Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cap and Trade Hysteria

For some reason, I'm on multiple right-wing wacko mailing lists. I don't know why. What a waste of bandwidth. I don't have the heart to unsubscribe though, because I figure that it's best to know what your enemies are up to. Most of the time these newsletters are full of lies, and always full of hysteria. They use tactics that are designed to scare people. Make them think that everything is going wrong and they'll suffer for sure. Fear is what they're selling, and obviously quite a few people are in the market for it.

Today I got a newsletter from John Ensign, the Republican Senator from Nevada. This guy is certifiable half the time, and he's elected. He might be a nice guy in person, I've never met him, but his newsletters often stretch the truth of things and propagate hysteria, just like all the other wackos. So the newsletter screams that Obama is going to pass something called a Cap and Trade system on energy and it's going to cost every family $3000 a year. Turns out that $3000 might actually be more like $300, but who's paying attention to where they're getting these numbers?

Now, first of all, as educated as I am, I had no idea what a Cap and Trade system is. I imagine to his uneducated readers who can't think for themselves this sounds scary. Something they don't know what it is, and it costs a lot. But I can think for myself so I went off to find out what this all meant.

Funny thing is, we're already using a Cap and Trade system on a bunch of things, to reduce acid rain and to reduce CO2 emissions. Now, that is the government's website, so since I don't believe everything I read, I have to find some other sources. Turns out that the Canadian press has a very good explanation of how it's supposed to work since they're thinking about doing the same thing.
"In the cap-and-trade system proposed by the panel, all businesses would have to buy credits to cover the emissions they produce. If a company's emissions exceed the cap set by government, they would have to buy more credits from companies that came in under the cap. Such a system creates financial incentives for companies to reduce their emissions because they can then avoid having to buy more credits and also be in a position to make money selling their unused emission credits."
Now, here's the key thing. This will make prices go up, if energy providers fail to reduce their emissions. They will pass it onto the consumer, obviously. What they'll have then is a very angry consumer. In Texas, we have choice about who we get our electricity from. There's competition and I imagine that they'll be competing like mad to make it as cheap as possible. Secondly, if they can sell any credits left over to make a profit, well that would benefit business.

Thirdly, this money isn't going out the window. They may have to pay the government, they may indeed pass some of it on to us, however in the end, that means that the government has money to use, if we can persuade them to use it on something to benefit us, our infrastructure, our schools, or education, it's a win-win situation.

Lastly, so what if you have to pay a little more? Quite frankly, you can't breathe money. If we don't do something, indeed it may already be too late, the ice at the poles will melt and the temperature of the earth will rise, along with sea levels, and all coastal areas will be flooded. The only question is, by how much? This isn't up for argument. Sure the nutty people who think that Jesus is coming back any day (any time now since 2000 years ago!) and so it doesn't matter, will tell you that scientists are wrong. They haven't bothered to look at the data (surprise, surprise), the fact that the ice sheets are melting quite fast already, or that the mean surface temperature has risen three quarters (0.75) of a degree Celsius in the last century, most of that in the last decade. Oh sure, that doesn't sound like much, until you realize that it only takes about a 7 degree increase to render much of the planet absolutely uninhabitable and that the temperature increase is speeding up.

Let's use our heads, think this through just a little bit. How much crap do you think we can throw into the water or put into the air, before it is too much? Forget the rhetoric, the political motivations, the cost, or anything else. It's common sense. It doesn't magically disappear or go away. It adds up. Sure what you put into the atmosphere in a day might not matter, but compound that by years upon years and that's another matter. Add to that the exploding population, the rising of third world countries to industrialized status who are contributing a lot to pollution too, and we have on our hands what could be a disaster of epic proportions. And to fiddle while Rome burns, isn't an option. We have to *try* something. Even if it's wrong, even if it doesn't work. Do we really want to tell our grandchildren, "Uh, sorry, we didn't think anything was wrong, or we were too lazy or cheap to do anything, and well, uh, you're going to have to live (or die) with this mess."

In the end, the businesses that should be coming up with creative ideas to make things cleaner and more efficient are instead spreading propaganda that there's nothing wrong. It's like Pompei. The volcano erupts and people go back to what they were doing, despite the fact that ash is falling. They think that it will just stop eventually. Well, we know how that turned out don't we?

"Only when the last tree has withered, the last fish has been caught, and the last river has been poisoned, will you realize you cannot eat money."--Native American Proverb

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