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Political Climate Change?

At the UN climate conference in Paris, Obama spoke forcefully about the need to make the accords legally binding, to hold countries accountable. This is new and exciting, and has energized the negotiations there.

Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress scheduled votes on Tuesday to strike down rules that reduce carbon emissions. Once again, they are sabotaging us from doing anything about climate change, even though a full two-thirds of Americans want us to fight climate change and carbon pollution.

To me, this is just another example of the GOP paying far more attention to their corporate overlords than to what’s best for the country (and because of Citizens United, their corporate benefactors don’t even have to be Americans).

But what makes this ironic is their excuse. They claim that fighting carbon pollution will cost jobs. Newly elected Speaker Paul Ryan says:

I don’t think we’re out of step with public opinion wanting jobs, wanting economic growth, weighing the costs and the benefits. I think when you weigh the costs and the benefits against these so-called legally binding obligations they don’t add up. I think it’s very clear people want jobs.

This is a clear example of “Iron’s Law” – when someone says they are doing something for “jobs”, then they are clearly screwing you.

Plus, there is plenty of evidence that a carbon tax would be good for jobs, and good for the economy in general.



  1. ThatGuy wrote:

    I saw one Republican (can’t remember who it was) state his position that he believes man made climate change is occurring but believes that the economy comes first. Anyone who believes Republican nonsense lines like “we need to cut the debt/deficit/government spending for the sake of future generations” ought to take note of that attitude. It’s plain to see, as you say, that this is more about appeasing corporate overlords than it is helping Americans. They’ve now made abundantly clear that a hellscape Earth is fine with them, and that any concern for future Americans is pure political theater.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 3:48 am | Permalink
  2. ebdoug wrote:

    Seems to me that the Republicans should pay for the 1 trillion dollar a day spent by a Republican invading Iraq.
    Plus do they lose any sleep on the thousands of deaths per caused by that same Republican fifteen years after he invaded a sovereign country for no reason? I know I do.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 4:14 am | Permalink
  3. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Just to have a well rounded discussion and to not get your hopes up too much. Read this opinion.

    Politicians are well…politicians. They want their legacy and will do as incomplete a job as possible to stand in front of a camera and say how great they are.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 10:23 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    Well rounded? A hit piece from a conservative think tank, published in Politico as “opinion”? Right!

    And it was written before Obama called for mandatory emissions limits, which this article claims are not even on the table. In fact, that is the main point of the “opinion”, and it isn’t even true.

    You’ll have to do better than that PSgt.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  5. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    Perhaps my point was misunderstood. What I was hoping to convey is that unless the developing world and other industrial powerhouses bind themselves to an agreement and are accountable to some world body with actual enforcement authority, then the whole process is simply for political spotlight purposes. If China, India and the rest of the developing world isn’t held accountable then we still have nothing. Obama Et Al. simply calling for it won’t make it happen globally.

    But we’ll wait and see…

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    I don’t think I misunderstood your point at all.

    Obama (et al) “calling” for it just about the only thing that *will* make it happen globally. So far, the excuse used by the developing counties is why should they do anything when the US won’t. Which is a valid point.

    And the reason they can get away with that excuse is because of the GOP denying that climate change exists, or even when they stop denying it, still doing everything in their power to not do anything about it.

    Did you read the last link in my post? British Columbia has had a carbon tax for around 8 years, and their economy actually improved. And yet Republicans keep claiming that we can’t do anything about climate change because “jobs”.

    So the real point is why are the Republican politicians fighting doing anything about climate change? We have evidence that it will not hurt the economy, won’t hurt jobs, will lessen our dependence on oil (especially foreign oil). The Pentagon says that climate change is a major security risk for our country. Even a majority of Republicans support doing something about climate change.

    Who answer me this: why are the Republicans in Congress (not to mention all their presidential candidates) against doing anything to fight climate change?

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Permalink
  7. PATIOTSGT wrote:

    :why should they do anything when the US won’t.” Is not a valid point. We have done plenty in this country to reduce our carbon footprint. We have regulated and reduced the use of coal. Our vehicle emissions have been lowered decade after decade. We have many more hybrid and electric cars. Our wind and solar power generation is growing. Our smokestack emissions are reducing.

    And yes I think an revenue neutral carbon tax is something we could look at.

    Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 6:56 am | Permalink
  8. redjon wrote:

    So, spending on upgrades to reduce pollution and increase efficiency costs jobs; but spending the same amount of money on the purchase of a corporate jet doesn’t cost jobs.

    Spending on upgrades to reduce pollution and increase efficiency costs jobs, but spending obscene amounts of money on corporate salaries doesn’t cost jobs.


    How about shipping CEO jobs overseas? I’m thinking there are plenty of people in India or China, say, willing AND ABLE to do executive-level work for much lower wages than are paid American CEOs. Isn’t competition what it’s all about, after all? Isn’t there a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders when it comes to executive wages?

    Besides, efficiency is cost effective. Wasteful expenditures on overqualified personnel are not, and the more overqualified and the higher the pay, the more is wasted on salaries that could better employ people who actually add value in the form of work product to the company… ANY company.

    Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Permalink
  9. redjon wrote:

    6. IK: That last bit was a rhetorical question, right? Because you know the answer very well.

    Besides, while you mentioned yesterday that even insurance companies recognize climate change, insurance companies pass their costs on to the insured. With a margin.

    Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 2:46 pm | Permalink
  10. Michael wrote:

    “Our vehicle emissions have been lowered decade after decade.” No, they haven’t. “We have many more hybrid and electric cars.” Yes, but this is misleading.

    As for the vehicle emissions, here’s the EPA’s finding: “Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation have increased by about 16% since 1990.” This results from the fact that “[t]he number of vehicle miles traveled by passenger cars and light-duty trucks increased 35% from 1990 to 2013.” While it is true that the average fuel efficiency is higher (problematic metric…see below), people have more than compensated for this gain by driving and flying more. Consequently, total vehicle emissions have increased.

    As for hybrid and electric cars coming to the rescue…eh, not necessarily. The problem is that “miles per gallon” is a very misleading metric. Gallons per mile would provide a much more accurate representation of what’s going on. Say you have two drivers: Alice loves the environment and drives a 30 MPG car. Bob loves his power-hungry 12 MPG gas guzzler. Their average MPG is 23.5.

    We’re going to use a tax policy to encourage one of them to upgrade. Should Alice upgrade to a 40 MPG hybrid? Or should Bob switch to a 14 MPG gas guzzler? If Alice upgrades, their average MPG increases to 26. But if Bob upgrades, it only goes up to 24. It seems like a no brainer that Alice upgrading is a better move for the environment, but (all else held equal) this is demonstrably wrong and worse for the environment.

    Let’s assume both Alice and Bob drive 10,000 miles per year. Alice’s old car burned 10,000/30 = 333 gallons per year; Bob’s burned 10,000/12 = 833 gallons. If Alice upgrades her car, her new car burns 10,000/40 = 250 gallons per year, reducing total emissions by 83 gallons. But if Bob upgrades, his new car burns 10,000/14 = 714 gallons, saving 119 gallons per year. Thus, increasing the average MPG from 23.5 to 24 saved more gas than upgrading to 26 MPG.

    Environmental impact is determined by the number of gallons burned. As such, it is the total gallons that matter, not the total miles, so gallons needs to be in the numerator. Furthermore, mileage is more of a fixed quantity. If I want to go from home to work to Home Depot to Olive Garden to home, the number of miles is constant. Nobody sets out in the morning with a designated ration of X gallons for the day. Since miles is known and somewhat fixed, and you are trying to determine a variable, unknown quantity of gallons, then the straightforward calculation is to multiple X miles by Y gallons/mile. GPM is much more meaningful than MPG.

    Alice’s old car burned 0.0333 GPM and Bob’s old car was 0.0833 GPM. So their average was 0.0583 GPM. If Alice upgrades, her new car gets 0.0250 GPM, so the new average is 0.05415 GPM. If Bob upgrades, his new car gets 0.0714, bringing the average consumption down to 0.05235 gallons per mile.

    Long story short: We would have a far bigger impact on the environment by making moderate improvements to vehicles at the lower end of the MPG spectrum than by encouraging more people at the high end to upgrade to hybrids. Or better yet, encourage people to drive less, travel less, consume less.

    (Disclaimer: Yes, I am ignoring trickle-down effects here. Alice might sell her old car to Charlie who sells his 25 MPG to Darla who sells her 20 MPG to Edward who sells his 14 MPG to Bob. But that doesn’t change the fact that average MPG is less meaningful than average GPM.)

    Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink
  11. Michael wrote:

    Looking at EPA’s data, almost across the board it’s bad. CO2 has increased, N2O has increased, HFC/PFC/SF6/NF3 have increased. Only CH4 (methane) has decreased, and not by much.

    Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  12. rk wrote:

    Michael: you cannot average mpg. It doesn’t work.

    The whole mpg metric is very misleading when it comes to pollution. What we really want is pounds (or some equivalent) of pollution per gallon consumed, which also varies depending on speed or while idling. Look at the Audi and Volkswagon record for that.

    Friday, December 4, 2015 at 9:56 am | Permalink
  13. BTM wrote:

    RK, Michael is not averaging MPG, he is averaging GPM.

    Of note. CAFE is calculated by weighted averages of GPM, so the current formula DOES reward a company more by increasing the 12 MPG vehicle’s economy in Michael’s example .

    Friday, December 4, 2015 at 10:07 pm | Permalink
  14. rk wrote:


    Monday, December 7, 2015 at 11:04 am | Permalink