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  • Why Don’t We Just Cut China a Check?

    Posted by Shannon Love on March 4th, 2009 (All posts by )

    The really stupid thing about Obama’s carbon cap-and-trade system [h/t Instapundit] is that it will simply relocate more manufacturing to countries that don’t give a damn about global warming.

    The growing economies of China, India, and other parts of the world still have people living the lives of preindustrial subsistence farmers.  Right now, today, they have people in dire need of food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, transportation and every other facet of modern life we take for granted. They don’t give a crap about hypothetical dangers that will hypothetically manifest a century from now.

    Such areas will use dense, rich, reliable sources of energy like coal and nuclear to power their factories while we try to smelt iron with windmills. We will be poor and eventually powerless in the face of such competition. Worse, if global warming is a problem, it will happen anyway. Our sacrifices will simply mean we have fewer resources to deal with the problems posed by global warming. 

    Obama plans to shut down our carbon-emitting power sources today, decades before we bring their hypothetical replacements online. If the technology doesn’t work as predicted, where will we be then?

    Obama’s plan will be a massive wealth transfer from America to China and India. We will simply be handing them our current and future economic productivity on a platter. 

     

    17 Responses to “Why Don’t We Just Cut China a Check?”

    1. david foster Says:

      One of the strangest assertions being made is that “green energy” will allow the US to manufacture & export products which cannot be made in countries like China and India. From a Barrons article:

      “Leadership in green technologies theoretically would give the U.S. something to sell to the rest of the world that cheap-labor countries like China and India can’t produce readily”

      Not sure why anyone would think this is true even theoretically. The assumption seems to be that if a technology is very fashionable, it will have to be made in the USA…I guess that’s why there is a huge vertically-integrated iPod factor in Mountain view (/sarc)

    2. david foster Says:

      …meant to say *iPhone factory*

    3. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Texas bumper stickers from the late 1970s:

      Broke? Out of Work? Burn a Yankee.

      Let Them Freeze in the Dark.

    4. jimbino Says:

      I’m a childfree male of 64 who, like the Chinese you mention, has no use for hypothetical future benefits to present sacrifice. Let the breeders who are causing shortages and pollution bear the costs of their breeding, without which a of earth’s animals and plants would hold the promise of a better future.

    5. Daran Says:

      Notice that this scheme will only go live in 2012. Maybe the UAW will support the Republican candidate that year (as if)? If a politician promises a ‘careful review’ whether additional credits need to be granted to critical industries the entire scheme will collapse.

      So the true value of this proposal will be:
      -blackmail industries in giving campaign donations to Democrats (just in time for 2012!) or suffer in their carbon grants,
      -create another governement bureaucracy,
      -pretend to be doing something Green,
      -blame Republicans for hand-outs to assorted fat cats when the imaginary tax money fails to materialize and the deficit balloons even further.

    6. david foster Says:

      One thing that isn’t helping at all is the advertising/PR posture of most large American corporations. They are wrapping themselves in a cloak of green virtuousness, and failing to inform the American public of some key realities. They may win the PR battle, and in some cases even a particular revenue battle, but lose the war.

      It will be very nice for GE shareholders and employees, for example, if the company is able to quadruple its sales of wind turbines..BUT, this won’t do them much good if high energy prices if stratospheric energy prices cripple the overall economy and keep it crippled.

    7. Um, what? Says:

      Global warming isn’t the big show here. Peak oil and coal are. Peak oil was looming over us pretty hard until the recession struck; it’s looking like it’ll be delayed a bit by our drop in consumption, but it won’t hold off indefinitely. Peak coal is also looking a lot closer since research over the last couple of years has shown that previous estimates for global coal reserves were taking at face value statements of national coal reserves which hadn’t been updated in decades. There’s a real question mark in particular over how long China’s own coal supplies will hold out.

      If China keeps on building its economy on oil and coal power, it will come to feel the squeeze badly when the peak hits and supply can no longer be increased to meet demand. In that respect, the U.S. pouring money into green energy research is a smart and farsighted thing to do if it wants to maintain any kind of long-term dominance. Energy efficiency likewise is a worthy goal.

      Measures to fight global warming which don’t have the same overlap with the need to end dependence on worryingly finite fuel sources are perhaps more questionable. However, given the science on global warming has reached a firm consensus, it’s understandable for a leader to worry about how the history books will report his actions a century from now when Venice and other coastal cities are submerged and Bangladesh is uninhabitable.

    8. david foster Says:

      So, why wouldn’t a leader who was genuinely concerned about peak oil/peak coal, and about CO2, be a supporter of nuclear (and hydro)?

    9. renminbi Says:

      What consensus on global warming? There is no consensus on that except in the MSM which can’t get anything right in the first place. You mistake what journalists say for science.The last few years have been cooling anyway, not predicted by the “scientists” pushing this piffle. It is all computer models, which have not been able to predict anything. There is no consensus on E=MC2 because it is established as a fact. APG is not a fact-it is a hypothesis.

    10. Shannon Love Says:

      Um, what,

      Peak oil and coal are.

      Peak oil and coal are myths. Panics about exhausting fossil fuels originated almost immediately after their widespread adoption. The first oil shortage scare occurred in 1877 tens years after the first oil well was drilled. They have reoccurred roughly every 20 years since.

      The problem with theories with peak oil and other resource exhaustion theories is that they rely on a fundamentally flawed model of where these resources come from. People think that there exist this one substance, in this case oil, which sits underground in finite qualities just like flour used to sit in stores in open barrels. This model presupposes that we come along and scoop out flour/oil at a steady rate until we suddenly hit the bottom of the barrel and suffer an economic collapse.

      In reality, there is no singular substance that comprises “oil”. Instead, we have teratons of complex hydrocarbons interred in the earth in a vast variety of forms from gas to liquids to sludges/gels to solid rock. Our ability to make use of these various forms at any given time depends wholly on our technology. We routinely make use of “oil” today in forms that just 50 years ago would have been considered useless sludge. The proven reserves of oil have continued to increase throughout history because we keep shifting the definition of “oil”. At any point in history, an analysis could honestly say that only so much “oil” remained that we could get to and use but a couple of decades later, suddenly we have a lot more “oil”.

      The only limitations on oil and coal use is their environmental impact. If we do burn enough of them, we will wreck the environment one way or the other. We cannot raise the standard of living of everyone on the planet to post-industrial levels by burning fossil fuels anymore than we could run industrial civilization just by burning wood. The history of energy technology shows that we move consistently from diffuse unreliable energy forms to dense reliable ones. The natural evolution in energy is to nuclear power. Electricity is the power utilization medium of the future. Fossil fuels are done for one way or the other. They just don’t have the power density needed for the future.

      China is set to use its large coal reserves to bootstrap a nuclear power base. This will take decades but 30-50 years down the road they will have clean, abundant power and we won’t. We will have surrendered to political hysteria and anti-capitalist, anti-industrial bigotry and tried to revert ourselves to a pre-industrial world.

    11. Um, what? Says:

      Shannon Love,

      Haha, wow. I don’t think I’ve ever met your flavour of peak oil denier in the wild before. That’s a pretty stunning ignorance you’ve got going on there.

      For your information, it’s already happened in the U.S. – oil production in the contiguous 48 states peaked back in 1970. See the governmental figures from the EIA here:
      http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/eh/petro.html

      And you should really read up on some chemistry, or do a course or something.

      New oilfields have been in short supply the last few years. Oil does exist still in forms which remain uneconomic to exploit (e.g. the Alaskan oil shale) but the energy input/output ratio is sufficiently poor that it makes alternative energy sources look comparatively attractive.

      David Foster,

      Nuclear’s good, but uranium stocks are unfortunately likewise finite. Fusion could be very exciting if we got it to work. I’d agree that ignoring nuclear and hydro is an iffy strategy.

      renminbi,

      Had this debate before a bunch of times. It always comes down to people letting their politics trump the science, and I’m not in the mood to have it again.

      However, consensus is easily shown:
      http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=oreskes&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&fdate=//&tdate=//&resourcetype=HWCIT

      The peer reviewed literature is very one-sided. It’s the journalists, I’m afraid, who’re still pushing the denialist cause as “the other side”.

    12. Phil Fraering Says:

      I think this is the debate tactic known as “shifting ground.” IF we were really at peak oil and peak coal (instead of shortages created or grossly aggravated by bad political decisions, such as those outlined above by Shannon Love, and the endless stream of decisions keeping large amounts of the US offshore and onshore areas off-limits to oil production) then none of the above political decisions would really be necessary in order to keep production down.

      We’ve limited drilling, and taxed it heavily, for the last twenty years in this country. Doing so hasn’t done anything to help renewable energy, or suddenly make it more viable. It has changed the fraction of oil imported into the US from some 40% up to something like 65%. The peak oil theorists draw the line on the graph, ignore all the political decisions that went into the declining production, and then say it represents some sort of empirical reality re: reserves and turn around and use it to justify all the political decisions that have already been made.

      I find this particular circular logic to be dishonest.

    13. Shannon Love Says:

      Um, What,

      I’ve ever met your flavour of peak oil denier in the wild before.

      I find the rhetorical trick of comparing me to a holocaust denier offense in the extreme. It does nothing to make your point and serves no purpose save as an ad hominem attack. Do it again and I will delete your post.

      That’s a pretty stunning ignorance you’ve got going on there.

      Well, lets see, you are making the same argument that has been made repeatedly over the last 140 years and been proven wrong every time. Most recently circa 1980 everybody believed that oil supplies would permanently decrease and that oil would always be expensive. 10 years later gasoline cost less than distilled water and known reserves of oil are higher than ever. Since you belong to the tradition that has always been proven wrong and I belong to the tradition which has always been proven wrong, who is really the ignorant one?

      You, with apparent complete lack of understanding of the history of this reoccurring argument is the one in need of education.

      …oil production in the contiguous 48 states peaked back in 1970.

      Big whoop. Oil production in Pennsylvania, were the oil industry started, peaked circa 1920. I didn’t say that there was oil everywhere. I said that historically we have always been able to find more oil and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

      And you should really read up on some chemistry, or do a course or something

      I was educated as a biologist, took plenty of chemistry and I grew up in Texas where big chunks of family worked in the oil industry at all levels. I do understand both the science and the economics of the industry.

      Oil does exist still in forms which remain uneconomic to exploit…

      All most all the oil we use today was once uneconomic to exploit. It was to deep to drill, underwater, had the wrong chemical structure, was too thick or was on the other side of the planet and cost to much to ship. Technology changes and when it changes it makes things once useless suddenly useful. You and those who think like you do not understand this basic fact of technology. You can trace a long history of intellectual failure from Malthus through Erlich to you, all predicting the exhaustion of some resource, land, minerals oil, and all proven conclusively wrong by history.

      Nuclear’s good, but uranium stocks are unfortunately likewise finite

      Turns out there’s a finite amount of energy in the universe and that eventually we’ll reach heat death and die. Solar is no good because the sun will go out. Debates about resource exhaustion are silly because with ever evolving technology we don’t have to plan out the rest of humanities future we just need to plan for the next few decades and keep the technology ball rolling.

      The damage that these resource exhaustion hysteria do comes from their suppression of economic wealth creation and technological innovation which in turn limits our ability to create new technology to create new resources.

      The natural evolution of energy technology is toward denser and more reliable energy source. Fission is the next step. If China moves onto the next step and we don’t, they will dominate.

    14. Dan from Madison Says:

      The US is the Saudi Arabia of coal. It is the environmental extremist groups that forbid not only the extraction of this fuel, but the construction of cleaner burning coal plants.

    15. kurt9 Says:

      I think any kind of global warming legislation is highly unlikely. The democrats won the last 2 elections (2006 mid-term and 2008 presidential) because of recent democratic strength in industrial states such as Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Also, several key states such as West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Utah make much of the economy based on coal mining. Also, most of the money that goes to the democratic party comes from labor unions, which are primarily based on manufacturing.

      It would be political suicide for the congressional democrats to pass any global warming legislation. This is one reason why I believe we are better off with Obama as president than if McCain had won. McCain is much more of a committed “believer” in global warming than Obama. If McCain had won, he would have been far more likely to corral congress into passing global warming legislation, since being a republican, he would not have been as afraid to alienate the union democrat manufacturing states.

    16. Brett_McS Says:

      Kurt9, let’s hope so. On the other hand, one would have guessed that a recession would have also ruled out tax increases on the most productive segment of society. Apparently not.

    17. sol vason Says:

      “The really stupid thing about Obama’s carbon cap-and-trade system [h/t Instapundit] is that it will simply relocate more manufacturing to countries that don’t give a damn about global warming.”

      Your argument presuposes that Obama wants the United States to remain strong, independent and prosperous. Perhaps we should all re-examine our assumptions. He promised Change. We assume no Change.

      Socialism in one country does not work. All or nothing is the current theory.