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You spend a trillion here, a trillion there...

18 Sep 2019 | News Roundup

New Jersey Democratic Senator and presidential hopeful Cory Booker just announced a $3 trillion climate plan. Which has the virtue of being similar in scale and urgency to the crisis he claims exists, unlike passionately defending curly light bulbs. Thus Booker wants “to fund the transition to a 100% carbon-neutral economy by no later than 2045” and have “100% carbon-free electricity by 2030.” But one hopes he’s budgeting a few dollars for economics textbooks somewhere in his version of the Green New Deal, because (a) he didn’t say how he planned to pay for it and (b) he thunders that “We are facing a dual crisis of climate change and economic inequality” and making energy expensive and unreliable will hit the poor hardest.

Booker doesn’t see it that way, of course. He’s confused partly because “Cory’s Plan to Address the Threat of Climate Change” (can we lose the folksy first names, folks?) starts out “Climate change is not some distant threat — it’s happening now: July 2019 was the hottest month on record for the planet, towns are seeing so-called ‘hundred-year’ floods every few years, and millions around the world are fleeing climate change-related drought and famine.” So where does his plan stand if we’re not actually seeing more forest fires, worse heat waves, floods of climate refugees and the collapse of agriculture due to drought, hurricanes and sulphurous blasts from the Kingdom of Darkness?

He goes on “Without deliberate and bold action, we risk an incredible human toll from disasters and health impacts, preventable national security threats, and trillions of dollars in economic losses.” Unfortunately he’s a bit confused here because if the alarmists’ models are right, we face all those horrible outcomes with deliberate and bold action too, and government insolvency on the side.

He's also confused partly because he seems really not to understand that less energy means less wealth. And while subsidies for green energy just might conceivably have a Keynesian stimulative effect, and unleash reliable new forms of power that private companies are too dumb to stumble across and recognize, “barring all new fossil fuel leases, phasing out fracking, and instituting a carbon fee” will drive up energy prices with disastrous impact on those barely able to afford fuel now.

It’s not strictly true that, in the old cliché, business will “just pass the cost on to the consumer.” At least not all in money. When prices rise, consumers pay more for each gallon (it’s the United States) of gas or lump of coal they buy. But they also buy less gas, coal etc. and hence suffer both monetary and non-monetary losses. As do companies, who sell less for a smaller profit. In short, a classic politically driven lose-lose billed as the opposite.

To give credit where we can, Booker’s program to “Accelerate the end of fossil fuels” includes “immediately eliminating all fossil fuel subsidies”. A splendid plan, we declare from our laissez faire big tent. But why stop there? Let’s end them for all energy producers including solar and see what really works not what lobbies and polls well. Assuming the goal is efficiency not just whacking those big dirty oil monopolists carving up profits on the backs of the poor and so on.

Politico loves Booker’s plan partly because it would “invest heavily in cleaning up polluted sites around the country that disproportionately affect low-income and communities of color.” Which is fine, and we think would be even if you accidentally helped wealthy white people too (we’re weird that way.) We also approve of his desire for “massive reforestation and coastal wetlands restoration.” But not his plan to bankrupt the United States so none of these worthy things can happen, based on a completely factually inaccurate depiction of apocalypse now.

That one we don’t like.

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