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Danger Dan gets a bunch of stuff wrong about climate change

by: Eric B.

Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 14:59:33 PM EDT

I've known Dan Calabrese for a few years. Likeable guy, gave me my first shot at writing a food column after I was laid off from Ye Olde Emm Ess Emm. We've also gone around on climate change several times before, and we're about to again since he wrote a blog post about it in which he gets basically everything wrong.

The problem with the global warming debate is that it really has nothing to do with global warming. It has everything to do with expanding the size and scope of government, and global warming is merely the currently in-vogue excuse of government expansionists to do so.

This is an age-old complaint from Danger Dan. Unfortunately, it's also dead wrong. I know lots of people who take climate change very seriously, and none of them do it because they are primarily interested in increasing the size and scope of government. All of them are interested in addressing climate change.

That’s the real problem with Gary Peters’ support for President Barack Obama’s latest carbon emission reduction plan. It is not, as Terri Lynn Land predictably argues, that it’s a “job killer,” although it is surely that. The real problem is that, whether man-made global warming is real or not (and the thinking here is not, but that’s beside the point), there is no justification for the assumption that government action is called for to “solve” it.

For starters, there isn't any actual reason to believe that the president's plan to reduce carbon emissions is a "job killer." That's just some mindless thing that people say all the time. If there was a reason to believe it, then they would accompany their assertion with supporting evidence. Second, man-made global warming is real. Third, government action represents the voice of a balance of interests -- public and private -- that charts a course for the rest of us to follow. In this case, it's a matter of finding rules that address the problem while also acknowledging that we can't shut down commerce and industry. In fact, what Gary Peters last week said was that Michigan's portion of our new carbon rules needs to be amended so as not to place a burden on business beyond what they can meet. So, not only is it appropriate to assume that "government action" is needed to address a problem, it also reflects a choice that seeks as much benefit as is possible for everyone.


Eric B. :: Danger Dan gets a bunch of stuff wrong about climate change

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that it’s very important to reduce carbon emissions. Fine. What is most the most likely thing to achieve that? You think it’s for government to act? Why? How many serious problems has government action solved, as opposed to made worse?

There are two basic models people look to in how to address climate change: The first is through a series of cap-and-trade programs, the likes of which have underperformed in Europe regarding carbon but in the United States was mostly a success in reducing acid rain; the second is by taxing carbon. Neither of those can exist without government doing something (the first by artificially setting a price for carbon and policing exchanges, the second by levying and collecting a tax).

The most likely solution to excessive carbon emissions is cleaner technology. That is not going to be developed by the federal government, nor does not require federal subsidies, incentives or mandates to come about. Industry already wants cleaner technology, and is ready to invest in it as soon as it is affordable, economical and reliable.

Actually, the way most people -- in and out of industry -- believe that we're going to reduce carbon emissions most quickly is by taxing carbon, which by definition is an act of government.

Now, you may say, that’s why the federal government needs to subsidize research and development!

Kind of like it always has done and continues to do so -- especially for the fossil fuel interests -- to subsidize the price of petroleum.

No. When the federal government subsidizes research and development, it’s done with the aim of getting an outcome politicians want. What industry wants is cleaner, better technology that performs better for them and saves them money.

Most grant programs are, in fact, run by individual agencies and answer to bureaucrats and not politicians.

Someone who talks about wanting to do this but can’t really do it could probably get a grant or a loan from the Department of Energy.


Someone who actually has a viable plan to achieve this and market it to industry can get financing from investors who see the profit potential in the venture.

And a grant from a federal agency if it advances some important national interest.

There is no need for the government to do anything to bring about this new technology. It doesn’t need to impose new controls on industry in the form of limits on carbon emissions. It doesn’t need to tax carbon. Industry will buy the cleaner technology as soon as it works, both in terms of performance and in terms of cost-efficiency. Someone just has to figure out a way to do that — and someone will, because the rewards will be there, and be plentiful, for whoever does.

This is what is known as "magical thinking" that argues thusly: "The market will address the problem without outside prodding, because what the market does best is address problems rather than be a means to turn profits for private interests."

This is usually the point where my liberal friends will say something, “Oh, so you just think the free market will magically solve this problem.”

I have a feeling that we're about to get an argument here that essentially lays out that, "Yes, the market will fix things through magic."

No. There’s nothing magic about it. I believe people who perceive a demand will find a way to meet that demand, not because of magic but because that’s what people do when they’re smart, resourceful, innovative and driven.

Yep, magic..

And I trust individuals in the private sector rather than people in government because people in government tend to possess the opposite of those positive traits. But they sure love to control stuff, and they sure are smitten by the notion that things will be better if only they pass laws mandating that things be made better!

You mean like when lawmakers said that everyone had to wear seatbelts and traffic fatalities fell, almost as if by magic?

Whether global warming is real or not, the left-wing agenda for how to “solve” it is not the way to go. That’s what makes Gary Peters’ position wrong. But then, that’s what makes almost every position Gary Peters takes wrong.

A. Global warming is real. B. There is no "left-wing agenda" for how to solve it. C. Gary Peters position is not made wrong because he thinks government has a role in addressing it. D. Gary Peters' position on almost everything is not to increase the scope and power of the federal government. I say that, again, I know of no one who is primarily motivated to support anything by a desire to expand the scope and powers of government. Usually they have something very different in mind.

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