Our Choice or Al Gore’s Choice?

Al Gore has had a busy week. First, the former vice president’s renewable energy investments received some serious backing from the taxpayer as $3.4 billion stimulus package would be allocated for smart grid investment. $560 million went to Silver Spring Networks, a company Gore’s venture capitalist firm invested in, that makes hardware and software to improve efficiency in the nation’s electricity grid. That’s not the only way Gore is profiting from the global warming debate. On November 3rd he published his new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, which details the need for more wind, solar and biofuels, improved energy efficiency and the use of offsets and trees to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere – among other things.

Gore stresses that the cost of doing nothing is much higher than any dire economic projections that would result from capping greenhouse gas emissions, or as Gore likes to call it, “global warming pollution.” To gain support, Gore paints pictures of rising sea levels that will swallow up islands and devastate the global economy. But this “opportunity cost” of doing nothing must be discounted by the actual effect the “doing something” will have. Doing something like cap-and-trade, does not mitigate climate change entirely, if at all, and therefore the (negative) opportunity foregone (i.e., the expected climate change) is not the full benefit.

We have to look at how much climate change Waxman-Markey is expected to mitigate. As Heritage analyst David Kreutzer says, “We need to look at the cost of these proposals in light of what difference these proposals make. None of the proposals will entirely eliminate predicted climate change regardless of the assumptions, models, computers or theories used.”

He has conducted interviews with Katie Couric, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, which features a sketch of Colbert debating himself on the issue of global warming. (The skeptic Colbert cites The Heritage Foundation’s numbers on the costs of cap and trade. You can check it out here beginning at the 9:00 mark.)

Al Gore writes in his new book that “that we have at our fingertips all of the tools that we need to solve the climate crisis. The only missing ingredient would be collective will.”

One of the problems is that we do not have the technology at our fingertips for a green revolution – at least not a cost acceptable to most energy consumers in the United States. Laurie Williams and Allen Zabel, two EPA lawyers opposed to cap and trade, write: “The biggest obstacle to this revolution is that uncontrolled fossil fuel energy remains much cheaper than clean energy. Cap-and-trade alone will not create confidence that clean energy will become profitable within a known time frame and so will not ignite the huge shift in investment needed to begin the clean-energy revolution. In recent interviews, even the economists who thought up cap-and-trade have said they don’t believe it’s an appropriate tool for climate change.”

Furthermore, collective will is an ingredient that should be left out of the recipe for a healthy economy. It’s not collective will that the right amount of food from all over the world is stocked in your local grocery store. It’s spontaneous order. It’s not controlled by any one person or collective will; it’s a great number of people who have never met but their interests coincide.

Even so, what the government purports to do isn’t collective will; it’s the decision of few that affective the lives of many and the decisions are being made with taxpayer money. While Gore does not officially wear a political hat anymore, he is still very much involved: Despite suffering one of history’s worst political fates, Gore has by no means given up on politicians. Behind the scenes, he takes calls from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and strategizes with Sens. Barbara Boxer and John Kerry, sponsors of the Senate climate bill.”

The “collective will” of our government promises nothing for our children but an economy with less opportunity.



Filed under Global Warming, Heritage.com

3 responses to “Our Choice or Al Gore’s Choice?

  1. Billy

    Cap & Trade will definitely stunt economic opportunity.

  2. JohnD

    Great post. Thanks.

  3. Agree with Laurie Williams and Allen Zabel!

    Cap and Trade is wrong
    whether one is for or against emission control

    – and notice all the wrangling required with this bloated bill.

    The issues are emission reduction and future energy supply.

    Given the uncertainty of the effects of emission reduction on global
    temperature – and given the expense of emission reduction – the key is
    to engage in activites which
    1. Are valuable in themselves.
    2. Meet any agreed emission reduction targets with minimal business disruption and expense.

    Sufficient first phase 2020/2030 emission reduction, for 2020
    typically quoted at 15-20% reduction, is achieved by acting on
    electricity generation (coal, gas) and transport (mainly automobiles)
    alone, since these 2 sectors account for nearly 80% of CO2 emissions.

    This can be done with emission tax (for cars, allowing free choice)
    and emission limits for CO2 (for electricity generation), without any
    emission trading.

    The focus on electricity and transport gives several advantages:

    1. Local environmental benefit from less pollution of sulphur and all
    else that’s in the emissions, regardless of the less certain or
    immediate global benefit from CO2 reduction.

    2. Electricity supply alternatives which together with improved grid
    distribution gives better competition and keeps down electricity bills
    for consumers.

    3. Transport alternatives (using electricity, hydrogen and other
    energy sources), which give variety of choice and competition
    advantages for consumers, additionally reducing the dependency on oil imports.

    4. No trade problems: Unlike Cap and Trade, which involves cement,
    steel and other industries having to face imports from unregulated
    countries, the here suggested electricity and transport changes are
    not just more limited, but also largely local.

    In 2020 (and again 2030), from then available evidence, either
    1. There is increasing consensus that reduction attempts have no
    value: In that case little has been lost, since the described changes
    in electricity and transport industry carry their own benefit, or
    2. Consensus remains that CO2 emission reduction should continue, in
    which case America is on track,
    and may continue with more specific emission reduction efforts towards
    2050 that extend electricity and transport measures,
    and can involve other industries if necessary.

    Funding and Impact
    Equity and long term loan finance can be used: Long term industrial
    loans from financial institutions, particularly if federal/state
    guaranteed, give low yearly interest repayments and lessen the effect
    on electricity bills or transport cost.
    The impact on the businesses is further lessened by the stability and
    predictability surrounding the funding.
    Since only electricity and transport are involved, other business
    continues as usual and consumers and society in general are spared
    expense and disruption.
    This is even more obvious from having no energy efficiency regulation either.

    Compare with
    today’s all-encompassing Cap and Trade (emission trading) suggestions,
    with unpredictability, expense, and needless disruption from normal
    business practice on one hand, or unnecessary profiteering from free
    allowance handouts with little actual emission reduction on the other
    hand, together with extensive energy efficiency regulation on what
    people can or can’t buy and use.

    Emission Policy Alternatives

    Introduction: The need – or not – to deal with emissions
    The Overall Picture
    Emission sources, land and ocean cycles, agriculture and deforestation
    1. Direct Industrial Emission Regulation
    Mandated reduction of CO2, monitored like other emission substances
    2. Carbon Taxation
    Fuel Tax — Emission Tax
    3. Emission Trading (Cap and Trade)
    Basic Idea — Offsets — Tree Planting — Manufacture Shift — Fair
    Trade — Surreal Market — Allowances: Auctions + Hand-Outs —
    Allowance Trading — Companies: Business Stability + Cost — In
    4. Contracted CO2 Reduction
    Private companies compete for contracts to lower CO2 emissions

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