Here They Go Again

by William Yeatman on February 5, 2008

In an article today with a uniquely sensible headline – “House preparing for climate bill this year despite gloomy economic forecasts” – Platts says the following:

"Virginia Democrat Rick Boucher, a key member of the House of Representatives charged with drafting comprehensive climate change legislation, vowed last week to move legislation through Congress and to the president’s desk this year. And gloomy economic forecasts would not slow the pace of getting the GHG cap-and-trade bill through Congress, he said.

To the contrary, the climate bill would lead to a significant economic boom for the United States, according to Boucher, based in part on the volume of low-emission technologies that would hit the market, creating thousands of jobs and making the US a major exporter of these goods."

This is a common theme and one that is well worth discussing.  By this I mean both the “green jobs” chimera and the companion notion that, once the US imposes some restrictions on ourselves, which so far only Europe has imposed on itself, the world will suddenly want goods that the US manufacturers will suddenly produce – but they’ll produce them only with mandates on the domestic market, mind you.

The “root cause” of this thinking seems to be a strain of American exceptionalism that says once the US government applies the spurs to US industry in the form of a threat to their competitiveness – possibly styled as a market opportunity to innovators – we will answer the call and produce stunning advances in “new” technologies pioneered anywhere from millennia (wind) to centuries (solar) ago.

Such thinking, increasingly fashionable on Capitol Hill, represents an understanding of rent-seeking, surely, if not so much of the actual market economy.  In this specific context, however, it represents an amazing triumph of hope over experience.  There may be something to that notion that the last people we want making laws affecting the economy are the lawmakers.

I am a firm believer in US exceptionalism, but not to the point of folly such as this requires.  Reasons the above fantasy is implausible include that the EU economy is already larger than ours; you may have noticed that, despite having long mandated all sorts of global warming-style gadgets (the industries producing which being among the most feverish of Kyotophiles both here and there), they still are mired in deep unemployment when they apparently should be busy selling everyone windmills.  What happened?

Is it, as John Kerry said in his “debate” with Newt Gingrich, that the US knows how to, e.g., “do cap and trade” but Europe doesn’t, and when we further strangle our available domestic energy sources on this front just as we have strangled domestic oil and gas E&P, we will suddenly show the world they couldn’t live without our solar panels?

I would like to hear some reasoned comments supporting this, preferably not from anyone affiliated with the windmill or solar panel industries or their affiliated advocacy groups (after all, if we at CEI have learned anything from these people, it’s that the people who support you dictate your stances…).

Please begin with telling me which countries have found themselves prosperous as a result of imposing GHG restrictions.  The more detail the better – I’ve spent enough time looking to despair of ever finding this Wirtschaftwunderon my own – and especially baselines you are using to support your claim (having heard enough Kyotophile cheerleading to know that the baseline games are the first resort of such types).


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