Monthly Archives: June 2010
The Big Picture
I attended a public Oregon Public Utilities Commission hearing this week. The subject was the future of coal power in Oregon. A lot of college kids with strong pro environment views showed up. Some asserted that closing PGE’s Boardman plant coal plant in 2014 (if not even sooner) was a matter of life and death. Really though what hurts the economy is also a matter of life and death. I think lives will be lost with no Boardman plant, because of the high cost of doing so.
You can get the close the plant point of view here:
They want to close the plant, and assert (misuse really I think) the company’s data to say it is best economically to close the plant. But really even if the fact that plant is a huge economic asset to the state could be made clear, I don’t think most of these idealistic folks would be convinced. They think lives and the environment will benefit from no coal plant in Oregon, and don’t care about the economic cost.
My comeback was this, that I don’t think will ever make it out of moderation on gettinghotinhere site:
I was at the hearing, and it was good to see so many public spirited kids.
I also work for PGE. I’m skeptical that the alternative energy technologies are anywhere near as ready to easily replace proven technologies like coal, as you may assume. After all coal is one of the USA’s most abundant fuels. but I know you’re not going to believe much of anything I assert given my biases, so here’s a challenge.
If you are convinced that solar is as viable as you say, in addition than political action, get into the solar business, and see how many folks you can woo to “go off the grid”. I think the cost of solar and most renewables will make this a hard sell.
If you are right you’re helping the environment and delivering superior energy technology. You’ll win you’re point in free competition and undermine a state franchise monopoly, rather than just trying to gain political control of it. The result: a stronger freer economy; PGE will learn how wrong we were; and a cleaner environment.
If you are wrong, at least you’ve learned a valuable lesson, and may focus on how we can improve the environment with proven technologies, as I think PGE is attempting.
Wealthier societies are in general much healthier. People live longer. Pushing growth can allow many more social welfare oriented gains to happen, like concern for the environment.
My point we need to recognize any thing that hurts economic growth isn’t just about money: people will lead shorter lives that are lacking in other ways.
Courtsey of the Incidental Economist.
The health act may have the seeds of reigning in the explosion in health costs and a worsening fiscal situation. I think the Obama reform may raise a number of challenges, but realistically I don’t think we could have just continued the status quo. The latter is all the GOP seemed to propose.
I continue to think Obama is on the right track, even if the politics are not going his way right now.
The Incidental Economist Posts
via Cowen’s Road.
Global warming. I suppose that I could agree with the critics of the theory that it is a cause of the day. Many who support it don’t know why. However, most critics don’t understand it either.
It seems like an issue with such large claimed effects would elicit an attempt by more folks to understand it. But most judgments are made in ignorance. Science has huge implications and the fact that most Americans don’t know or like science is making it hard for our democracy to address science related issues.
Rush certainly illustrates a boredom with the critical subject of science, and maybe that the right is especially uninterested in actually discussing the merit of policy, because they know the answer based on their “gut”. The main problem with American Conservatism.
Manzi says conservatives should believe in global warming, not because of ‘liberal scaremongering … but because of the underlying physics’ — which he apparently doesn’t grasp in the least. ‘All else being equal, the more carbon dioxide molecules we have in the atmosphere, the hotter it gets,’ writes Manzi.” Wrong! More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not likely to significantly contribute to the greenhouse effect. It’s just all part of the hoax.
He condemns Manzi, who is a critic of Kyoto and most left orthodoxy on global warming as a science know nothing, but does nothing to discuss the physics that doesn’t support global warming. I think he assumes his audience doesn’t need facts to reach a conclusion on global warming.
They know! In any case dealing with details of policy on a case by case basis undermines the goals of the ideology, less government always. No exceptions and no need to think in detail. Certainly a paragraph on how warming could mitigate itself by adding to cloud cover is just boring and redundant. It’s all pretty sad.
Arnold Kling writes:
In the revised edition of The Company of Strangers, Paul Seabright writes (p. 26),
One of the great intellectual achievements of modern economics has been to work out very precisely the circumstances under which decentralized systems of market exchange can produce results that are efficient, in the sense of improving the condition of every individual as far as possible whenever this can be done without harming someone else…as we shall see, all real-life systems of market exchange fail to live up to these demanding conditions
These sorts of statements are often the start of an intellectual swindle, which goes.
1. Markets are great, under some conditions (no externalities, perfect information, commodity-like products).
2. Those conditions often fail in practice.
3. Therefore, in practice we often need government.
The swindle is that (3) implicitly assumes that whenever markets fail, government is the solution. But no theory of government is used to back this assumption.
I’d restate this as:
1. we want a social structure that is optimal for all ideally
2. This needs to cause actions to be take that are socially desieable
3. But the actors are only interested in their own interests
4. Number 3 is true of government officials as much as others
5. So coming up with a social structure best for all when that’s not the primary objective of anyone is hard.
Sharon Angle has certainly gotten a lot attention. Since she could claim the scalp of part of the Democratic parties leadership is one reason I think.
But her vague suggestions of armed resistance to “tyranny” has gotten a lot attention. Form Jonathan Chait:
Earlier this year, Angle said:
In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years,” Angle said in January in an interview with conservative talk show host Lars Larson. “I hope that’s not where we’re going. But, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.”
Per Greg Sargent, Angle was asked about that statement and simply changed the subject:
I can’t believe people are even asking that,” Angle said in the brief interview. “I’m very much a proponent of the Second Amendment and the Constitution. But what we have to focus on here is a movement, a movement that’s about retiring Harry Reid” by voting him out of office
There’s been a lot of wild, loose rhetoric on the right since Obama took office — wilder and more mainstream than the equivalent on the left under George W. Bush — but Angle is really taking things dangerously far.
This seem overblown to me. The local televsion media has badgered about the same thing. Personally I’m not fond of violence for any purpose and I own no guns. I’ve supported President Obama on many issues, but I’m not a liberal.
The talk of using second amendment rights to resist the government sound extreme, but I think it has to be considered as a possible reaction to a set of extreme fears that some take quite seriously. Many are convinced they will be grabbing their 30-30 in response to: concentration camps; confiscation of privately held gold; and other outrages like the return of the fairness doctrine.
So a crazy response is discussed to a crazy hypothetical. I don’t think the rights worse fears will come to pass and neither will the scary response. People need to calm down.
In any case, a second amendment response to concentration camps might not be such a crazy thing.