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The Benefits Are Nil and the Costs Are Astronomical, the Environmental Leadership Is Trying To Bankrupt the U.S.
Raymond Richman, 5/24/2011

Like every other goal, increased expenditures on the environment are subject to the economic law of diminishing returns. The first billion makes an enormous contribution to a better environment. The second may make an even greater contribution\ but eventually additional billions make a lesser and lesser or no contribution at all. For the past half decade, our government has wasted hundreds of billions of dollar on environmental programs that for all practical purposes have yielded no benefits at all and created practically zero sustainable jobs. Meanwhile the waste of resources has been dramatized by our failure to do anything to control hurricanes and tornados like the one that inflicted enormous losses to lives and property in Joplin, Missouri. Even if it turns out that carbon emissions have contributed to global warming, it is not clear that global warming has more costs than benefits.

Our citizens have embraced the anthropogenic theory of global warming and have already spent billions on trying, without success, to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars as a nation and succeeded only in reducing the living standards of the American workers.

And while its proponents claim the theory is settled, hundreds of scientists are on record as saying the theory is wrong. They allege that 50 years of global warming is correlated with increased carbon emissions but, as every statistician knows,  correlation is not proof that carbon emissions are the cause of global warming, especially when the data is confined to about 50 years. How are periods of global warming and cooling during the past millennium to be explained? Moreover, the proponents have no idea why the past decade has been one of global cooling.  A British scientist who correctly predicted the cold winters this year and last has been quoted as saying that we are at the beginning of a period of global cooling.

An alternative theory to the anthropogenic global warming theory has been proposed namely that variations in sunspots and cosmic rays affect cloud formation which affects global warming and cooling. At CERN, Europe’s famous nuclear research institution an experiment is under way called CLOUD. The experiment is being conducted by Dr. Jasper Kirkby, a renowned physicist. In a lecture three years ago, Dr. Kirkby surveyed the evidence of the causes of global warming during the past ten millennia and he found the evidence consistent with the sun’s periodic emissions of sunspots and cosmic rays as the cause of climate changes. Those forces he argued accounted for most of the climate warming during the past century as well, with carbon emissions making a small contribution.

Global warming has not been shown to have fewer benefits than costs. Indeed many stand to benefit from global warming as North America did beginning with the end of the ice age. Indeed, some researchers friendly to the theory of carbon emissions causing global warming have shown that the U.S. is not likely to be affected adversely very much by a century of global warming. Moreover, there are benefits which have not been taken into account. After all, the Great Lakes were created by global warming. Some regions of the world will clearly benefit. Clearly Canada and Russia stand to benefit economically from global warming. 

That support for reducing carbon emissions is largely political is evidenced by the proponents’ call for the U.S. and other industrial nations to compensate the world’s poor countries for the effects global warming has had on them. No attention is paid to the economic benefits the advanced nations have contributed to the backward nations of Africa, over the years hundreds of billions of dollars of aid, not to speak to improved health and longevity.  

Many anti-capitalist political groups and non-governmental organizations heartily endorse measures to impose serious burdens on private industries that emit carbon gases. There are more than forty environmental groups identified by Wikipedia as supporting restrictions on carbon emissions, including such well-known organizations as the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), National Geographic Society, National Wildlife Federation, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Resources for the Future (RFF), Republicans for Environmental Protection, Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), Sierra Club, Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV), The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists, and various liberal Church groups.

What is interesting about this list is that they are strong supporters of measures to reduce carbon emissions even though the impact of global warming on their areas of interest are tenuous at best. They have, nearly all of them, an anti-capitalist bias and a disrespect for the free market. Don’t bother them with benefit-cost analysis

The economic distortions, other than the proposed cap-and-trade schemes, are caused by subsidies for alternative energy producers which produce electricity and fuel at higher costs than traditional fuels, and by government restrictions on the production of fossil fuels, currently imposed by the Environmental ProtectiionAgency.

Tax credits are given for solar projects at homes and businesses. For several years, the federal credit has been equal to 30% of the total cost of solar and wind systems. In addition, wind and solar electricity producers were given a credit for electricity delivered to the grid.

About $4 billion was spent on the cash for clunkers in 2009 -2010 which gave auto buyers vouchers worth $3,500-$4,500 depending on the fuel mileage of the new vehicle compared with the clunker.  It combined economic stimulus and environmental goals.  It made no lasting contribution either to the economy or to the environment. It just made the budget deficit worse.

Other incentives were given, in the form of tax credits principally, to buyers of hybrid vehicles up to $2,400 or more, hydrogen powered vehicles $7,500 or more, and electric powered vehicle up to 7,500 for auto and up to $15,000 for vehicles over 26,000 pounds.  Needless to say, the tax credits appear nowhere in the cost of financing the federal government. These deficit increasing expenditures for reducing carbon emissions had no effect on the climate. For all practical purposes, Congress wasted billions of dollars.

These are huge budget deficit-producing expenditures that for all practical purpose have a benefit-cost ratio of zero. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been added to the budget deficit and will eventually be borne by taxpayers and consumers with a consequent reduction in their standard of living.

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Comment by Evil Inhofe, 5/25/2011:

You make Satan proud

Comment by Larry Walker, Jr., 5/25/2011:

I totally agree, what a waste of time and borrowing (i.e. money). I wonder exactly how many hundreds of billions of dollars, in tax expenditures, has been squandered on this foolishness to date.

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  • [An] extensive argument for balanced trade, and a program to achieve balanced trade is presented in Trading Away Our Future, by Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman. “A minimum standard for ensuring that trade does benefit all is that trade should be relatively in balance.” [Balanced Trade entry]

    Journal of Economic Literature:

  • [Trading Away Our Future] Examines the costs and benefits of U.S. trade and tax policies. Discusses why trade deficits matter; root of the trade deficit; the “ostrich” and “eagles” attitudes; how to balance trade; taxation of capital gains; the real estate tax; the corporate income tax; solving the low savings problem; how to protect one’s assets; and a program for a strong America....

    Atlantic Economic Journal:

  • In Trading Away Our Future   Richman ... advocates the immediate adoption of a set of public policy proposal designed to reduce the trade deficit and increase domestic savings.... the set of public policy proposals is a wake-up call... [February 17, 2009 review by T.H. Cate]