Use state powers to referee private interests and protect resources.

Advocates

Compare

Energy Hog

quote by an opposing figure here 

Vishaan Chakrabarti

“We have to price carbon. There has to be a much more serious gas tax. There’s no question in my mind. And we have to leverage the money from that gas tax to build the infrastructure we need. Underdome Interview

Chakrabarti rejects claims that there is no political will for an effective carbon tax.  Instead, the American system of democratic representation has failed to keep up with population migration, and has thus failed to give voice to pro-density sentiments (see CROSS BORDERS) .  "I just don’t buy as an innate argument that we can’t tax negative externalities. I think the population’s more sophisticated than that. I think they understand that, either as corporations or as individuals, if we pollute, then we have to pay the cost to clean up that pollution and prevent that pollution from going into the future. I actually think people get that. I don’t know think it’s a very complicated idea, and it’s part of the cost of doing business. I just think we fundamentally don’t have a political system that knows how to address that.” Underdome Interview

Tom Friedman

"Knowledgeable eco-stars like Al Gore are critical. They draw attention and passion to an issue. But they make a difference only if they are followed up by 'revolutionary bureaucrats'-- men and women who write emissions and efficiency standards, and who, with a flick of a pen, can change how much electricity fifty million air conditioners consume or how much diesel a thousand locomotives guzzle in one year. That’s revolutionary." Hot, Flat, and Crowded, 321

"As far as I am concerned, China’s system of government is inferior to ours in every respect—except one. That is the ability of China’s current generation of leaders—if they want—to cut through all their legacy industries, all the pleading special interests, all the bureaucratic obstacles, all the worries of a voter backlash, and simply order top-down the sweeping changes in prices, regulations, standards, education, and infrastructure that reflect China’s long-term strategic national interests-- changes that would normally take Western democracies years or decades to debate and implement." Hot, Flat, and Crowded, 430

Amory Lovins

“Name and shame energy subsidies. Desubsidizing the whole energy sector, so we pay for our energy at the meter or pump, not through our taxes, would be immensely helpful to our prosperity, security, and environment.” Amory Lovins Offers Advice

Lovins advocates bold changes to the governement’s energy policy involving less government intervention in energy.  “The role of government is to steer, not row,” while “market actors guided by clear and simple rules can best figure out what will make sense and make money.”  He adds the caveat that these rules must be well informed:  “We need to steer in the right direction—the line of least resistance and least cost—guided by a detailed and exact understanding of the barriers that now block energy efficiency, and thereby damage global development and national security.” Climate: Making Sense and Money

Adderssing Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Lovins wrote: “As the core principles of energy policy, seek to allow and require all ways to save or produce energy to compete fairly, at honest prices, regardless of which kind they are, what technology they use, how big they are, where they are, or who owns them. Who wouldn't be in favor of that?” Amory Lovins Offers Advice
 
Central to this problem are misdirected government energy subsidies: In every state but Oregon, “regulated utilities are rewarded for selling more energy, water, and other resources, and penalized for selling less, even if increased production would cost more than improved customer efficiency.” (A Road Map for Natural Capitalism) Beyond the utilities, “Energy prices are often badly distorted by subsidies and by uncounted external (larcenous) costs not internalized by the Clean Air Act’s laudable trading system. The U.S. in 1989 still subsidized energy supply by about $21–36 billion per year, mostly for the least competitive options and essentially all for supply. Significant costless (or better) reductions in carbon emissions are therefore available just by removing subsidies, a process already underway.” Climate: Making Sense and Money
 
Tax systems are also at fault: “Most companies expense their consumption of raw materials through the income statement but pass resource saving investment through the balance sheet. That distortion makes it more tax efficient to waste fuel than to invest in improving fuel efficiency.” (A Road Map for Natural Capitalism) Taxes re-enforce wasteful practices: “If corporate practices obscure the benefits of natural capitalism, government policy positively undermines it. In nearly every country on the planet, tax laws penalize what we want more of–jobs and income—while subsidizing what we want less of—resource depletion and pollution.” A Road Map for Natural Capitalism
 
Similarly, Lovins rejects the idea that we must tax carbon. “Energy price does matter, but ability to respond to price matters even more. The last time the United States saved energy very quickly—expanding GDP 19% while shrinking energy use 6% during 1979– 86—the main motivator was costly energy. Yet similar success can now be achieved by substituting high skill and attention for high prices. In the 1990s, Seattle, with the lowest electricity prices of any major U.S. city, has been saving electricity far faster than Chicago, where rates are twice as high. The key difference: Seattle is starting to create an efficient, effective, and informed market in energy productivity.” Climate: Making Sense and Money
 
But Lovins is not anti-Tax or anti-regulation.  He cites as examples of effective tax policy: a Swedish tax on automotive diesel that has resulted in sulfur emissions reduction by 75% since 1991, and a Norwegian carbon-dioxide tax that has cut power station and factory emissions by one-fifth since 1991.  The right tax can prioritize job creation while minimizing fuel usage: “Tax-shifting would signal managers to fire the unproductive tons, gallons, and kilowatt-hours, and thereby help them to keep the people, who’d then have more and better work to do. There is an intimate link between the waste of people, resources, and money—and the solutions to all three problems are also intertwined.” A Road Map for Natural Capitalism
 

USGBC

The U.S. Green Building Council is a private organization that is, “committed to supporting federal, state and local governments in their pursuit and development of green building programs and initiatives.” (http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=1779) It is effectively independent from government funding, but states that in the endeavor toward a sustainable future, “it’s not a choice between green building codes or green building rating systems, instead, “it’s both these codes and rating systems working together, learning from one another, and continuously improving content, implementation and results.” By convincing numerous entities at local, state, and federal levels to adopt LEED-- including the Army, the GSA, San Jose, New York State-- it has guaranteed its relevance for decades to come.

Commentary

Bjorn Lomborg

“Climate models uniformly show that that for all the economic havoc that such carbon cuts would likely wreak, they would have a negligible impact on global temperatures.” Europe's Determination to Decline

“There are many circumstances in which environmental intervention is necessary if we are to prevent unnecessary pollution and avoid people shunning their responsibilities.  However, we should only intervene if it is reasonable to do so, not simply because myth and worries lead us to believe that things are going downhill.” Skeptical Environmentalist, 32

Lomborg is not entirely against government regulation in principle: “If you were a CEO and you had your responsibility to the stockholders, I think it's unreasonable to expect that they would have a huge amount of extra social responsibility. That's what societies have to regulate. That's why we have to make taxes, make environmental regulations, set boundaries, say, "No, you can't do that" or, "Yes, you can do that." Clearly you have to regulate that.” Bjorn Lomborg Feels a Chill
 
But to Lomborg, the dangers of carbon taxation are under-represented : “typical reporting on global warming tells us all the bad things that could happened from co2 emissions, but few or none of the bad things that could come from overly zealous regulation of such emissions.” Skeptical Environmentalist, 319
 
Lomborg takes as an example the EU’s “economically destructive” unilateral emission restrictions: they would be “likely to cost Europe an estimated $250 billion a year by 2020, but are also astonishingly ineffective.  The widely used RICE climate-economic model shows a miniscule drop of 0.05 degrees Centigrade over the next 90 years. Despite the huge outlay, the difference in climate by the end of the century would be practically indiscernible.” Europe's Determination to Decline
 
Regulations are particularly dangerous because of their lack of transparency: “To some, a cap-and-trade system might sound like a neat approach where the market sorts everything out. But in fact, in some ways it is worse than a tax. With a tax, the costs are obvious. With a cap-and-trade system, the costs are hidden and shifted around. For that reason, many politicians tend to like it. But that is dangerous. Don't Freak Out
 
And they would place an undue burden on consumers.  “The fact that business will have to use more expensive fuels… means that the same products and services will now be more expensive – a cost that will ultimately be borne by us, as consumers”… this perspective is worth contemplating.”Cool It, 27
 

References

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