Monday, September 23, 2013

Stifle the U.S. Economy to Set A Good Example on Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

One of the assumptions that guides the posts in this blog is that mankind's pumping of billions of metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is likely to result in an environmental calamity. Mankind is conducting an incredibly risky science experiment regarding the sensitivity of the atmosphere to increasing levels of CO2.  Yet, does it make sense for the U.S. to unilaterally hamstring our economy in order to set a "good example".

An editorial in the New York Times describes the Obama administration proposed federal limits on power plant emissions of carbon dioxide as a "welcome sign".  Yet, how does it make sense to feed the world's growing demand for coal by shipping U.S. mined coal to countries around the world, while restricting the use of coal by power plants in the U.S.  Restricting the U.S. use of cheap coal to generate power will hinder the U.S. economy while barely having any impact of global emissions of greenhouse gases. Try telling coal miners and communities that are dependent on coal mining that their jobs should be killed in order to set a "good example" for the rest of the world. Furthermore, making U.S. energy more expensive serves to unilaterally impose a tax on the U.S. economy while the rest of the world gets a free ride.

Frankly, I am glad that I don't have to make a decision on which way to vote on this proposed legislation. While a worldwide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is urgently needed, unilateral legislation that hamstrings the U.S. economy is challenging to support. And the New York Times rationale of endorsing the proposed power plant emissions limits in order to set a "good example" is not particularly compelling.  

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