Energetically Political

by Don Boudreaux on March 30, 2011

in Energy, Environment, Politics, Seen and Unseen

Mr. Joshua Freed
Director of Clean Energy
Third Way
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Freed:

Thanks for your e-mail today seeking my support for your proposal to have Uncle Sam “require utilities to generate a percentage of their electricity from clean (non- or low-emitting) energy sources.”  It’s interesting that the first alleged benefit that you trumpet for your plan is that it will create lots of “new jobs.”

I’ve some questions.

Suppose a brilliant scientist invents a method enabling a single unskilled worker to supply every American with ample low-cost energy as clean as the energy that your proposal promises to deliver.  Which method of energy supply would you support: yours, or that of the brilliant scientist?

If you’d support your plan over that of the brilliant scientist, then I can’t take your proposal seriously, for it would be revealed to be the product of a mind that mistakes costs (the use of precious human labor) for benefits.  And anyone who misunderstands economics so fundamentally is unlikely to have trustworthy insights into just what Americans’ energy demands will be in the future or how best to supply those demands.

If, instead, you’d support the plan of the brilliant scientist, why, when promoting your plan, do you emphasize the large number of “new jobs” that it will create?  My guess is that you do so for political reasons – because you understand that politicians make decisions based upon such economically foolish criteria.  So talking loudly about creating “new jobs” gives your proposal a broader hearing along Pennsylvania Ave.  But then, I must inquire, why do you trust these same politicians – officials who are enchanted by economic nonsense – with the awesome power to mandate nationwide clean-energy standards?

Donald J. Boudreaux

[Here's the 'clean-energy' memo that came along with Mr. Freed's e-mail.]

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Michael E. Marotta March 30, 2011 at 11:04 am

Thanks for the reminder of the need for double-entry bookkeeping. The residue of public education plagues us all. As a numismatist, I am dismayed at the lack of understanding of economics in the wider world among people who otherwise thrive on the bourse floor, a huge unregulated market for buying and selling money. Change the venue, and they change their paradigms. Here in Michigan, we say “creating jobs” the way we used to ask “How are you?” Of course, we assume that these are to be productive, i.e., profitable to the employer reselling the services or goods produced. But it is not clear what costs are distributed to what accounts, what assets are debited, when government incentives, not investment from savings, are the starting point.

Richard Stands March 30, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Heh. Your Michigan greeting remark reminded me of an old Saturday Night Life sketch where Reverend Al Sharpton replaced “Hello.” with “I’m outraged!”

vidyohs March 30, 2011 at 11:26 am

Read this link just a few minutes ago, oddly enough the fools in government really do think they can mandate miracles in energy, as well as other endeavors.


Senator Coburn addresses the biggest earmark in history, 2 billion to build a coal fired generating plant with zero emissions, in spite of the fact that every one on the planet says it can’t be done.

Wave that magic fairy wand! Speak it and make it so!

Mao_Dung March 30, 2011 at 1:42 pm

You’ve got it backward. It is the capitalists who scream jobs in order to exploit the planet and get their evil way. For example, they will chop down the old growth redwood forests in the Northwest to make a quick buck. They get the local rednecks to support them by promising jobs, jobs, and more jobs. Those jobs usually last briefly until the resource is fully exploited and there is no more forest to chop down for anyone, not the workers, the owls, the deer, no one. Exploitation must be stopped wherever it rears its ugly head.

vidyohs March 30, 2011 at 2:13 pm

LOL, operating fingers before engaging brain again, are you?

“they will chop down the old growth redwood forests in the Northwest to make a quick buck.” I can’t tell you how happy I am about this. Damn trees just standing around doing nothing and producing nothing on their own, look like a bunch of union employees! As for the quick buck, obviously you’re one of those union employees that have never actually done any logging, t’ain’t quick.

“They get the local rednecks to support them by promising jobs, jobs, and more jobs.” At least the rednecks will be paid out of profits from sales: Quite unlike how you looney left regressive thugs get your money, which is as gifts from the taxes taken from those hardworking rednecks.

“Those jobs usually last briefly until the resource is fully exploited and there is no more forest to chop down for anyone,” WOW! The American forests have been subjected to exploitation for well over four hundred years now, and a fool like you can sit down and write complaints about exploitation of currently existing “Old Growth” forests! Amazing that you are too stupid to see the irony there.

“there is no more forest to chop down for anyone, not the workers, the owls, the deer,” Hmmm, owls and deer chop down trees? Or viewing the other possibility of your rant; are you claiming that forests are chopped down “for owls and deer”? Whodathunk it?

SheepDung, your brain is broken, why not go spread your dung pellets on blogs that appreciate manure.

Dave March 31, 2011 at 12:30 am

Mr. Mao is a satirist, methinks.

The Other Eric March 30, 2011 at 3:22 pm

As a card-carrying evil capitalist, typing this on my foreign-manufactured iPad while sitting on my wooden deck, in a wooden Adirondack chair, I can tell you I only feel exploited when I pay large sums of money, under threat of imprisonment, for ill defined and wasteful services… you know, at tax time.

I recently invested in a reforestation company– seeking profits by the way. It turns out they earn carbon credits that they resell to industries looking to expand under the idiotic carbon trading schemes in place in several countries. I’m helping to create jobs through green exploitation. I suppose you oppose this too.

Sam Grove March 30, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Can’t you at least carry a doggie bag?

Polly March 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Several years ago I read that the head of the Sierra Club had installed a redwood deck on his home. I mentioned it to my environmentally-correct friend, and she commented that perhaps he had used recycled redwood. I told her that he should have let some other schmuck use the recycled redwood so that the other schmuck wouldn’t have to use wood from newly cut redwoods.

On principle, anyone associated with the Sierra Club should, at the very least, NOT use redwood. Much better to replace a pine deck over and over than to use redwood, yes?

Moggio March 30, 2011 at 3:35 pm
vidyohs March 30, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Good article, Moggio. Thanks for the link.

W.E. Heasley March 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm

A Clean Energy Standard: Getting Back into the Clean Energy Race

“Colorado, California, Texas, Montana and 32 other states have enacted state-wide energy standards.

The result?

New jobs, a boost to clean energy use and certainty for companies that invest in new clean energy projects.”

Hmm. Hence the argument is:

(1) states have enacted state-wide energy standards.

(2) mandatory standards create new jobs,

(3) mandatory standards boost clean energy use and certainty for companies that invest in new clean energy projects.

Therefore, if the state enacts state-wide clown hat standards that requires each citizen to wear clown hats, new jobs are created at the clown hat factory, and it’s a boost to clown hat use and certainly a boost to companies that invest in clown hat projects.

Logically the boost in jobs at the clown hat factory is an incentive for the state to enact state-wide clown shoes standards that require each citizen to wear clown shoes. The logical extension is for the state to enact state-wide clown nose, clown horn, and mini clown car requirements.

How in the wide, wide, world of sports did Hayek, Friedman, Ricardo, Bastiat, Sumner, and so many other miss this simple economic reasoning?!? Simply have state command certain standards and jobs are immediately created! Gee wiz!

Hmmmm. Maybe Hayek, Friedman, Ricardo, Bastiat, Sumner and so many others had something against us all looking like clowns. Go figure.

Dave March 31, 2011 at 12:33 am

Rarely do I literally “LOL” at a post; however, yours was one. Nice!

Fair warning: I am going to steal your metaphor and add it to my own repertoire. For at least a short time, however, I will credit to ” a great but little-known philosopher named Heasley….”

Dave March 31, 2011 at 12:37 am

Dr. Boudreaux,
The only potential lapse I see in your argument is if Mr. Freed sees past the seen and looks to the unseen… and calls your bluff. That is, he would realize that “a single unskilled worker [] supply[ing] every American with ample low-cost [clean] energy” WOULD create jobs via the UNseen — the new jobs created by the jolt of construction and expansion and innovation that such an efficient source of energy would provide.

Polly March 31, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Define “efficient.”

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