Has there ever been a movement that’s spent as much time, energy and treasure and gotten so little in return? I suspect there are three reasons for this failure: 1. It’s difficult to fight basic economics. 2. On energy, Americans, despite what they say, have no desire to try (nor should they.) 3. It’s getting more difficult, not less, to believe environmental doom and gloom.
“There will always be people in this country who say that we’ve got to choose between clean air, clean water and growing the economy, between doing right by the environment and putting people back to work,” President Obama said a couple of years ago. “I’m here to tell you that is a false choice.” Well, actually, we already have cleaner air and water and we (typically) have a growing economy. The thing is there is consensus among economists that regulations do have a cost. Sometimes the price tag is worth it. Oftentimes it’s not.
We already have a test case for Obama’s proposition in California, the state with the most aggressive renewables portfolio standard. A mandated 33 percent of its power must be renewable energy by 2020. According to the Energy Department, residential electricity prices have already spiked 30 percent between 2006 and 2012 (when adjusted for inflation), and studies show that cost of electricity is likely to jump 47 percent over the next 16 years. Those are real-world costs that every Californian has to divert from their health care or groceries or education or investments to pay for artificially inflated energy prices.
The truth is that even if Americans believed that scientists had seer-like abilities and the models were accurate, they would still be hesitant to embrace 19th century technology because they simply can’t afford it. Though I suspect most people instinctively understand that the environment has gotten better by almost every measure over the past 40 years, climate change activists ignore the massive benefits of carbon emitting fuels and technology that helps us become more productive and increasingly efficient.
Now, you can try and guilt trip everyone into compliance. You can batter them with distressing hypothetical scenarios. You can “educate ” them on the issue from kindergarten onward, you can mainstream an array of Luddite ideas, you can browbeat society so they never utter a word of skepticism, but we still want to drive our cars everywhere. This is probably why over-the-top warnings and preposterous analogies have hit peak levels of absurdity.