Mr. [Holman] Jenkins is not correct that a carbon tax would “bring us all the energy we want . . . without running a gantlet of environmentalists trying to shut [fossil energy] down.” The opposition to oil and gas is fundamentally ideological, derived from opposition to modern industrial society, which would be impossible without fossil fuels. The left opposes a carbon tax because the revenues will expand the political coalition favoring robust fossil-fuel production and carbon-tax revenues over the long run.
Besides, a reduction in capital taxation financed with an increase in energy costs is not viable politically. Even a carbon tax adopted on an international basis would have an impact on climate phenomena close to zero. Efforts to minimize the adverse competitive effects of a carbon tax in the context of international trade would be hugely complex, and would engender a massive shift toward resource allocation driven by government.
American Enterprise Institute
Long Beach, Wash.
But are hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and droughts in the U.S. getting worse? University of Colorado climate change policy researcher Roger Pielke, Jr. notes that the number of landfalling hurricanes hitting the continental United States has been falling since 1900. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report observes that the annual average number of tornadoes in the U.S. has remained constant since the 1970s, although their location appears to be shifting from the Great Plains toward the mid-South. The president is right that wildfires have burned larger areas in recent years, although longer-term data show the area burnt by wildfires in the first half of the 20th century was similar to today’s extent. With respect to droughts, the Southwestern U.S. is experiencing its worst drought in 12 centuries. However, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that since 1900 “the overall trend has been toward wetter conditions” nationally.
What about the $145 billion in weather damages last year? Pielke notes that figure is about the average to be expected given the increase in infrastructure and housing exposed to weather events. He adds that the overall trend in global weather losses as percent of global GDP has been falling since 1990.
Nobel-laureate economist F.A. Hayek insightfully observed that “economic planning, regulation, and intervention pave the way to totalitarianism by building a power structure that will inevitably be seized by the most power-hungry and unscrupulous.” Granting unelected bureaucrats expanded powers over the companies that drive economic growth is economically and politically dangerous. The risk is simply too great that government will abuse this power by compelling companies to bow to the whims of organized interest groups, including the administrative state itself. The subsequent suppression of decision-making based on profit and loss will result in inefficiency and stagnation.
As a policy matter, however, the already‐weak economic case for the subsidies that we detailed last December has become even weaker. For starters, there has been even more chipmaking investment dedicated to the U.S. market, even as federal subsidies have languished. Construction is now underway at four major U.S. facilities and will continue with or without subsidies—something even Intel reluctantly acknowledged when it delayed the groundbreaking ceremony on its much‐ballyhooed Ohio facility to protest congressional inaction. This is because, as numerous experts have explained over the last year, there are real economic and geopolitical reasons to invest in additional U.S. semiconductor production—no federal subsidies needed.
What does it take for people to do something like this, completely pointless and also inconvenient for them? There are only two possibilities; obedience, or unfounded fear, coupled with an irrational belief. Obedience is out of the question; there is no mask mandate in Iceland. The only possibility therefore, is unfounded fear, coupled with the irrational belief that a mask will protect a lone man outdoors from the object of his fear, when the object of his fear isn’t even anywhere near him.
Unfounded fear and irrational beliefs are signs of insanity. The man with the mask has succumbed to a pandemic of mass-insanity. For he is not alone. He is just one of hundreds of millions around the world.
(DBx: To be clear: I believe that people should be just as free to wear masks – and face shields, latex gloves, and hazmat suits – as they are to wear baseball caps, Birkenstocks, blue jeans, or Bozo costumes. But this freedom does not come along with immunity from appropriate criticism of the sort here leveled by Mr. Siglaugsson.)
Many practices and discourses from the early days of Covid persist in a zombie form, not because there remains any serious hope of “beating” or “controlling” Covid, but because the continuation of these practices and discourses makes political sense.