Friday, June 19, 2015

My Response To Catherine Rampell On Global Warming

I submitted this to the San Antonio Express-News. To see her article, go to Klimawandel — a threat in any language.

"Catherine Rampell seems to think that Americans are wrongly concerned about the government “doing too much” to stop global warming ("Klimawandel - a threat in any language," June 12).
After describing how concerned Europeans are about global warming, she asks: "What intrusive government interventions could these Americans possibly be referring to? That, dear friends, remains unimaginable."
We have many interventions to fight global warming. Maybe Ms. Rampell does not think they are adequate, but she does not address that issue.
Before looking at some U. S. programs and regulations , we have to acknowledge that government rules can have unwanted and unintended consequences. And they have to be cost effective.
I think these two issues are what has Americans concerned.
Electric cars get subsidized. If you buy as a Chevy Volt, you can get about $7,000 in the form of tax credits. Yet, as Megan McCardle reported, even if we all drove the Volt, U. S. emissions would only go down 3.5%.
Environmentalist Bjørn Lomborg has pointed out that we still need to generate the electricity to power those cars. And, in total, we can end up with even more pollution. Surely an unwanted and unintended consequence.
There may also be environmental consequences from mining lithium, which is a component of car batteries.
He also said "U.S. taxpayers spend up to $7,500 in tax breaks for less than $27 of climate benefits" when it comes to electric cars."
More recently he reported that "The toughest global warming policy today is the European Union's commitment to cutting 20% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This will cost $235 billion. And cut temperatures at the end of the century by a measly 0.1ºF."
Another policy to fight global warming has been the ethanol subsidies.
The National Research Council said that ethanol subsidies could actually increase CO2 instead of reducing them. Food prices have also gone up as a result. Sometimes forests are cut down to plant more corn, too.
Economist Mark Perry reported that "between 1980 and 2000 the U.S. government has devoted some $19 billion in tax breaks alone to the ethanol-from-corn effort." Some environmental groups have stopped supporting this.
Back to Lomborg, he recently said the European Union will spend $235 billion to reduce emissions. The benefit? At the end of the century temperatures will be 0.1 degrees lower.
The Wall Street Journal reported last year that "In Germany, renewable-energy subsidies are now costing German consumers and industry about $32 billion a year." Denmark pays about three times as much for electricity as we do.
Besides electric car and ethanol subsidies, the EPA is involved. Its website says they are  "reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting a clean energy economy through highly successful partnerships and common-sense regulatory initiatives."
Ms. Rampell could have simply checked the EPA site to see what is being done. Again, it might not be enough for her standards, but she did not even mention it.
The EPA has established "vehicle greenhouse gas rules" and "federal greenhouse gas requirements." They do say that they do "economy-wide analyses to understand the economic impacts and effectiveness of proposed climate policies."
Only time will tell if the policies are cost effective. But I think Americans are right to be concerned that they won't considering what has happened with electric cars and ethanol and the high cost and low benefits that Europe has seen with some of its policies."

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