The green rage dream come true
Posted by aogTuesday, 21 April 2009 at 09:10 TrackBack Ping URL

I have heard the buzz about the EPA regulating ‘green house gasses’ (including CO2 and methane) as pollutants and thought — there’s the Green Rage dream come true. Humans legally defined as polluters.

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MAS1916 Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 12:11

Green rage used to be defined as Environmentalist nut jobs in the EarthFirst movement.

Now that the nut jobs have taken over the government, we can expect aggressive environmental policies enacted into law. A

Tom C Wednesday, 22 April 2009 at 16:30

Don’t plants need co2? I mean if you want to be green, co2 should be a sacramental gas offering to Gaia and her trees, no? Methane’s a clean burning fuel. WTF is the problem with these folks? Methane and co2 are both formed through natural, ‘organic’ life processes. Human intelliegnce is part of nature. We’ve gone nuts. I say CONTROL THE SUN, END FOREST FIRES AND VOLCANIC ERPUPTIONS FIRST!! If any one could do it’s gotta be the big ‘O’. He’s one brilliant superfly!

Harry Eagar Sunday, 26 April 2009 at 23:51

I could have sworn that we were already legally defined as polluters. Who else?

erp Monday, 27 April 2009 at 07:54

I remember fondly when carbon monoxide was gonna kill us and look forward to a future worrying about CO3, CO4 …

I’m no scientist, but don’t plants convert CO2 into oxygen and isn’t that the reason for the hysteria about killing the Amazon rain forests where much of the valuable O is produced?

Just saying.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 27 April 2009 at 09:52

Mr. Eagar;

Previously, some of our activities have been legally defined as polluting, but not us personally. With this, just being a live human makes you a polluter.

erp;

Yes, but it’s all the same “better a planet with no humans” philosophy that underpins Green Rage.

Harry Eagar Monday, 27 April 2009 at 21:01

A distinction without a difference, as far as I can see, since no one, no matter how simply he lived, did not pollute.

It is well to recall the line from ‘Hard Green’: The poor peasant squatting over his cowdung fire is not green, he is just poor.

daniel duffy Wednesday, 29 April 2009 at 06:00

From a recent article of mine:

Carbon dioxide emissions are not currently regulated under the CAA. In the past two decades, carbon dioxide emissions rose from 2 billion tons to almost 2.5 billion tons (a 25% increase). The top 100 power producers generated almost 40% of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Given the public’s concern over greenhouse gases in general and carbon dioxide in particular, it is only a matter of time before regulations will be applied to carbon dioxide emissions. Those responsible power producers have come to the same conclusion and are making preparations for the pending regulations. As oil prices continue to climb, America’s vast coal resources become a more economically attractive source of energy. However, these same coal-burning power plants are the ones most likely to feel the heat from new regulations.

And coal power plants are not the only source of carbon dioxide emissions. Last year, the US Supreme Court faulted the EPA by a vote of five to four for its failure to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. The majority ruling stated: “EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to decide whether greenhouse gases cause or contribute to climate change,” and that the EPA “identifies nothing suggesting that Congress meant to curtail EPA’s power to treat greenhouse gases as air pollutants.” In effect, the Supreme Court stated that the EPA violated the CAA by not regulating new vehicle emission standards to control greenhouse gases.…

But will these regulations work? Those on the conservative side of the political spectrum maintain a healthy distrust of governmental interference in people’s lives. Yet, as Madison once observed, “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” The results speak for themselves. Since the passing of the CAA, the air quality in the United States has improved significantly. The Natural Resources Defense Council reported in 2006 that the 100 largest electric power producers have cut annual emissions by the following: sulfur dioxide emissions (a major source of acid rain) by 44% from 16 million tons to 10 million tons, and nitrous oxides (a source of smog and ozone) by 36% from 7 million tons to 4 million tons. None of this would have happened without the CAA. Similar regulations for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can be expected have similar results—and costs that will be passed on to the consumer.

As for costs, it is a truism that businesses never really pay taxes—they only collect them. A tax or regulation applied across the board to an industry will result in similar costs to all the companies in the industry. The companies in an industry who are jointly affected by a government action (and who still have to achieve profit margins necessary to keep their investors happy) will jointly pass on these costs to the consumer. These costs will then be paid by consumers and eventually get transferred to the government in the form of corporate taxes. However, without an industrywide governmental mandate affecting all the competitors in that industry simultaneously, no one company will ever take the initiative (and incur the costs) necessary to achieve societal and environmental goals. Any company that tries to do so, despite its best intentions, will be at a competitive market disadvantage in regard to price—and may even go out of business.

So it will be with the probable future expansion of regulations affecting greenhouse gas and other emissions at the state and federal level. The automobile and power industries may complain; they may (and have) sue state and federal governments to block these initiatives. But, in the end, they will accept and comply with a uniformly applied standard for greenhouse gas emissions. The smart ones are trying to get ahead of the parade in an attempt to affect its outcome.

To paraphrase Madison, if business men were angels, no regulations would be necessary. If history is any guide, the effects of regulating CO2 will be similar to the successful regulation of NOx and Sox emissions under the CAA.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 29 April 2009 at 15:54

Welcome back, Mr. Duffy.

Given the public’s concern over greenhouse gases in general and carbon dioxide in particular

The reports I read indicate such concern is fading like a bank account in a POR economy and the real impetus is people like you desperate to “git ‘r done” before people wise up to the scam.

these same coal-burning power plants are the ones most likely to feel the heat from new regulations

Bankrupt ‘em, that’s the Obama plan after all.

the US Supreme Court faulted the EPA by a vote of five to four for its failure to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles

Hardly the first time I have found a SCOTUS decision very poorly reasoned and lacking in factual basis. I note from a brief glance at the case that the plaintiffs were all Warmenist and the defendant the EPA. No sceptics allowed.

Since the passing of the CAA, the air quality in the United States has improved significantly

Post hoc ergo propter hoc error. There is good reason to believe that wealthy societies treat environmentalism as a luxury good and demand more of it as their wealth increases, irrespective of specific legislation.

The analogy to [CO~2~] is very poor, as the acid rain causing emissions are completely incidental to electricity generation - you can burn things to generate electricity without sulfur dioxide just fine. But burning with producing [CO~2~]? You might want to review some basic science on that score. So, no, it will not be the case that

the effects of regulating CO2 will be similar to the successful regulation of NOx and Sox emissions under the CAA

But that’s not the most unrealistic bit. I think this wins —

These [regulatory] costs will then be paid by consumers and eventually get transferred to the government in the form of corporate taxes

Now that really doesn’t make any sense. If the costs are passed on to the government, they aren’t kept by the business to compenstate for increased costs. So either the businesses will have to raise costs to consumers again to compensate, or they didn’t need to pass on the cost in the first place, so why did they? Perhaps you are unaware that corporate taxes are paid on profits, not revenue?

In reality, the costs are frictional costs and result in a lower overall economic activity.

daniel duffy Wednesday, 29 April 2009 at 16:42

Well it’s good to be back AOG. If I may address your points one at a time:

You must not be reading the same reports/polls that I am, and you are ignoring the biggest poll of all - last year’s election results. The American people voted into office a man and his party dedicated to more stringent environmental regulation, especially in regards to global warming.

It’s not the Obama plan, it’s the plan of the GOP governor of California, Ahnuld (from the same article):

Though the court’s ruling is a clear repudiation of the current “hands off” policy at the executive level in regard to carbon dioxide emissions, the states are not waiting for the federal government to take the lead. As with most cutting edge social change, California has taken the first steps by passing a law that seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles starting next year. California’s more stringent emissions regulations have been adopted by 10 other states. Independently, New York has toughened its standards for power plant emissions.

California is the only state empowered by federal law to pass more stringent environmental standards than those imposed by the federal government. Other states can then meet these standards, but only after California passes them into law. California’s first step above and beyond national regulations was in 2002, with the enactment of a law regulating the carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles. However, these standards apply to the automaker’s fleet averages, not to individual vehicles. This gives automobile manufacturers the flexibility to compensate with carbon dioxide reductions at their factories. Though explicitly aimed at emissions, the effect of the legislation has been to spur improvements in fuel efficiency (or to at least curtail the sales of larger vehicles) in the California market. This provided an end run around the Bush administration’s blocking of increased federal fuel efficiency standards.

Following up this controversial initiative, the Schwarzenegger administration raised the bar further in 2006 by passing the Global Warming Solutions Act, making California-the world’s twelfth largest emitter of greenhouse gases-the first state to limit greenhouse gases. California’s new law requires a 25% cut in carbon dioxide emission by 2020 (which will bring the state’s emissions back down to 1990 levels). The law also provides for a carbon credit market where producers can purchase credits from other companies who have exceeded their reduction goals instead of investing in expensive plant refits.

Complaining about any SCOTUS decision is irrelevant and a waste of time. The Law and the Constitution mean what the SC says they mean. Their ruling is now the law of the land. A ruling made, BTW, mostly by judges appointed by GOP presidents. Rulings can always be overturned, but it’s going to be a very long time before a GOP president is elected along with GOP congressional majorities to allow the appointemnnt of judges that would overturn this rule. A very, very long time.

Declines in SOx and Nox emission coincide with the passage and enforcement of the CAA. To claim that it was a coincidence would come as a surprise to all those power companies (many of them my clients) who spent those years installing scrubbers, bag houses, filters and other controls to their emission stacks to meet the requriements of the CAA.

SOx and Nox are created when burning coal to generate power just like CO2. The trick is not to let them enter the atmosphere. Technology has been applied succesfully to reduce SOx and NOx emissions. Technolgy (sequestration) exists to do the same with CO2.

Let me reiterate, corporation don’t pay taxes, they collect them. They don’t pay the costs of new regulations either, the cosumer does that.

The cost of SOx and NOx emission controls were born equally among all coal power generators because the regulations under the CAA were applied equally to all of them (with minor mods due to individual air control district standards, credit swaps, etc - BTW, the current carbon credit program is based on a similar and very successful model used for SOx emissions). As such, the relative competive costs between producers remains unchanged since they have all been given the same equivalent additional expense. Meanwhile they still have an obligation to their investors (even as regulated utilities) and have to show a minimum profit margin to attract and keep these investors. They do so by covering the costs of the new emissions controls by raising the price of power they charge the consumer. They can all do this without fear of competitive disadvantage and loss of market share because all their competitors are bearing the same costs and passing them on to the consumer with equivalent price increases.

An assessment of the resulting loss of economic activity cannnot be viewed in isolation. The negative results of uncontrolled air pollution on human health and the environment and the resultant damage is also a restriction on economic activity. A work fore plagued by respiratory diseases is not as productive as a healthy work force. Furthermore, the cost of medical care necessitated by unregulated emissions is far greater than the cost of controlling those emissions in the first place (“an ounce of prevention…”).

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 30 April 2009 at 08:23

Mr. Duffy;

I think last year’s election results turned on issues other than AGW but we may have to agree to disagree. I am tickled, though, by your cite of California Governor Schwarzenegger, who is currently very unpopular in a state with severe economic and government deficit problems. If that’s your model of a successful AGW proponent you might want to reconsider.

Complaining about any SCOTUS decision is irrelevant and a waste of time

I was not complaining, I was responding to your point. But there’s a subtlety here, which is that I interpreted your original cite as intended as evidence for the efficacy of the policy. It’s certainly not. It may well be, as you state in your response, evidence for the probability of enforcement of the policy, but that’s quite a different thing.

SOx and Nox are created when burning coal to generate power just like CO2. The trick is not to let them enter the atmosphere.

I feel sorry for your clients if this is really your view of combustion based electricity generation. SOx and NOx are not created during combustion “just like” CO2. The former are incidental trace side effects. CO2 production is the very essence of the combustion. You could easily burn coal with absolutely no SOx or NOx production. One might then interpret your view as claiming that one could burn coal with absolutely no CO2 production. I find that a rather implausible assertion.

As for passing on costs to consumers, I agreed with what you restate here. What I disagreed with was your assertion that somehow this money ends up as government revenue.

An assessment of the resulting loss of economic activity cannnot be viewed in isolation. The negative results of uncontrolled air pollution on human health and the environment and the resultant damage is also a restriction on economic activity.

Quite true. But some one has already looked closely and in great detail at this with regard to AGW and wrote a book on the subject which you might peruse to increase your knowledge of the systemic effects.

daniel duffy Thursday, 30 April 2009 at 10:35

California (for good or bad) is always on the bleeding edge of American social change, the Governator’s popularity notwithstanding. What occurs in California yesterday will be common practice in the USA the day after tomorrow.

I’m afraid that you read too much into the words “just like”. SOx and NOx are coal power plant emissions, just like CO2. And just like SOx and NOx, CO2 emissions can be managed and reduced by proper application of technology mandated by environmental law and enforced by reguatory standards.

Never meant to imply that the costs end up as government revenues, my apologies if my previous response was poorly worded.

While I enjoyed Lomborg’s “Skeptical Environmentalist” and appreciate his approach in regards to prioritizing our environmental problems, I can’t say that I agree with him completely since I find his overall methodology somewhat simplistic. For example, in regards to air pollution, Lomborg correctly notes that developing countries (like China and India) are greater polluters than developed countries (like the USA and the EU). He also correctly points out that it is the economic growth that makes the pollution reduction possible.

What he incorrectly implies is that this reduction somehow occurs automatically as a result of market forces. As I noted above, market forces (the competetive disadvantage that would result when a power supplier volunteers to reduce pollution on its own and incurs the costs of doing so while its competitors do not) work AGAINST such a reduction. Market forces present a Catch-22 in regards to pollution control or any other social improvement. These improvements cost money and reduce the profits (or increase the costs and reduce the market share) of any company attempting to make these improvements voluntarily on its own. No CEO is going to incur these costs voluntarily and hurt his stock holders even if people are gasping for air in the streets. Corporations do not exist to make the world a better place. They exist for one purpose only - to make money. Anything that subtracts from this purpose will be avoided - unless a regulatory gun is pointed at the CEO’s head that forces him to act.

Only by ensuring that these costs are equitably distributed among all competitors in the power supply market, by means of regulatory standards enforced on the entire market, will such improvements occur. However, Lomborg remains correct in his point that only the economic growth and wealth accumulation during the highly polluting development stage will provide the resources (capital, technical know-how, etc.) to make such improvements feasible. But feasible =! inevitable.

My basic philosophy is that government regulation is not a priori evil. I find both libertarians and socialsts to be equal (if opposite) fools. The game needs both players and referees. Socialists believe the game can be played without players, and wonder why their glorious 5-year plans don’t ever work. Libertarians believe the game can be played without referees, and wonder why society degenerates into a jungle where the strong eat the weak. We could turn the clock back to the “good old days” and have children work in coal mines, or process meats in the same way Upton Sinclair described in “The Jungle”, or let corporate goons spy on and beat up workers like Henry Ford did. What libertarians forget is that wealth is power and power corrupts. If left to intself, power and wealth naturally accumulate into fewer and fewer hands over time. This accumulation of of wealth and power is inherently dangerous to the democratic process and has destroyed republics in the past.

The mature mind shuns ideology for pragmatism, and understands that a balanced approach that combines economic opportunity with government oversight works best. The financial melt down showed exactly what happens when corporations are not watched closely and properly regulated. The financial melt down was to libertarianism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was to socialsm. Both extremes have been discredited by history.

If America has shifted left, you have only the CEOs to blame. The CEOs who gave themselve obscene bonuses while ruining their own companies with mismanagmeent. The failed CEOs who were rewarded with golden parachutes instead of being punished for incompetence. The CEOs who hate “socialism” but lapped up every government hand out availabel and became the biggest welfare queens in America. The CEOs who laid off thousands of good, hared working Americans while spending millions to redecorate their executive bathrooms. I’m old enough to remember the Reagan revolution against government red tape, interference and taxes. But nobody hates regulators anymore.

Everyone hates CEOs.

erp Thursday, 30 April 2009 at 13:27

Nobody hates regulators except Barney et al.

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