Michael Gerson is too critical of free market advocates while giving Pope Francis a free pass ("Popes encyclical makes issue of global warming unavoidable," June 30).
Gerson says "the pope is making a frontal assault on a technological and utilitarian worldview." This goes unchallenged.
Gerson never says which technologies we should stop using. Pope Francis likes taking selfies with his cell phone, driving a car and using his twitter account.
Sometimes better technologies help the environment. Cars may have brought us smog. But city streets are no longer covered in horse manure like in the nineteenth century.
Using petroleum means we no longer hunt whales for oil. Fracking has increased natural gas production while we use less coal. This reduces global warming.
This all comes from the “logic of markets,” which the pope distrusts. Businesses constantly develop better technologies that use resources more efficiently. That leads to less pollution.
That won't be a cure all for the environment. But it is an aspect that both Gerson and the pope ignore.
Gerson mentions energy innovation. But he gave no details or compared its viability to the pope's ideas.
Government policy is the real issue. Gerson ducks this with by saying "the whole spirit and story of the thing (the encyclical) are missed" if we focus on policy.
But in the real world, policy is the thing. Gerson even says "conservatives can choose their policy reaction but not their own reality." The same is true of the pope or anyone else who addresses global warming.
So let's look at the reality of some global warming policy. Here we have to acknowledge that regulation can have unwanted and unintended consequences. And it should be cost effective.
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%.
There may also be environmental consequences from mining lithium, which is a component of car batteries.
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.
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 ethanol subsidies. Some environmental groups have stopped supporting this.
The National Research Council said that ethanol subsidies could actually increase CO2 levels. Food prices have also gone up as a result. Forests are cut down to plant corn.
The Wall Street Journal reported 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.
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."
A study by Michael Greenstone, former chief economist in the Obama administration’s Council of Economic Advisers, found that federal subsidies to weatherize houses cost more than they saved.
Maybe instead of criticizing those who worship at the altar of free markets, the pope should criticize those who worship big government.