Though I disagree with McArdle on the magnitude of potential warming, I think her assessment of Waxman-Markey is dead on:

But the real question, I think, is whether the low cost is a feature or a bug.  The only way a bill is going to have an impact is if it causes real financial pain to American households--enough to get them to change their behavior.  Waxman-Markey obviously is not going to do that.  And indeed, the projections of its effect on global warming are entirely negligible.

So the reason to get this mad about Waxman-Markey is either that you think it provides a framework for future action, or that you think it will persuade China and India to get on board.  The latter is, I think, entirely wishful thinking on the part of American environmentalists.  China is not going to let its citizens languish in subsistence farming because 30 years from now, some computer models say there will be some not-well-specified bad effects from high temperatures. Nor is India.  Global warming isn't even high on the list of environmental concerns they'll want to attack as they get rich; local air pollution is far more pressing.  Thinking that we're somehow going to lead them by example is like thinking that poor rural teens are going to buy electric cars because Ed Begley jr. has one.

No, I think the argument has to rest on the notion that Waxman-Markey gives us a framework to advance.  And it might.  But then again, Europe's much-vaunted system has had multiple spectacular failures, and the only reductions it has actually achieved seem to come largely from controversial offsets with large auditing problems.


  1. Michael:

    "Global warming isn’t even high on the list of environmental concerns they’ll want to attack (China and India)."

    Pew Research poll shows that global warming is at the bottom (20th) of Americans' priorities list for 2009.

    The American people don't see global warming as a threat. The government does since it will give them massive new controls to place on the people.

  2. Patrick Moffitt:

    Much in the environmental field has unfortunately been debated absent context. The first place to start is asking simple questions- what do we want- what are we willing to spend or risk to achieve this want- do we have the resources? Most problems arise from our failure (whether intentional or otherwise) to present any type of balance sheet. If we are to get rid of CO2 what do we replace this energy with- if nuclear is not allowed- we need to know this now. Someone needs to show how we get our energy needs met- if we are to live with less then this must be clearly stated- if not show me the energy.

    The Waxman bill acknowledges that only a small amount of CO2 will be removed and that the bulk of the warming according to the more dire forecasts will still "ravage" the US. If this is true it would seem that hardening our infrastructure would be essential- yet one hears very little about new water systems, flood control or building bans in coastal waters. (The lack of these projects should be a caution as to the level of belief in the projected catastrophes amongst our elected officials) A large section of California is moving at a rate ten times the projected sea level rise along the fault line- yet this causes little concern. It would seem that all catastrophe prevention planning should be on the table- not just the potential catastrophes that frighten some politically powerful segments the most.

    Nowhere in the catastrophe scenarios is the risk associated with a decline in the relative wealth within a society- it has always created war and social unrest- something that concerns me more than a hypothetical rise in temperature.

  3. nom de guerre:

    the painful lessons of social security should provide all the justification and impetus we need to oppose waxman and his idiotic little "it won't cost very much" scheme. IIRC, when FDR started his great ponzi scheme, it was pretty cheap too: you paid 1% of the first $3000 you made, and your employer matched it. max pay per year: $60.

    it's a little different now, isn't it. what's the rule? you pay 7-and-a-half percent on the first $100K, so does your boss....new max pay per year: $15,000, plus or minus.

    that's only a twohundred-and-fiftyfold increase in just 70 years. money they spent as soon as it came in, leaving only a 'lockbox' full of worthless IOU's. and we won't even get into that promise they made the american people when they sold the *mandatory* ponzi scheme: "your social security # will never be used for purposes of personal identification." remember that one? tent, camel's nose, etc.

  4. Link:

    I just skimmed the Energy Bill -- the hard-to-find actual 1201 page version, current as of Wed. It and any revisions thereto aren't being posted to the usual places, for obvious reasons. I spent 20 minutes on it, which is probably 20 minutes more than most of the Democrats who will wind up voting for it. You can get it here:


    Our federal government has gone insane. I can't scream it any louder.

    This bill literally declares oil to be a clear and present danger to the US, that we need to replace oil as a fuel for our cars with electricity and ethanol. Utilities will be required to develop plans for electrical charging stations for plug-in cars. There's $50b to retool car companies to make plug-in cars.

    Wait until people wake up that we already have a huge range of kwh costs from state to state and a grid that can barely support current demand, and that plug-ins suck and aren't even eco-friendly.

    Replacing oil with electricity will of course skyrocket our electric demand. But the same bill mandates reductions in carbon emissions, through cap and trade.

    At first I thought the bill just ignored nuclear entirely, but there is a small section ... it appears to gut existing federal loan guarantees for nuclear by imposing a super-priority lien and by insisting on highest available union wages for construction.

    It would also federalize building codes.

    Waxman has a sense of humor though ... it literally opens with "A Bill to create clean energy jobs ..." A few of us will get jobs, most of the rest of us will be living in tree forts.

    Even the California legislature would think this crazy.