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A libertarian immodestly summarizes a few modest climate policy proposals

[Folks, I hope you do a better job than I do at saving draft posts before they`re finalized; I just lost alot of work. This will necessarily be shorter.]

I have on numerous occasions tried to point out, to posters on the Mises
Blog who have addressed climate issues, the stunning unproductive approach. Rather than simply reiterating my criticisms, let me 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
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 climate change,
  • the political deal in favor of 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 do not go to
    citizens but into the General Pork Pool, with an unhealthy 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 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.

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:

  • accelerating cleaner power investments by eliminating corporate
    income taxes or allowing immediate depreciation of capital investment
    (which would make new investments more attractive),
  • eliminating antitrust immunity for public utility monopolies (to
    increase competition, allow consumer choice, peak pricing and “smart metering” that will
    rapidly push efficiency gains),
  • ending Clean Air Act handouts to the worst utilities (or otherwise
    unwinding burdensome regulations and moving to lighter and more
    common-law dependent approaches),
  • ending energy subsidies generally (including federal liability caps for nuclear power (and allowing states to license),
  • speeding economic growth and adaptation in the poorer countries
    most threatened by climate change by rolling back domestic agricultural
    corporate welfare programs
    (ethanol and sugar), and
  • if there is to be any type of carbon pricing at all, insisting that it is a per capita, fully-rebated carbon tax
    (puts the revenues in the hands of those with the best claim to it,
    eliminates regressive impact and price volatility, least new
    bureaucracy, most transparent, and least susceptible to pork).

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 be rebated to
(with a slice to the administering agency).

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

Several libertarians have recently been urging constructive libertarian approaches to climate change:

These discussions and exchanges of view are also worthy of note:

  • The Cato Institute has 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 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.

  • 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

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

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