The New Energy Bill

If you want to have mood lighting in your house that dims and doesn't turn everything a weird color, then go out and stock up on light bulbs today because the new energy bill just passed**.  I have already blogged plenty about the stupid stuff in this bill, but apparently Kevin Drum thinks its a good step.  I don't see how anyone of any political stripe can see this as a good bill.  Its just stupid in so many ways.  Yes, I understand as a libertarian, my energy bill would look like:

  1. get out of the way

But I can for a moment place myself in a position where I would imagine being worried about CO2 and dependence on fossil fuels.  For someone who really cares about these things, here is what a rational energy plan would look like:

  1. large federal carbon tax, offset by reduction in income and/or payroll taxes
  2. streamlined program for licensing new nuclear reactors
  3. get out of the way

** I personally have replaced most of the bulbs in my house, out of rational economic self-interest, with CF bulbs.  However, there are about 6 where CF's just won't do the job I need and about 6 more (3 above my shower and 3 outside) where current CF bulbs do not hold up to the moisture.   The desire by government to micro-manage me into using an inferior solution for these 12 locations is the same compulsion that has led to my not having a single toilet in my house that works  (the shower also sucked too until I figured out how to remove the government-mandated flow restricter from the shower head).

  • CT_Yankee

    My city handed out water use reduction kits, then followed up with a survey.

    The water dam that reduced each flush by a fifth was removed because it prevented the thing from working right. The low flow shower head felt more like you were just standing in the mist, however it worked much better after I drilled out the center of the fat rubber restrictor washer.

    We get a pamphlet with helpful water related hints with each quarterly bill. I never saw them pass on my suggestions to chuck the toilet tank dam or drill out the shower head. Perhaps they are waiting for the next issue...

  • Jim K

    Don't forget about the mercury in the CFL's. Of course the response to this threat by the enviro's is: "Well we need more light bulb recycling". The sad thing is the CFL requirement as an example of government gone amok pales in comparison to the new ethanol mandate.

  • Bearster

    "1. large federal carbon tax, offset by reduction in income and/or payroll taxes"

    Yikes! Is the goal to make revenue for the government, or change behavior?

  • http://that-xmas.livejournal.com Xmas

    I'm just waiting for my LED lighting with RYB color control. Imagine a little light control switch that can change the room lighting from bright white to dusky pink.

  • Jeff S.

    "large federal carbon tax, offset by reduction in income and/or payroll taxes". Does anyone have a link to a site where this idea is really fleshed out--all the ramifications. I just can't get it from the reading I have been able to do about how it would work. Thanks.

  • Bob Smith

    I'm still trying to figure out if there will be any cars that will be worth buying in 5 years. That 35 mpg CAFE standard eliminates nearly every car now for sale. What's left will be cramped, ugly little boxes that can't brake or corner worth a **** because of the hard skinny tires you need to get that kind of mileage, and won't get out of its own way when accelerating because of the pathetic engine. Welcome, comrades, to our perfect socialist utopia!

  • http://thegameiam.livejournal.com David B

    We have old, bad plumbing. We've found (based on Dave Barry and others), that Toto UltraMax toilets will flush just about anything, while still complying with the lo-flow laws.

    Oh, and for those places where CFLs don't work, check out the LED bulbs from ThinkGeek.com - they've got some good ones there which are really bright.

  • Kevin Dick

    @Jeff S. The first thing to know is that a carbon tax is a type of tax known as a Pigouvian Tax. If you want to understand the economics of such taxes, that's the term you should be searching for. You should find plenty of positive and negative commentary.

    Note that Pigouvian Taxes don't have to offset other taxes. It's just that many people don't want to give the government more money to spend so they propose making the Pigouvian Tax regime revenue neutral.

  • davesmith

    As for the carbon tax idea, Greg Mankiw is perhaps the leading proponet of the idea in the world of economics. Greg Mankiw is the best policy economist there is right now, and he has significant libertarian leanings, so I trust him.

  • http://austinzoning.typepad.com/austincontrarian/ AC

    On my toilets, I replaced the plastic stopper at the bottom of the tank with a heavy-duty rubber one, and shortened the chain between the stopper and lever. Much better flow now.

  • Jon Nichols

    I'm also on board for a carbon tax that is offset with payroll and corporate tax reductions. It strikes me as the best of any solution currently being offered, and would likely result in the least amount of damage to the economy. Phase it in over 5 years, and even if you don't believe that global warming will cause significant problems, a carbon tax program like this would be pretty manageable. Remove all the other energy subsidies and I'll even have a party!

    Will it ever happen? No. Not because of politics, but because of people. People want to believe that problems are caused by evil corporations screwing the little guy. So, regulations have a nice ring to them (CAFE standards anyone?) - all the benefits, none of the cost! And 'targets' are gutless enough to keep people quiet.

    Every 'environmentalist' I have ever talked to about this has the same answer... "but people are already struggling, we can't ask them to pay more in gas and electric bills". No better evidence that this is just as much as social issue for them as an environmental issue.

  • Jim Collins

    I still prefer the 1970's system of reducing the amount of water a toilet uses. Just put a brick in the bottom of the tank. No flow problems and you save a brick's volume in water for each flush. By the way, since so many people have "gotten around" the flow restricter in shower heads, they are now putting the restricters in the faucets, where you can't drill them out.

  • bryan

    I just reviewed the first energy bill post. Funny how of the three items mentioned, the 15% renewable requirement and the "tax breaks reduction" were the two that got axed. What do they have in common, powerfull lobbies that were opposed to them. The 3rd item, ethanol on the other hand had a powerfull lobby supporting it. Proof that good policy means nothing to our wonderfull bureaucrats and $$ means everything. Of course the exception that proves the rules is that the MPG standards stayed, but thats just because no one in detroit can do anything right these days.
    "get out of the way"!

  • Bearster

    Warren, I don't know if you read your comments, but I hope you do! Jon Nichols is a perfect example of the point I've been trying to make:

    "I'm also on board for a carbon tax that is offset with payroll and corporate tax reductions. It strikes me as the best of any solution currently being offered..."

    Warren, as you know, but Jon does not, THERE IS NO PROBLEM! Therefore any "solution" is bogus, because there is nothing to solve!

    This is the danger of pointing out why this scheme or that won't reduce carbon--BECAUSE YOU HELP SPREAD THE MYTHOLOGY THAT CARBON IS THE NEW EVIL! Or I should say "boogeyman" because it's a mythology designed to frighten children!

    To Jon Nichols, you might want to read some of Warren's other work at climate-skeptic.com, or Steven Milloy's work at junkscience.com, or Michael Crighton's work, etc.

  • Bearster

    Just musing out loud, but I wonder if the mythology of carbohydrates being bad food is boosted by the mythology of carbon dioxide or even just carbon being bad for the weather?

    This is numerology not science, but nevertheless I wonder if some number of people have formed this kind of pseudo-connection in their brains...

  • JimS

    What I don't get is mandating these bulbs, but not mandating geothermal (aka groundsource) heatpumps for air conditioning. From what I've read we (well, not me I live in Alaska) use about 8X as much electricity on AC as on lighting. When I need light in this climate I also need heat. As our town is powered by a number of hydrodams, not connected to any larger grid, having bulbs that throw off heat as well as light isn't inefficient. Especially since the heaters in my house are electric too. So now I'll get to run the electric wall units more to make up for the heat not made by the bulbs, but also get to buy much more expensive light bulbs that don't work as well. Wow, central planning is great.

    Jon Nichols wrote "No better evidence that this is just as much as social issue for them as an environmental issue." This is exactly true. When ever I argue if this is a serious problem (which I don't buy) then we should have a tax that doubles the price of gasoline, people argue it would hurt the poor. Apparently it's imperative that we stop global warming, but not if the poor have to give up their pick-ups(preferred low income vehicle here). I guess if the top 1% don't drive that'll solve the problem.

  • http://www.steamstreet.com Jon Nichols

    Bearster, a couple of things. First, I actually do think there is a problem, and Warren consistently agrees. I think our positions are consistent... I believe that there is a certain amount of human caused global warming, but that the doomsday scenarios that are offered are over the top. I read climate-skeptic and largely agree with it.

    While you may believe that there is no problem, there are lots of people who are convinced otherwise, and are pushing forward on much worse legislative agendas. I can even accept that there might be a chance that the problem is larger than I think. So all I'm saying is that I'm willing to accept a plan that makes carbon emissions more expensive, so long as it isn't another government revenue program. It would also be the least problematic to reverse if, as you say, we all end up seeing that there is no problem at all.

  • Alan Gunn

    Things have gone way beyond one stupid bill. The government is out of control, and no matter what happens in the next round of elections, nothing better is going to happen. We have rampant environmentalism in forms that actually make the environment worse (ethanol), extreme nanny-state controls over trivia, and a Congress mad to spend money, no matter which party is in power. Meanwhile, the leading presidential candidates are a religious nut who wants to outlaw public smoking and a former first lady whose latest commercial makes her look like Santa Claus.

    Where do we go to get the national anthem re-written to take out that silly line about "the land of the free"?

  • Bearster

    Jon: I think you should speak for yourself, and not Warren. I don't think he holds the position you ascribe to him, and my several posts to his blog over the past few months make the very point that you illustrate. It's not good to critique the marxist's proposals on grounds that they are ineffective at stopping man-made global warming or CO2 production. It's sufficient to point out the ruinous effect they would have, if put into practice. The marxists will not be content just to ask kids to put their milk cartons in a different trash barrel than their soda cans!

  • Jon Nichols

    Luckily, I don't have to speak for Warren. Here's his post (http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2006/07/a_skeptics_prim.html):

    "The earth has warmed by 2/3 of a degree to as much as a degree (all temperatures in Celsius) over the last 100 years, of which man may be responsible for no more than half through CO2 emissions. The poles, which are important to all the global deluge scare scenarios, have warmed less than the average. Man's CO2 emissions will warm the earth another degree or so over the next 100 years. There is a possibility the warming will be greater than this, but scary-large warming numbers that are typical of most climate reports today depend on positive feedback loops in the climate that are theoretical and whose effect has not yet been observed. The effects of warming will be a mix of positive and negative outcomes, recognizing that the former never seem to get discussed in various media scare stories. If the effects of warming are a net negative on mankind, it is not clear that this negative outweighs the costs in terms of lost economic growth (and the poverty, disease, and misery that comes with lower growth) of avoiding the warming. In other words, I suspect a warmer but richer world may be better than a cooler but poorer world."

    But whatever he believes, I posted what I believe. You express, with great certainty, that man is not causing the earth to warm. I believe, with less certainty, that man is causing some of the earth's warming, and I believe that some amount of effort is reasonable to attempt to mitigate this.

  • John David Galt

    Incandescent bulbs are only "inefficient" if you don't have any use for the heat that 90 of those 100 watts go to produce. This time of year, I can really use it.

    And because CFs contain mercury, this law will generate a huge amount of hazardous waste which can't be put in landfills. I wonder if Congress generated an EIR and held the required public hearings before enacting this bill. If not, maybe one of those environmental lawyers can be talked into suing them and making them do it. How busy is Ralph Nader these days?