Re: [asa] World sets ocean temperature record

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Sun Aug 23 2009 - 18:49:51 EDT

On Sun, Aug 23, 2009 at 4:09 PM, Schwarzwald <> wrote:

> Rich,
> Then perhaps you'll realize that the reason for the discussion over AGW
> being such a mess isn't just because there's this group of "denialists" out
> there and, darn it, they're messing the whole debate up. Just as I think
> it's tremendously naive to believe that ID proponents came along and
> politicized science/corrupted science with philosophical and theological
> spin, whereas before there were hard and fast rules about what was and
> wasn't science that all sides respected.
> Because you happen to say that the "what do we do now" question is fair
> game. For others, what we do now is utterly clear, and the only question is
> "how do we get it done". I've seen AGW proponents complaining that AGW has
> become politicized in part *by proponents* who talk about imminent doomsday
> scenarios and the like, or go far beyond what can be reasonably taken from
> the models and science, etc. And if this is true - if there are people who
> are more than willing to exaggerate AGW claims or predictions - then right
> there you can see the opening for AGW deniers to work in. Because every
> exaggeration they knock down, along with every apparent hijacking of the
> issue for political reasons they highlight, helps feed into skepticism.
> Skepticism which in turn may go over the top itself.
> Anyway, you don't have to convince me personally about the existence of
> global warming. For the hell of it I'm willing to accept that it's related
> to CO2 and is man-made. What do you think should be done about it? I already
> admitted I'm a fan of nuclear power being pushed in a big way. It's an
> existing, tested technology that would directly address the problem, though
> I understand those things take a long time to build. (Maybe not so long with
> the mini-nukes? Or the micro-nukes, though I'm not sure they exist yet.)

Of the various options: cap and trade, carbon tax, R&D tax credits,
government-run development programs, I prefer cap and trade because it's the
most market-based and the government sucks at picking winners and losers.
But that's the easy part because the devil truly is in the details on cap
and trade. When a politician says that they want cap and trade you need to
push them for more details.

We've had two major experiences with cap and trade one utterly and
completely successful and another more mediocre experience. Let's start with
the success story first. In the 80s and 90s we had a terrible acid rain
problem. To solve this problem the George H.W. Bush Administration proposed
and passed a cap and trade on SO2 emissions for power plants. The EXACT SAME
people and organizations who now are skeptical of AGW and that cap and trade
will destroy the economy stated back then that power plants didn't cause
acid rain and even if they did the economy would be destroyed if we
implemented it. Acid rain was solved faster and with less money than was
originally predicted. Why? Because the power companies were falling all over
themselves coming up with innovative ways to get rid of SO2. A 2003 OMB
study done by the Bush Administration concluded when we looked at health
improvement that we got $40 of benefit for every $1 spent. Electrical rates
did not spike like the nay sayers said they would.

Now for the less positive experience. Europe tried cap and trade under
Kyoto. This has not produced the reductions of CO2 has hoped and the price
of Carbon crashed in their market. We're not quite sure what went wrong but
the most likely problem was one of leakage with too many free credits at the
beginning. The reason why there was too many free credits is politicians
rarely if ever want to get real with people that there will be pain. So, you
hear things like there will be green collar jobs as far as the eye shall
see. No pain. Just a growing economy and a vibrant environment. Bull.

The problem with a zero leakage approach is poor people get hammered by it.
The price of energy will go up despite the cleverness of the market. What
that means is there needs to be transfer payments to the poor to deal with
the greater expense. This makes it more expensive for the wealthy but the
wealthy can more easily change their behavior to purchase new technology
that is initially more expensive. Such an approach is in the Waxman bill.

As for your preference for nuclear power, cap and trade makes such
technologies more preferable since nuclear is more expensive than coal. Cap
and trade makes nuclear more competitive since its a zero emitter. Ergo,
more nuclear power plants. Other technologies that may work are (if the
market in its wisdom thinks I am not all wet) Stirling external combustion
engines in conjunction with parabolic solar collectors (this will help
Detroit) and decentralized technologies like you mentioned (the smart grid
work in the Stimulus package will help here).

The Waxman bill seems to accommodate the successes and failures mentioned
above. Is it the best possible bill? No. Is the best we can get out of the
Congress? Probably.

Rich Blinne
Member ASA

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Received on Sun Aug 23 18:50:52 2009

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