Green Is As Green Does

by Don Boudreaux on April 12, 2008

in Energy, Environment, The Profit Motive

Today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal contains several excellent letters on the alleged desirability of using government to promote "green" technologies.  Here are the first three of these letters:

Fred Krupp’s op-ed "Climate Change Opportunity"
(April 8) overlooks what most climate change skeptics are skeptical of:
government’s ability to effectively regulate the economy. If there is a
way to make money from alternative energy sources, the market will find
it. There is no need for bureaucrats to lead the way. Government
regulations at best distort the market to benefit politically favorable
(read "green") industries, and at worst create unintended consequences
that increase the cost of energy and energy innovation. Congress
doesn’t need to act in order for energy efficiencies to be realized by
business; it needs to stay out of the way.

David Smith
Boston

In Europe, consumers pay
up to $9 a gallon for gasoline, in part because European Union
governments tax gasoline at rates of $2 to $3 a gallon and more. What
most people don’t realize is that gasoline taxes are implicit carbon
taxes. Taxing gasoline at $1 a gallon is roughly equivalent to taxing
the carbon dioxide emissions from gasoline at $100 per ton. So,
European motorists are paying carbon dioxide penalties of $300 or more
per ton. That’s about six times higher than the maximum estimated
carbon permit price under the Warner-Lieberman cap-and-trade proposal.

Yet where in Europe is
the miracle fuel to replace petroleum? Where are all the zero-emission
vehicles? Europe is not one mile closer than we are to achieving a
"beyond petroleum" transport system. In fact, from 1990 to 2004, EU
transport sector carbon dioxide emissions increased by almost 26%.

Mr. Krupp and other
cap-and-trade advocates ignore the main lesson of the failed Synfuels
program of the 1970s, memorably expressed by MIT’s Thomas Lee, Ben Ball
Jr. and Richard Tabors: "If a technology is commercially viable, then
government support is not needed, and if a technology is not
commercially viable, no amount of government support will make it so."

Marlo Lewis
Senior Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington

The Environmental
Defense Fund’s president says he is simply trying to lower the cost of
adapting to climate change. I’m suspicious. When environmentalists
wanted to save the spotted owl, they told us that economic costs should
not be a factor in that decision. When they wanted to save salmon by
demolishing dams, they told us that cost should not be an issue. When
they wanted to protect Alaskan wilderness, they said that energy costs
should not be considered. Now, suddenly, they are all about saving us
money. Either they have changed the way they think about the
environment, or they want to control how I live my life, using any
argument. That’s handy.

Bill Conerly
Chairman

Cascade Policy Institute

Lake Oswego, Ore

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