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The Great Green Dilemma: How To Fail

Every time anyone points out the flaws (obvious, fatal) in many green policy prescriptions, greens essentially respond that the sky is falling and that their critics hate science.  Partly a cheap rhetorical trick and partly reflecting the degree to which greens are thinking emotionally rather than politically, the habit doesn’t help the greens.

Largely as a result of the incoherent and emotional approach to policy, almost everything green fails.  They can fail to get their chosen policies enacted (great global carbon treaty, US cap and trade), or they can get their policies enacted (Kyoto Protocol, ethanol subsidies) and watch them fail.

These are the alternatives greens now face as the 10 state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI or Reggie among friends) tries to figure out whether to remain irrelevant and ineffective, or to break up.  Currently, Reggie is the first kind of flop — it exists and costs money but accomplishes nothing.  As the FT reports,

Supporters and opponents of the RGGI (often pronounced “Reggie”) agree that its impact on the emissions of the participating states has been negligible. The price it has put on CO2 has been far below that of programmes in other countries, such as the European Union’s emissions trading scheme or Australia’s proposed carbon tax.

Why so feckless, you ask?

The scheme has had very little impact because the cap that was agreed by the states – to deliver a 10 per cent reduction by 2018 – has turned out to be far above actual emission levels.The recession, which hit demand for electricity, and the fall in the price of natural gas that has encouraged generators to burn it instead of higher-emitting oil or coal, have cut emissions to about 30 per cent below the cap.

Not content with this Kyoto style fiasco, greens want to tighten the system so it will hurt more.  The politics stink: greens are in effect pushing for higher energy prices in a growth strapped region during a national economic slowdown.

New Jersey has already dropped out of the system; the remaining states are arguing whether to tighten the cap to the point it starts to hurt their economies or to just keep on wasting money supporting a bureaucratic apparatus and a permit system that serves no purpose and has no worth.

Tough call.  These lose-lose choices are always hard to make.

One interesting note for FT readers: the paper is pink but its heart remains green.  Chirps the paper hopefully, 

Already, more than 200 businesses, mostly in the renewable and energy efficiency industries that would benefit from a higher carbon price, have signed a letter to the states’ governors urging them to strengthen the programme.

To translate that out of green cocoon speech into ordinary English, the FT is telling you that lobbyists for a handful of companies directly tied to this artificial market want government to give them more business, but that almost nobody else in the business world shares that view.  Why the FT can’t just come out and say that, I don’t know.

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  • Glen

    At least the Northeastern states aren’t suffocating their economies in the pursuit of green dreams.

    Here in California, we’ll soon (January 2012) be enjoying the winning combination of higher energy prices, fewer jobs, lower economic growth, and no change in so-called carbon pollution. For all of that, we can thank AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

  • Corlyss

    Economist, the British newspaper, as opposed to a fiddler with economic data, has swallowed the green kool-aid, as well as other nostrums of the rabid left, like Bush Derangement Syndrome, and Obama Adulation, to the point that I seriously question the validity and usefulness of anything they have to say on any topic. Their coverage on Europe, primly cautious, matched up against their over-heated blather about American politics and policies, makes me think that there’s no such thing as “editorial policy” there. What they raise alarms about in Europe they demand in tones bordering on hysteria for the US. One the one hand, they cheer globaloney about warming and snuff critics of the junk science. On the other, they warm about grotesquely unrealistic plans hatched by greens for controlling CO2. They are so inconsistent, I worry about whether to cite and quote them at all.

  • Kris

    Beware the Eco-Industrial Complex!

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