to stay neutral—to
admit that business is divided on the issue and to leave lobbying up to
individual companies. Instead, some chamber officials offered up
reasonable arguments against the bills pending in Congress and others
went off the deep end. In a remark that was ill-advised at best and
downright dumb at worst, William Kovacs, the chamber’s senior vice
president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs, called
for a public trial about climate science that he said would be “the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century.”

2.  Who dissents from the Chamber`s long-standing opposition to climate change legislation? (with links to statements)

Quit the Chamber: Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, Apple.

Quit the Chamber`s Board: Nike.

Says Chamber doesn’t represent their views on climate:

– seven Board members from companies that are part of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a wide business coalition pushing for passage of climate
legislation: Alcoa, Caterpillar,
ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, Siemens and Xerox

General Electric, General Motors, Ford, Shell, DuPont, American Electric Power, and John Deere also support mandatory controls on greenhouse gas emissions.

ExxonMobil favors a carbon tax (as I have noted several times).

Entergy, a New Orleans-based utility also on the board

General Electric,

Johnson & Johnson,

San Jose Chamber of Commerce.

Note: Those expressly in favor of the Chamber`s go slow approach on climate appear to be limited to coal firms Peabody Energy, Massey Energy Corp.,
and CONSOL Energy, and freight shipper Con-Way Inc.  As noted previously, Chamber CEO Tom Donohue is closely tied to coal shipper Union Pacific.

3.  In a move that shows how little the Chamber cares about the opinion and positions of its dissenting members, CEO Tom Donohue took at jab at Apple in this October 6 letter that he addressed to Apple CEO Steve Jobs in response to Apple`s announced resignation from the Chamber (with editorial comments):

Dear Mr. Jobs:

“I
am sorry to learn of Apple’s resignation from the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce. It is unfortunate that your company didn’t take the time to
understand the Chamber’s position on climate and forfeited the
opportunit
y to advance a 21st century approach to climate change. [Needless, to say, Apple quit because it fully understood and was fed up with the Chamber`s actual position – unrelenting intransigence; PG&E said in its letter to the Chamber announcing its withdrawal: Extreme rhetoric and obstructionist tactics seem to increasingly mark
the Chamber’s public stance on this issue.
]

“The
U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues to support strong federal
legislation and a binding international agreement to reduce carbon
emissions and address climate change.
[The Chamber has no consistent expressed approach; it has opposed all federal legislation, and opposes provisions that would penalize foreign countries not adopting similar legislation. It is simply trying to put lipstick on a pig.] Furthermore, we believe that
Congress should set climate change policy through legislation, rather
than having the EPA apply existing environmental statutes that were not
created to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This is also the stated
position of the President and Congressional leaders. [The regulatory threat exists only because the Bush administration and Republican Congress refused to act, and because the Chamber has exercised no leadership in outlining constructive legislation.]

“Your
letter states that “Apple is committed to the environment and the
communities in which we operate around the world.” So is the Chamber
but we are also committed to preserving the competitiveness and
prosperity of the communities and businesses in our nation. [Particularly the competitiveness and prosperity of the Chamber members that mine, transport and burn coal.]

“While
we do support legislation to address climate change [the Chamber continues to take the position that even an average 3 degrees C increase over the next century would bring net benefits], we oppose
legislation such as the Waxman-Markey bill that numerous studies show
will cause Americans to lose their jobs and shift greenhouse gas
emissions overseas, negating potential climate benefits. An effective
climate change response must include all major CO2 emitting economies,
promote new technologies, emphasize efficiency, ensure affordable
energy for families and businesses, and defend American jobs while
returning our economy to prosperity.

“The American business
community that we proudly represent is the single largest investor and
innovator in clean energy solutions and remains committed to a strong
economy and clean environment. … The Chamber believes that the
business community will continue to be the catalyst for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions and we support efforts to tackle climate
change in a way that will strengthen our economy, protect American
jobs, and benefit our environment.

“Climate change is a global
problem that requires a global solution. The Chamber supports an
international agreement that will set realistic and achievable goals,
ensure global participation, protect intellectual property rights and
remove trade barriers to environmental goods and services.

I
would have hoped that Apple would have supported our efforts to improve
environmental stewardship
and keep Americans at work and our economy
competitive. As the world’s largest business federation representing
more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector,
and region, the Chamber is leading the way to support the innovation
needed to transition to a lower carbon future, including the
elimination of barriers to the deployment of clean energy technologies.
Supporting innovation and technology is at the very heart of our
efforts to combat climate change, and we will continue to fight for an
approach that embraces their merits.
 
It is a shame that Apple will not be part of our efforts.” [Yes; the Chamber will just have to “lead” with fewer followers, fewer resources, and less prestige. And it appears that Tom Donohue is trying to “lead” the way to even fewer Chamber members; Dale Carnegie`s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” anyone? ]

4.  More ongoing insightful (if skewed) commentary on the Chamber of Commerce here by Peter Altman, “Climate Campaign Director” of the mainstream enviro group NRDC (which largely “depend[s] on the kindness of rich people to stay afloat.” Its board and
major donors “come from Wall Street, corporate law firms and big
companies.”

5.  It`s clear that we are looking not merely at a clash of preferences, but a clash of preferences over how government is used – and in whose favor. This would look like classic “rent-seeking”, but for the fact that it relates to the management of an un-owned, open-access commons that affects all of us – the atmosphere and climate system – and the fact that Coasean bargaining on an international scale cannot, in any practical sense, be conducted without involving states.

WSJ: In DC at the Economic Club, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson again proposes a straight, rebated tax on carbon emissions (OR, climate policy gamesmanship & the importance of being earnest)

October 3rd, 2009 2 comments

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has done it again*, by proposing in a speech on October 1 in Washington, D.C. that the U.S. shelve cap-and-trade legislative approaches to managing greenhouse gas emissions in favor of direct carbon taxes that are rebated to consumers.  Tillerson`s full speech is here; the press release is here.

[*Again? It might be news to some readers, but Tillerson and other executives at ExxonMobil, which once funded Rob Bradley`s climate denial shop at IER (you know, the coal-funded think tank that funds Bob Murphy`s climate policy efforts) have rather clearly stated over the past few years that they
believe that man`s activities pose significant climate change risks and
that a globally coordinated government policy approach centered on
carbon pricing – and preferably carbon taxes over cap-and-trade – is
needed
. ]

The Wall Street Journal`s Environmental Capital blog provided coverage, summarizing both the substance of Tillerson`s remarks and noting both that his speech came just as the Senate rolled out its climate bill (Kerry-Boxer) counterpart to the House Waxman-Markey bill, and that people are already questioning Exxon`s motives.

For example, the Green Energy Reporter observed that while Tillerson has “distinguished company” in supporting carbon taxes, such as NASA climate scientist James Hansen (and others I`ve noted),  

[Tillerson] likely has some different motivations. Tillerson surely knows
that a carbon tax would be dead on arrival in Congress for any number
of reasons, mainly because legislators are already a long way down
the road on cap-and-trade and it would be almost impossible to change
course now. …

We think it’s fair to view Exxon’s opposition to cap-and-trade –
Tillerson’s reasonable critiques notwithstanding – as a tactic meant to
delay passage of meaningful legislation.

Poor Exxon; they`ve played the climate denial and delay game for so long and so consummately (the boy who cried “there`s no wolf” too many times?) that no one seems to be taking seriously their professions of change of heart (as I noted a month or so, when Joe Romm devoted a post on “grassroots” efforts by some oil firms to criticizing PAST activities of Exxon) , even as they are now backing their words with deeds (such as significant investments climate change basic research and biofuels).

In anticipation of such criticism, Tillerson has tried to directly address this skepticism in his speech (emphasis added):

These costs and consequences inherent to cap-and-trade schemes have led
many policy experts and economists to prefer another course of action
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  That other option is a
revenue-neutral carbon tax.
  I know that’s hard for a politician to
say, so we have given it a new name.  We call it a “refundable
greenhouse gas emissions fee.”

As
a businessman, I have to take a deep breath every time I speak about
this, because it’s hard for me to speak favorably about any new tax.  I
hope you see it shows how serious we are about this issue. …

Now, some people have suggested that a revenue-neutral carbon tax
has no chance of gaining sufficient support in Congress to become law.
 They say a carbon tax is too politically sensitive and that it is
easier and more politically expedient to support a cap-and-trade
approach, because the public will never figure out where it is hitting
them.
  They will just know they hurt somewhere in their pocketbook.

I
disagree with this assessment.  I believe the American people want
climate policy to be transparent, honest, and effective.
 Economists
generally agree that achieving a given emissions target costs less
under a tax or fee approach than under a cap-and-trade system.  I
firmly believe it is not too late for Congress to consider a carbon tax
as the better policy approach
for addressing the risks of climate
change.  Indeed, there has never been a more opportune time for
Congress to pursue this course of action.

As a follow-up to the citation of their first comments by the WSJ, the folks at Green Energy News came back and noted that there are very legitimate concerns about cap-and-trade (citing commentary by Gregg Easterbrook that the Waxman-Markey bill “is nightmarishly bad legislation – more than 1,400 pages of
special-interest favors for political donors, command-and-control
bureaucracy and handouts to the privileged. If enacted, it will do
little to reduce greenhouse gases, while discrediting the notion of
climate change legislation.”
), but they nevertheless concluded that:

until Exxon starts lobbying (read: throwing lots of dollars around) for
a viable carbon tax, it will be tough to believe that the company wants
climate change legislation of any sort.

Even while dismaying, I suppose it`s a fair point. Not merely Exxon, but others who want an effective, affordable and politically sustainable climate policy, as well as those who are simply opposed to the massive and opaque pork-barrel approach that Congress is now brewing up (in part for a new set of special interests to edge coal aside from the public troughs), are going to have to start speaking up.

—–

By the way, Tillerson`s speech is a good read; I copy below his remarks about climate policy (emphasis added):

Principles of Policymaking
Climate change policy is one example where such an approach is needed. 

As
Congress debates important legislation for addressing the risks of
climate change, we must remember the fundamental realities governing
the energy system, the need for and pace of technological change, and
the role of stable policies to help encourage innovation, investment,
and collaboration
.

When it comes to managing the risks of climate
change, in my view, the most effective policy approaches must be guided
by several key principles.

First, a successful carbon-reduction
policy needs to establish a uniform and predictable cost for emissions
for use in all economic decisions.  This will ensure government is not
put in the position of arbitrarily picking winners and losers

Second,
the best way to ensure that carbon costs are minimized is to allow for
markets to select the best methods to reduce emissions through new
investments and technology
.

Third, we should seek to minimize
administrative complexity.
  Our shared goal is to reduce emissions at
the lowest cost to society.

To do that we must keep
administrative costs low
so that market participants can invest in
technologies that actually reduce emissions — not become bogged down in
bureaucratic demands or incur the costs of financially burdensome
regulatory systems.
 

Fourth, we should seek to maximize cost
transparency.
  By providing this transparency, companies and consumers
can
assess costs for themselves within the context of different public
policy options, as well as assess those costs in light of their own
needs and resources, allowing them to make the best decisions possible.

Fifth,
our national policy approach should encourage global participation
Energy is critical to progress and economic opportunity in both
developed and developing countries.  Thus, for long-term emissions
reductions to succeed, every nation must be involved.  Developed
nations cannot do it alone.  Developing nations cannot be expected to
forgo economic growth and advancement.  Thus, any carbon-reduction
policy must take these realities into account and encourage every
nation to participate in the most appropriate way to meet our shared
goals for reducing emissions globally.

And of course, there will
need to be periodic reviews and assessments to ensure that we can adapt
to any changes in climate science that might emerge or to respond to
any adverse impact these policies might be having on economic
performance.

Shortcomings of Cap and Trade
So how does the current proposal before Congress to reduce carbon
emissions measure up against these principles for effective
policymaking?  Will a cap-and-trade system accomplish our society’s
shared goals?

Unfortunately,
experience indicates that a cap-and-trade system will result in
volatile prices for emissions allowances — and this volatility will
carry a heavy cost for both the economy and the environment.  For
businesses and industry, price volatility undermines the ability to
invest in advanced technologies.  Price volatility also creates
economic inefficiencies and invites manipulation in the markets
for
allowances.  

For businesses and entrepreneurs, the added
complexity and lack of a predictable cost for emissions make it
difficult to plan
— especially over the long-term. 

And as we discussed earlier, steady and disciplined investment is needed to develop and deploy new technologies.

We
are not alone in this assessment.  The Congressional Budget Office
studied cap and trade and concluded, I quote: “Volatile allowance
prices could have disruptive effects on markets for energy and
energy-intensive goods and services and make investment planning
difficult.” 

Cap-and-trade schemes create another potential cost:
opportunities for market manipulation.  Yet, even with regulations
aimed at minimizing the potential for market manipulation, the
volatility inherent in a cap-and-trade system will add to consumer
concerns about energy prices and the consumer’s ability to manage
energy-related expenditures.

Benefits of a Carbon Tax
These costs and consequences inherent to cap-and-trade schemes have led
many policy experts and economists to prefer another course of action
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  That other option is a
revenue-neutral carbon tax.
  I know that’s hard for a politician to
say, so we have given it a new name.  We call it a “refundable
greenhouse gas emissions fee.”

As
a businessman, I have to take a deep breath every time I speak about
this, because it’s hard for me to speak favorably about any new tax.  I
hope you see it shows how serious we are about this issue. 
A
revenue-neutral carbon tax has the advantage of being well focused for
achieving our society’s shared goal of reducing emissions over the long
term.  It can be predictable, transparent, and comparatively simple to
understand and implement. 

A carbon tax can create a clear and
uniform cost for emissions in all economic decisions.
  This encourages
every business, every industry, and every consumer to become more
efficient and do their part
to increase efficiency and reduce emissions
through other choices they might make.  Because a carbon tax is
directly applied to the carbon content of fossil fuels or to other
greenhouse gas emissions, there is no need for a government to pick
winners and losers in industry through complex allowance allocation
processes
as we have witnessed on the Hill of late.

By
eliminating price volatility, a carbon tax provides predictability. 
And predictability allows entrepreneurs and businesses to plan over the
long term
to research emerging technologies and develop the integrated
solutions that have the most positive impact. 

A carbon tax also
avoids the costs and complexity of having to build a new market for
emissions allowances or the necessity of adding a new layer of
regulators and administrators to police this market.  And a simple
carbon tax can be more easily implemented.  It could largely be built
on the existing tax infrastructure. 
We pay a lot of taxes, excise
taxes, federal taxes.  We’ll just add this to the list.

There is
another advantage: A revenue-neutral carbon tax can ensure that
government policy is specifically focused on reducing emissions, not on
becoming a revenue stream for other purposes.  In other words, the size
of government need not increase due to the imposition of a carbon tax
to solve a threat to society.
 

By returning the tax revenue back
to consumers through reductions in other taxes — payroll taxes or a
simple dividend — we can reduce the burden on the economy and on our
most vulnerable citizens
.  In this current economic downturn, American
families and businesses can hardly afford to be paying a higher cost
for energy, so a direct and transparent refund mechanism is a political
imperative.   

Finally, there is another potential advantage to
the tax approach.  A carbon tax may be a more viable framework for
engaging participation by other nations.  A tax framework is easier to
implement and it does not cap economic growth. 

In addition, it
can be easily adapted to reflect the circumstances of each country. 
Given the global nature of the greenhouse gas challenge, and the fact
that the economic growth in developing economies will account for a
significant portion of future greenhouse-gas emissions, policy options
must be flexible in order to encourage global engagement. 

Now,
some people have suggested that a revenue-neutral carbon tax has no
chance of gaining sufficient support in Congress to become law.  They
say a carbon tax is too politically sensitive and that it is easier and
more politically expedient to support a cap-and-trade approach, because
the public will never figure out where it is hitting them.  They will
just know they hurt somewhere in their pocketbook.

I disagree
with this assessment.  I believe the American people want climate
policy to be transparent, honest, and effective.  Economists generally
agree that achieving a given emissions target costs less under a tax or
fee approach than under a cap-and-trade system.  I firmly believe it is
not too late for Congress to consider a carbon tax as the better policy
approach for addressing the risks of climate change.
 Indeed, there has
never been a more opportune time for Congress to pursue this course of
action. 

Call to Action
During this time of
economic challenge, we must remember that our nation’s economic growth
and success are built on the innovation, energy, and ingenuity of the
American people.  In the months ahead, our nation will make many
important decisions about the direction of our energy policies.

The
U.S. oil and gas industry, and I certainly can commit ExxonMobil, is
committed to working with government leaders to help reenergize the
economy, create new jobs, protect the environment, and strengthen
America’s energy security.  We’re going to continue to do our part to
achieve all these shared goals by investing in and developing
integrated, technology-based solutions to our nation’s economic and
environmental challenges even in the face of an economic down cycle. 
And I’m confident, with sound and stable public policies in place, that
these investments hold the promise for a brighter future for not just
all Americans, but for the entire global community as well.

 

[To comment, please visit this post at my main blog at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.]

Bob Murphy spins shallow "Blockbuster study" by coal lobby on cap and trade bill

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

The coal- and utility-funded “free-market think tank” Institute of Energy Research has a just released another study that tells us the obvious about the regressive consequences of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill and the benefits likely to flow to its corporate supporters, while masking its own agenda. As an added benefit, the press release includes some one-sided and unsupportable over-statements by Bob Murphy.

A few points:

IER:  “cap-and-trade would precipitate a financial windfall for well-connected
special interests and politically-favored companies.”

me:  No dispute here. It`s perfectly fair to point out who will benefit from the cap-and-trade bills.  But let`s not ignore that coal investors have long benefitted from being able to shift pollution costs to people downstream, under the perverse “rights to pollute” enabled under the Clean Air Act, and under state and federal mining licenses that allow mining firms to force out local residents.

IER:  “The study … details how shareholders,
not ratepayers, will be the primary beneficiaries of cap-and-trade’s
largess.”

me:  Sure, just like how it was shareholders in coal producers and utilities who are the primary beneficiaries of the externalities permitted by the status quo.

Bob Murphy[The] analysis … illustrates just how flawed and skewed this
legislation is toward rent-seeking special interests.

me:  Sure, but the interest of the coal lobby is that the legislation doesn`t benefit them enough. Do coal investors care MORE about what`s good for the average Joe than do other “rent-seeking special interests”?

Bob Murphy:  “secondly, and more important, [the analysis] shows that cap-and-trade, as
outlined in Waxman-Markey, is nothing more than a transfer of wealth
from the poorest to the richest among us.

me:  Oh really?  Does the analysis really conclude that Waxman-Markey does “nothing more” than transfer wealth? You mean Waxman-Markey wouldn`t actually raise prices of carbon-based energy or affect consumption and investment decisions by industry, businesses and consumers?

Bob Murphy:  “These new findings should send a clear message to the American people cap-and-trade helps the powerful and hurts the rest of us.

me: The message is fine and important. But are coal firms and investors “the rest of us”, not powerful and only concerned about the average Joe, or are they trying to protect their own privileged position? Further, are there any alternatives to cap-and-trade that coal investors support, such as carbon taxes, or even undoing their favored treatment under federal clean air laws and mining laws?

Bob Murphy:  And as Congress’ corporate allies receive the bulk of the benefits
Waxman-Markey has to offer, our environment, along with our struggling
economy, will suffer for years to come. Congress needs to get out of
the business of picking winners and losers and allow the market to
determine which energy and electricity sources should power our
economy.”

me: Ahh yes, forgive me; I forgot that coal firms were a part of the enviro lobby!  But aside from that, I agree strongly that Waxman-Markey is poor policy.  Do coal investors agree with Exxon that rebated carbon taxes would keep Congress “out of the business of picking winners and losers and allow the market to determine which energy and electricity sources should power our economy”?

Thanks, IER for showing us how “political capitalism” works!

 

* “Political capitalism” is Rob Bradley`s term for “rent-seeking”

A note to Joe Romm about big, bad, carbon-tax-supporting Exxon and the API

August 28th, 2009 No comments

Joe Romm has a post up at Climate Progress that is highly critical of the U.S. oil industry, his ire no doubt triggered by the news that the American Petroleum Institute (API) is coordinating a series of “Energy Citizen” rallies by oil industry employees that target U.S.
Senators in 21 states
.

Romm`s post largely focuses on past efforts by Exxon to influence the debate by emphasizing Exxon`s PAST role in funding others to cast doubt on the science of climate change – a campaign that Exxon appears to have abandoned – and the greater part of the post consists of a requote of a recent commentary by Bloomberg reporter Eric Pooley, “Exxon Works Up New Recipe for Frying the Planet“.  It seems to me that neither Romm nor Pooley has done a good job of establishing a case for laying their current ire at the foot of “carbon-tax” Exxon.

I left the following comment at Romm`s blog, and look forward to his response after it slips through moderation:

Joe, I understand your suspicions of Exxon, but even as they are convenient whipping boy, they are not coal firms, which I`m sure you understand are a much greater climate threat and which are treated so favorably under Waxman-Markey.

Moreover, you and Pooley paint over your lack of substantiation with very broad brush strokes that are more fairly directed to other members of the API. Granted Exxon is a bit late, but:

– they have expressly agreed that climate risks merit mitigation policies,

– CEO Rex Tillerson has specifically advocated carbon taxes (for which he is good company with Jim Hansen, most economists – and now even Margo Thorning of the ACCF!),

– they are making substantial investments in climate research and biofuels; and

– they are not supporting the API`s fake “citizens” meetings.

Why is Exxon still Public Enemy #1 for you, and not Peabody and other coals firms – and the states and US government, who are hooked on royalties?

I agree with the many economists who strongly prefer a rebated carbon tax. I would love to hear your scientific and political calculation that leads you to favor cap and trade.

Categories: carbon pricing, Exxon, Joe Romm Tags:

Margo Thorning / ACCF to WVa. Conservative Foundation: we need a carbon tax and other policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

August 28th, 2009 No comments

Margo Thorning, Chief Economist and SVP at the influential American Council for Capital Formation (and director of research for its tax and environmental policy think tank (ACCF Center for
Policy Research) and managing director of its new international affiliate, the International Council for Capital Formation) has been a persistent and vocal long-term opponent of most climate change policy, so much so that she`s got her own “ExxonSecrets FactSheet” (alongside similar ones for ACCF). 

She`s also the author of widely-quoted studies of the costs of climate change legislation, and has been busy explaining the study jointly released earlier this month by ACCF and the National Association of Manufacturers that assesses the potential impact of the Waxman-Markey Bill on manufacturing, jobs, energy prices and our overall economy,

(The rollout of the study, executive summary, etc. are here; criticisms of the study`s assumption are here, here, here, here, here and here.)

All of which makes her remarks on August 25 at a “Cap and
Trade Town Hall meeting”
sponsored by the West Virginia Conservative Foundation (and reportedly the West Virginia Manufacturers Association as well) – to the effect that we DO need federal and global policies to reduce GHG emissions and to prepare to adapt to changes that we will be unable to forestall – even the more remarkable. 

I quote below from an August 27 report of Thorning`s remarks in the online version of The State Journal (emphasis added):

Thorning believes that climate change is happening, that it is at least
in part caused by human activity and that some type of policy to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions is warranted.


But while climate scientists recommend keeping atmospheric
concentrations of greenhouse gases below 450 parts per million to avoid
the very worst effects of climate change, Thorning said it’s too late
for that.


“We’re probably, because of China and India and developing countries,
going to have to adapt to a higher level of CO2 concentrations in the
atmosphere,” Thorning said in an interview before the event. “We might
be able to keep it to 550, but I think we better focus on adapting to a
changing environment.”

There is no rush in Thorning’s mind.


“CO2 stays in the atmosphere 100 years,” she said. “I think we can afford to take a thoughtful approach.”

Congress currently is considering a cap-and-trade program that would
place a cap on carbon emissions, issue permits that companies could
trade in an emissions market and then ratchet the cap down over time to
ensure emissions reductions.


Rather than a cap-and-trade program, Thorning advocates a carbon tax
that would put a price directly on greenhouse gas emissions and would
rise over time.

Now this might have startled her audience and readers here, but close observers might have noted that Thorning made a similar statement two years ago when, as I previously reported, she said in an interview that “Senator Lieberman and Warner are to be commended for their
efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because I think we’re all
united that that’s a goal we need to put a lot of resources into.

Thorning spoke further in West Virginia about why a carbon tax is preferable to cap and trade:

In general, economists say, a cap on greenhouse gas emissions gives
certainty about emissions but uncertainty about the price of emissions,
while a tax on the emissions gives certainty about the price but not
about the quantity.


Companies need that price certainty, Thorning said, so they can make investment decisions.

A study sponsored in part by the ACCF and released earlier this month
found that the program Congress is considering could reduce U.S. Gross
Domestic Product between 1.8 and 2.4 percent from a baseline projection
in 2030.

It did not compare the effects of a carbon tax.

Thorning also spoke of the need for revenue.

President Barack Obama initially planned to auction the cap-and-trade
emissions permits and to direct some of the proceeds to the development
of renewable energy sources and carbon capture and storage technology.

However, as the program has come to be structured, the permits would be
given for free to emitters in at least the first decade of the program.

A tax, Thorning said, would bring in those revenues and enable the
government to support the development and deployment of important
technologies.

From a broader perspective, Thorning underlined the growth of emissions
in China, India and other emerging economies. She champions the
exchange in both directions of the most effective technologies to
reduce greenhouse gas intensiveness.


She pointed to the Major Economies Initiative housed in the U.S.
Department of State to foster cooperation among 17 countries that
represent 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.


The initiative can help promote business-to-business transactions like
one in which Caterpillar Inc. is turning methane captured at 60 Chinese
coal mines into electricity,
she said.

“So Caterpillar is making money on that, and we’re suppressing a gas
that’s even more harmful than CO2 — and the Chinese are getting
electricity,” she said. “There are about eight key areas like that that
have been identified in this Major Economies Initiative.”

Thorning believes that a gradually increasing U.S. carbon tax combined
with international cooperation on best practices is the least
economically disruptive approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions
over time.


“Remember that economic growth and stronger economies allow people to
adapt to a changing environment,”
she said. “We have to keep our eye on
the bigger picture.”

h/t http://www.carbontax.org/

What else does Thorning want to see done on climate policy?  In a presentation in June to the Midwest Energy and Climate Policy Conference in St. Louis, Thorning argued that practical strategies for reducing global greenhouse growth would include the following steps:

  • Use cost / benefit analysis before adopting policies
  • If U.S. puts a price on carbon emissions, a carbon tax is preferable to cap and trade
  • Reduce cost of U.S. energy investment through tax code improvement and incentives for non profits
  • Remove barriers to developing world’s access to more energy and
    cleaner technology by promoting economic freedom and market reforms
  • Increase R&D  for new technologies to reduce energy intensity, capture and store carbon, and develop new energy sources 
  • Promote nuclear power for electricity
  • Promote truly global solutions and consider expanding the Asia
    Pacific Partnership on Development with its focus on economic growth
    and technology transfer to other major emitters

These prescriptions expand on her November 2007 interview:

Q:So, if you were given the opportunity
to sort of write your own proposal of how the U.S. should reduce
emissions and not hurt itself economically, you’d go with the carbon
tax?

Margo Thorning: I would go with the
carbon tax and more incentives for new technology development. And I
would change the U.S. tax code, because we have the slowest
depreciation allowances for new energy investment of 12 countries that
we compared recently. We have very high capital costs for new
investment because depreciation is so slow and our effective tax rate
is very high, because our corporate tax rate is the highest in the
industrial world. So our companies are disadvantaged vis-à-vis our
trading partners because of our tax system.

This would seem to align Thorning`s views fairly closely with those of the still-villified Exxon, which has been a generous supporter of ACCF, and whose CEO Rex Tillerson is an express advocate of carbon taxes.  The nail-biting question is whether these voices are too little and too late in the game to steer the cap and trade pork train on to a more productive track.

Categories: ACCF, carbon pricing, Exxon, Thorning, Tillerson Tags:

Atlas Does Not Shrug at Climate Change: Exxon, Rob Bradley's favorite "principled entrepreneur", embarks on $600+ million biofuels venture

July 15th, 2009 No comments

A little birdy told me this story yesterday, which I think I was the first to ”Tweet”.

ExxonMobil has announced a $600+ million venture with Craig Venter’s advance genomics firm to develop fuels from algae.  An Exxon scientist noted:

“the potential advantages and benefits of biofuel from algae could be significant. Among other advantages, readily available sunlight and carbon dioxide used to grow the photosynthetic algae could provide greenhouse gas mitigation benefits. Growing algae does not rely on fresh water and arable land otherwise used for food production. And lastly, algae have the potential to produce large volumes of oils that can be processed in existing refineries to manufacture fuels that are compatible with existing transportation technology and infrastructure.” “

Exxon, whose scientists contributed directly to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has made a steady stream of policy announcements and investments related to climate change over the past five years, and Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has specifically called for governments to establish regulatory frameworks that provide investors and consumers with incentives to find ways to reduce GHG emissions, with Exxon favoring carbon taxes over cap-and-trade policies.  (Tillerson has said: “It is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the alternatives under consideration, it is my judgment that a carbon tax is the best course of public policy action. And it is a judgment I hope others in the business community and beyond will come to share.”)

A recent statement by Exxon explained its climate change views as follows:

“As was recently summarized in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the risks to society and ecosystems from increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are significant. Meeting the enormous energy demand growth and managing the risk of GHG emissions are the twin challenges of our time.We all must engage in the search for solutions if we are to succeed at mitigating these risks. Progress can be achieved through climate change policy frameworks that enable countries to pursue economic progress while promoting the development of technologies necessary to generate and use energy more efficiently. As the largest publicly traded international energy company, the energy ExxonMobil produces meets 2 percent of the world’s needs. We share the responsibility to take action with scientists, citizens, and governments around the world and are doing so in several substantive ways.”

(emphasis added)

 

As an aside, I note that despite Rob Bradley’s deep admiration for Exxon (including several posts noting Exxon`s reluctance to invest in “green” energy), Exxon has specifically stopped funding Rob Bradley‘s Institute for Energy Research and similar public policy research groups, on the grounds that these groups’ “position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”  Does Exxon, despite an apparently strong policy disagreement with Bradley, still have his respect?

 

 

Categories: climate change, Exxon, Rob Bradley, Tillerson Tags:

Rent-seekers at the Core: Rob Bradley is anxious to defend his role at Enron, but is uninterested in balance, open debate or correcting his own misstatements about EXXON's support for carbon taxes

May 10th, 2009 No comments

Apparently Rob Bradley`s self-proclaimed “free-market” energy blog, “MasterResource”, has experienced a recent increased flow of traffic, so Rob is busy patting himself on the back and spinning his blog to his new readers.

But what`s the reason for the increased traffic?  Is MasterResource finding more success at putting out a message of “free-market” energy and “principled entrepreneurship“?*

* This is a purportedly trademarked(!) phrase that encapsulates Bradley`s laudable professed beliefs that (i) “businesses, big or small, should not seek special favors from government but create private wealth via the economic means rather than the political means” and that (ii) “government activism, not consumer choice in a free society, is the major threat to energy sustainability”.

Far from it – in the face of the growing stream of unbalanced (pro-fossil fuels and “clean” coal), partisan, thinly argued, and some surprisingly not pro-free-market posts from MasterResource and its related sites, the Institute for Energy Research (of which Bradley is founder and CEO) and IER`s “independent grassroots affiliate”, the newly re-founded energy front group American Energy Alliance (which calls IER its “partner”), these groups and blogs have basically simply been earning negative attention from those they see as their opposition in a classic rent-seekers` battle over using government (via public opinion tools) to achieve economic and other ends.  IER has been busy pushing for greater energy production on “public” lands, while AEA, with the help of Burston-Marsteller, has created affliliates in every state, and is running a large “integrated education and advocacy campaign” against the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill (which AEA prefers to misleadingly call simply an “energy tax bill”).

As I noted in another post and in comments regarding a puzzled reaction by Bob Murphy (who has found himself the target of attacks as a result of speaking on behalf of IER against Obama`s green jobs program), this is too bad, not only because one of the first casualties in a war of words is truth and reason.  MasterResource and the folks Bradley runs with at IER and AEA are assembling their own “Baptists and Bootleggers” coalition, where market principles are given lip service (along with patriotism, energy independence and the like), but the funders appear to all have rather more common-place and less lofty motives.  The descent into partisan bickering (while Bradley tries to maintain a lofty tone, it`s easily seen elsewhere by those who pick up posts from his blog, IER and AEA) is too bad, but the natural consequence when one acts as a spokesman for particular classes of rent-seekers.

That this state of affairs – professing the high ground while fronting for rent-seekers (or “political capitalists”, to use a term that Bradley prefers) – is what Rob Bradley actually desires, seems to be attested to:

– (1) by the alacrity by which Bradley has rushed to defend himself and IER against criticisms that were generated in response to commentary from Master Resource and IER, while deliberately obfuscating and refusing to correct the record about ExxonMobil`s fairly dramatic change in position – from opposition to government action on climate financial support to cutting off funding for IER and to actively supporting carbon taxes (Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson: “It is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the alternatives under consideration, it is my judgment that a carbon tax is the best course of public policy action. And it is a judgment I hope others in the business community and beyond will come to share.”); and

– (2) of course, by the fact that, despite Bradley`s professed call to “Let the analysis and debate continue–and assume the best of intentions and civil discourse from all of us at MasterResource,” he banned me from the site, without explanation, and without the knowledge or consent of his “volunteer” co-bloggers in mid-conversations (Tom Tanton carried the conversation to my blog, while Chip Knappenberger responded by email, and I just discovered that Marlo Lewis, weeks after I was banned, posted a rejoinder).

Sure, Rob, let the “high-level” discourse continue, with nary an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of others`s preferences, of the role of government in frustrating such preferences so far, and of the firms and investors that continue to benefit from government interventions at the expense of consumers and the public weal. 

Heaven forbid anyone call for greater competition in power markets, for finding ways to rein in the mismanagement of the federal lands that your friends are itching to drill/mine, or for a frank acknowledgment that the world faces a number of “environmental” problems as a result of a lack of clear or enforceable private or communal property rights in important shared resources.

It`s the Austrian/libertarian/Objectivist way, after all.

Do actions speak louder than words?

Jim Hansen on Freeman Dyson on climate change

March 29th, 2009 No comments

I received the following in an email from NASA climate scientist James Hansen (whom I`ve mentioned a number of times), in connection with today`s New York Times Magazine article (“The Civil Heretic”) on Freeman Dyson, which is now making its way through the “skeptosphere”.  My short and unfair take on Dyson?:  Short Freeman Dyson: Yep, it`s warming; I LIKE vast uncontrolled experiments with climate, and who needs fish in the ocean anyway!

Dyson is rather critical of Hansen, but it`s not at all clear that he understand`s Hansen`s position.  But why attack Hansen, when Exxon  and its CEO Rex Tillerson are now explicitly pushing carbon taxes?  If any firm ought to understand fossil fuels – and the problems with government actions – it`s Exxon.  Hansen is a vocal scientist, but he represents no particular special interests.

In any case, Hansen`s mail is fairly brief, so I thought I`d just post it as if for all you open minds out there:  

            Tomorrow’s NY Times Magazine article (The Civil Heretic) on Freeman Dyson includes an unfortunate quote from me that may appear to be disparaging and ad hominem (something about bigger fish to fry).  It was a quick response to a reporter* who had been doggedly pursuing me for an interview that I did not want to give.  I accept responsibility for the sloppy wording and I will apologize to Freeman, who deserves much respect.

            You might guess (correctly) that I was referring to the fact that contrarians are not the real problem – it is the vested interests who take advantage of the existence of contrarians.

            There is nothing wrong with having contrarian views, even from those who have little relevant expertise – indeed, good science continually questions assumptions and conclusions.  But the government needs to get its advice from the most authoritative sources, not from magazine articles.  In the United States the most authoritative source of information would be the National Academy of Sciences.

            The fact that the current administration in the United States has not asked for such advice, when combined with continued emanations about “cap and trade”, should be a source of great concern.  What I learned in visiting other countries is that most governments do not want to hear from their equivalent scientific bodies, probably because they fear the advice will be “stop building coal plants now!”  These governments are all guilty of greenwash, pretending that they are dealing with the climate problem via “goals” and “caps”, while they continue to build coal plants and even investigate unconventional fossil fuels and coal-to-liquids.

            I will send out something (“Worshiping the Temple of Doom”) on cap-and-trade soon.  It is incredible how governments resist the obvious (maybe not so incredible when lobbying budgets are examined, along with Washington’s revolving doors).  This is not rocket science.  If we want to move toward energy independence and solve the climate problem, we need to stop subsidizing fossil fuels with the public’s money and instead place a price on carbon emissions.

            My suggestion is Carbon Fee and 100% Dividend, with a meaningful starting price (on oil, gas and coal at the mine or port of entry) equivalent to $1/gallon gasoline ($115/ton CO2).  Based on 2007 fuel use, this would generate $670B/year – returned 100% to the public (monthly electronic deposit in bank accounts or debit cards), the dividend would be $3000 per adult legal resident, $9000/year per family with two or more children.  This is large enough to affect consumer product and life style choices, investments and innovations.  Of course all the other things (rules re vehicle, appliance and building efficiencies, smart electric grid, utility profit motives, etc.) are needed, but a rising carbon price is needed to make them work and move us most efficiently to the cleaner world beyond fossil fuels. 

Jim Hansen
 

*             The reporter left the impression that my conclusions are based mainly on climate models.  I always try to make clear that our conclusions are based on #1 Earth’s history, how it responded to forcings in the past, #2 observations of what is happening now, #3 models.  Here is the actual note that I sent to the reporter after hanging up on him:

 I looked up Freeman Dyson on Wikipedia, which describes his views on “global warming” as below.  If that is an accurate description of what he is saying now, it is actually quite reasonable (I had heard that he is just another contrarian).  However, this also indicates that he is under the mistaken impression that concern about global warming is based on climate models, which in reality play little role in our understanding — our understanding is based mainly on how the Earth responded to changes of boundary conditions in the past and on how it is responding to on-going changes.  

If this Wikipedia information is an accurate description of his position, then the only thing that I would like to say about him is that he should be careful not to offer public opinions about global warming unless he is willing to first take a serious look at the science.  His philosophy of science is spot-on, the open-mindedness, consistent with that of Feynman and the other greats, but if he is going to wander into something with major consequences for humanity and other life on the planet, then he should first do his homework — which he obviously has not done on global warming.  My concern is that the public may assume that he has — and, because of his other accomplishments, give his opinion more weight than it deserves.

      (emphasis added)      

Categories: carbon pricing, Exxon, Jim Hansen Tags: