Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Climate socialism... NO!

Let's not Venezuela-ize the world... my latest piece, from Heartland's Environment & Climate News:

CLIMATE SOCIALISM IS DANGEROUS AND MUST BE DEFEATED

MARCH 4, 2019
Democrats in Congress, are promoting a Green New Deal that would eliminate all fossil fuels in ten years, create a massive federal public works and jobs program, explicit proposals to replace market freedom and limited government with socialism.
In 1991, just after the Soviet Union collapsed, I attended a conference on environmental economics and policy. Several speakers warned obituaries for socialism were premature, saying that, with socialism discredited on economic grounds, it would now be sold as a panacea for environmental problems.
They were right. The Left is actively campaigning for socialism today, with many arguing socialism offers a cure—the only cure—for climate change.
Socialist Plans Rising
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest report calls for governments around the world to take over finance, restructure entire economies, and undertake massive international wealth transfers to equalize incomes around the world. IPCC’s report also suggests we replace individual rights with collectivism.
Similarly, two European economists with the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Enno Schröder and Servass Storm, claim the only solution to climate change is a radical takeover of economies by governments. They argue climate change is an immediate existential threat and only government can impose the rapid radical restructuring required to prevent it.
In the United States, high-profile Democrats in Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), are promoting a Green New Deal (GND) that would, among other things, eliminate all fossil fuels in ten years, create a massive federal public works and jobs program, and establish universal basic income and health care.
These proposals by the UN and U.S. leftists are unabashed, explicit proposals to replace market freedom and limited government with socialism. Governments and international agencies are promoting climate or green socialism, with the younger, more energetic wing of the Democrat Party seemingly committing to it enthusiastically. Leftist think tanks and policy institutes are working to advance it.
Economic Shock, Shrinkage
If the United States adopts the climate socialist agenda, it will eliminate freedom and create economic and political catastrophe, without solving any climate problems. Rapidly transitioning away from fossil fuels would cause a massive negative shock to the economy. Production and incomes would fall, and unemployment and poverty would rise.
Currently, almost two-thirds of U.S. electricity comes from fossil fuel sources, and another 29 percent is from nuclear, hydroelectric, and geothermal. Wind and solar account for a little over 7 percent. Wind and solar are intermittent—energy generation is not under human control but dependent on when the wind blows and the Sun shines. Energy must be available when people need it, not when sun and wind permit, and extreme fluctuations in electricity can shut down electric grids.
In addition, the scale and pace with which solar and wind would have to be deployed to replace fossil fuels is impossible given existing technology. Mandating rapid decarbonization under climate socialism would greatly reduce available electricity and shrink the economy.
Stopped in Our Tracks
Climate socialism would impact transportation also. Quickly replacing the entire automotive fleet with electric vehicles would require massive increases in electrical power, yet that power would decrease under green socialism. For air transportation, there are no reasonable alternatives to petroleum-derived aviation fuels, and no substitutes for fuel oil, diesel, or natural gas for shipping. Transportation would grind to a halt.
Redistribution programs proposed by GND, such as a universal basic income, would further shrink the economy. Recipients become dependent on government as their incentive to work and be self-responsible is reduced. Similarly, finding themselves treated as beasts of burden, taxpayers’ incentives to work is reduced.
Disincentivizing work for recipients and payers results in less being produced and lower income overall. The nation is poorer.
Economic Destruction
History consistently shows central planning destroys economies.
In a free market, independent decision makers—households and firms, consumers, workers, and asset owners—make decisions coordinated by market prices.
Central planning replaces this with direction by government “experts.” It does not work. Without market prices, government cannot identify the opportunity costs of its actions, and therefore it cannot minimize waste. It is not sustainable.
This has been repeatedly shown—in the USSR, Venezuela, Cuba, and everywhere else real socialism has been tried. Central planners wreck their economies because they lack market prices to determine whether their actions create greater benefits than costs.
Some green socialists such as Ocasio-Cortez dishonestly claim Scandinavian countries show socialism can work. Recently, Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen put that lie to rest, saying, “I know that some people in the U.S. associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist, planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.”
Also, central planning places enormous power—life-or-death power—in the hands of planners. Everyone is beholden to those who direct the economy, and everyone must follow government’s orders, or else. Green socialists presume people who are just and wise will be in charge (i.e., themselves), but history demonstrates no one should be trusted with such power. That’s why the American federal system was designed to put strict limits on government power.
Socialism Won’t Save Climate
Ironically, if the United States or even the entire developed world imposed climate socialism, it would not prevent climate change.
Most greenhouse gas emissions in the future will come from China and other developing countries that have no intention of restricting their economies with green socialism.
Climate socialism will Venezuela-ize America if we adopt it. It must be utterly, completely rejected and defeated.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Nixon went to China...

...Trump went to Viet Nam.

Trump, like Nixon, might be hastening one of the most astonishing transformations of recent times.  The effects of Nixon's unprecedented 1972 weren't immediate, but fast.  The opening of previously entirely-closed-to-contact-with-the-West communist China resulted in China's transition to a market economy beginning in 1978, and -- in terms of sheer numbers -- the greatest lifting of human beings out of abject poverty in history.  It is very possible that Trump's Viet Nam summit with Kim Jong-un could do the same.

Trump left without an agreement, and leftists are mocking this as a failure.  But as I commented on Victory Girls, the critics are imbecilic.  WaPo, for example, mocked Trump for claiming to be a great negotiator but failing to come away with a deal. How strange. One succeeds in a negotiation by driving a hard bargain and being willing to walk away. Go into a car dealer ship convinced you must leave with a car, and the dealer has you; in a negotiation, you must be willing to say "no deal" walk away empty handed (hence not empty pocketbook) or you will be devoured.

Barack Obama showed us where the “get a deal at any cost” approach leads — so desperate to get a deal, any deal, with the Iranian dictatorship he surrendered hundreds of billions of dollars to them they used for funding terrorism and offensive wars, and in return received a poorly monitored nuclear semi-ban that expires in ten years. That’s what not being willing to walk away from the table gets you.

So first of all, if Trump wishes to drive a hard bargain and win denuclearization, he must walk away.  Good.  But there's another factor at least as important.  Trump pointed out that "communist" Viet Nam is now thriving economically, having gone through something similar to P.R. China.  He has told Kim "this is what you could be."  This is what happened when China began to open to the rest of the world because of Nixon's visit; they saw that Chinese societies could thrive, while China itself was desperately poor... but other Chinese societies thrived because they had a very different economic system.  Steven Cheung explains in his 1986 "Will China go Capitalist?"  (Amazon advertises this at a whopping 869.56 USD.  I'll sell you a paper version for 10 USD, but with a little search effort you can find in online for free.)

Trump tweeted “Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize. The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon – Very Interesting!”

Trump turned around and left...Kim with nothing...except a vision of what could be if he comes around.  The ball is in Kim's court.


Friday, February 22, 2019

Integrity of the Democrat Party


Monday, February 18, 2019

The Face of the Democrat Party


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Green energy failed, non-green energy saved lives

The Midwestern U.S. just suffered a "polar vortex."*  Here in [Dilorenzo Rule redaction] Michigan, the high temperature was minus 13F (minus 25C), and this was one of the warmer places.  Michigan's demand for energy for heating peaked... and wind power collapsed.  Fortunately, coal, natural gas, and nuclear don't depend on weather conditions.  Ninety seven percent (97%) of Michigan's electricity came from these "non-green" sources during the cold snap.

In Illinois, power from nuclear reactors hit a record high.

Thankfully we had safe, reliable, non-green energy available.  Had we been forced to rely on wind, solar, rainbow unicorn flatulence, and similar pixie dust, we'd be talking about the body count.  Subzero temperatures make for a dangerous, inhospitable environment.  "Environmentally friendly" means warming the air when that's needed, and non-green sources can do that.  Green energy cannot.
_________________________________________________________________________________

*"We" at Unforeseen Contingencies put "polar vortex" in quotation marks because our drama detectors register very high numbers when we encounter this term.  It smacks of the same pseudo-scientific pedigree as "windchill."

Photo: Coal stockpiled by a generating plant.  This saved lives.

Friday, February 15, 2019

"The Economists' Statement," part 2

Recently, I received a request from Janet Yellen, chair of the Climate Leadership Council, to sign the “Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends.”

I won’t sign and have previously explained why.  An expanded version recently appeared in Real Clear Energy.  Please read, as it makes my case a little more clearly, and will help make the rest of this post intelligible.

One of my former students read it, and while he concurred, he asked me if I would sign if the statement if the tax had been calculated differently, i.e. according to the modeling of Lemoine and Rudik.  That's a great question, and my "maybe" response brought a "we're surprised" response from two other students.  I post my answers here because I think they might be of interest to anyone who is thoughtful and interested in the climate change issue.

[REDACTED] writes: Question about your article - had the tax been better calculated, would you have signed? 

Steele responds: I would reconsider. I considered this one until I read the proposal itself.

I am hesitant to sign petitions regardless; but if they had endorsed the L&R approach I might sign. It's not so much exact numbers as it is the approach; and I really disagree with the "precautionary principle" idea... These "climate plans" are not benefit-cost responses to what science tells us, these are responses to worst case scenarios, which have been further exaggerated by some for ulterior motives.

I think "Economists' Plan" is attempt to head off Green New Deal and similar socialist Trojan horses; I have some respect for that.  But there are two fronts on which the socialists must be confronted. Not simply their bad "solution," but also the fabricated immediate urgency. Both are extremely costly.  There's a very good book on precautionary principle (pp) by Cass Sunstein, "Laws of Fear." He entirely destroys pp as a coherent guide to anything rational, it's just a panic inducer.

But let's agree that climate change is a serious threat and accept the mid-range, non outlier estimates of the potential damage.  The L&R approach is likely better than L&R calculate, because it also allows time to 1) develop carbon removal technology, which they note but don't count, 2) translate greater wealth into greater resilience, reducing harm, and 3) perfect carbon-free tech that *actually works.* 

Furthermore, as you know, I argue that the space economy will grow explosively.  In less than 100 years outer space is where we'll do manufacturing that has negative terrestrial side effects... *IF* we can prevent the "comrades" from shutting down world's economy and turning us into Venezuela.

So yes, I would probably sign.  (Note L&R is projected to cost anywhere from 1/10 to 1/100th what Climate Council's plan would cost.)

Two other students expressed a bit of surprise that I would contemplate a carbon tax, given that I'm a libertarian.  How does that follow?  Good question.  Here's my response.

Since I've shocked both of you by suggesting I could conceivably support a carbon tax policy, let me clarify.  An effective Pigovian carbon tax would solve the climate problem by making users of fossil fuel take into account the effects of use on climate.  The Climate Council’s proposal (the proposal I wouldn’t sign) uses a fairly standard economic result to try to calculate the tax that would accomplish this while inflicting the least collateral damage on people (on “the economy,” but let’s remember that means people, especially the less prosperous who are less able to cope with rising prices). 

Economists, including the Climate Council, have calculated the tax according to the maximum amount of excess greenhouse gasses that can be put into the atmosphere w/o raising average temp above, say, 2C.  A recent paper by two economists (Lemoine & Rudik, American Economic Review, Nov. 2017) shows there’s a conceptual error in this.  For technical reasons I’ll skip here, if one instead designs the tax according to temperature instead of carbon stock, we find that the optimal tax costs 1/10 or less what the Climate Council recommends.  That is, the Council's proposed tax is at least ten times too high.  Given that standard calculations of the effects of global warming are that it could cost a percentage point of GDP growth by 2100, the Lemoine & Rudik tax is quite inexpensive in comparison.  To emphasize, it gets the identical result in terms of cutting carbon emissions, but at 1/10 of the cost.


Of course, what China and India do matters much more, but I’m staking out reasonable ground here.  I strongly dislike taxes (especially Pigovian taxes) and think there might be other solutions, but if someone points out that a few pennies of tax can save a dollar of damage, they certainly have a reasonable case.


The backdrop for all of this is that in the past week I've had three separate radio interviews and two op-eds in national publications, all on climate change.

I will post all of these soon!

Hard at it!

Chief blogger and bottlewasher for Unforeseen Contingencies Charles N. Steele has been busy of late.  "We'll" try to cover his activities, but a few are likely to slip through the cracks of our attention.  But not to be missed, Steele is now officially registered for this year's "Woodstock Hallucination 100 Mile Race" in the vicinity of Hell Creek Ranch, Pinckney MI, Sept. 6-7.

So far my training is going well.  I've ramped up my mileage, long runs are starting to seem easy, and I'm feeling good.  I've also been working on leg conditioning which was shamefully poor.  Squats and lunges are just what the doctor ordered.  I'd had "knee" pain (actually pain in the tendons connecting to the knee area) and that's vanishing.

Most of my training has been in adverse conditions for fast running (deep snow, ice, high winds), so I've been emphasizing slow distance... very slow.  That's probably been a boon.  Rack up the miles now.  Spring and summer are for speed.

Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

State of the Union -- AWESOME!

I loved President Trump's speech.  I loved the emphasis on freedom and individual liberty, his refusal to mince words on things that need opposing, and his repeated calls for burying the hatchet.  It was magnificent, positive, and rational.  I also loved that he spoke so directly against socialism and vowed we'll never let it be imposed here.

His speech was also positive and upbeat in a way Obama never could pull off.  At times he even had Democrats laughing and dancing (all except cranky old Comrade Bernie, who constantly looked like a constipated cow about to have a seizure).

It would be remarkable if Democrats and Republicans actually followed Trump's lead, and realized that within reach is a safer, freer, more prosperous, more faithful, happier America.  As it is, I fear they won't, and we'll all be challenged ahead "to save our civilization from tyranny."


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