Saturday, January 31, 2009


But is There Any Social Justice for the Unicorns?

U Mass economics professor Robert Pollin writes, in the Nation Magazine, a long article praising the coming Green Energy Revitalization. Here are but a few of his pearls of wisdom.

The transformation of our fossil fuel driven economy into a clean energy economy will be the work of a generation, engaging a huge range of people and activities. But focusing on essentials, there are only three interrelated projects that will drive the entire enterprise: dramatically increasing energy efficiency; equally dramatically lowering the cost of supplying energy from such renewable sources as solar, wind and geothermal power; and mandating limits and raising prices on the burning of oil, coal and natural gas.

I like the first one--increasing energy efficiency. Who could be against that? The technical question of whether there is a whole lot more to be gained with efficiency improvement alone is not discussed. Pity. But lowering the costs of solar et al.? That I know a little bit about. Generally not possible now. Even if we threw several billion dollars at a T. Boone Pickens plan (and perhaps we will as we reach 1937 depths of the depression forming up), we would get to about 12% of our present electrical needs within 15 years. Even Pickens has abandoned his windy pipe dream. The energy production is just not good enough (unless we make things 88% more efficient). But it's the last thing, making fossil fuels more expensive so that the unreliable and very expensive "green" alternatives don't look so bad, that is the tell tale here. You realize this guy's a watermelon. All he's interested in is hobbling free enterprise in the name of curbing global warming (don't get me started). Making available energy more expensive by excessive taxation is a very dumb idea. What social justice is there in increasing what poor people have to pay to drive their 12 year old cars by 50%? I guess that's why he wanted to spend billions on public transport, so the working poor can get to work.

But let's move on to the central supposition of his piece:

The green investment project can advance a full employment agenda because it will create about seventeen jobs for every $1 million in outlays, whereas spending the same $1 million in the oil and coal industries creates about 5.5 jobs--i.e., the job-creation effect of green investments is more than three times larger than that for fossil fuel production.

Where does he get that figure? Not footnoted. Does the government have to "invest" in fossil fuels for there to be production? No, the evil big oil and gas companies do it on their own. All it takes is the government's getting out of the way. But there is no construction of any scale of solar, wind or geothermal without heavy government spending thereto. It's silly to compare these and to have a firm number. Where does that 11.5 net new jobs figure come from? I think the mind of Professor Pollin.

If you really are for producing a real amount of power without any of the trace greenhouse gasses, you'd clear the way for private investment in nuclear power plants. But there is no mention by Professor Pollin of this actual possible alternative. He's left the real world, in my humble opinion, and is in the land of widgets, but nicer widgets, more like unicorns. As we used to say during the Vietnam War, get real.

There's more, but it doesn't get any better.


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