I have to tell one of my favorite stories of chutzpah. In the 1940's and 1950's, railroads were making the transition from steam engines to diesel engines. One of the changes was that a diesel engine only needed a driver, it did not need a fireman as steam engines did to shovel coal and keep the boiler running well. The unions of course saw this coming. So what did they do? They preemptively made the demand that diesel engines should have to have TWO fireman. Railroads spent so much time fighting this insane proposal that it took them years to get the firemen per locomotive to the correct number (ie zero).
I am reminded of this story when I think of how the Obama administration has handled the issue of CO2 abatement. Reasonable people understand that CO2 abatement will be horrifically expensive - it just will not be cheap in terms of cost or lost economic output and lost personal liberties to take the country back to a CO2 per capita it last had in the 19th century. But rather than taking this on, the Obama administration preemtively attacked, saying that in fact Co2 abatement would lead to economic growth and job creation. This was the broken windows fallacy on steroids, but the usual progressive illiterates and consumers of party talking points have run with it.
We are finally getting folks to start to address the true costs of CO2 abatement, and they are enormous. People who push the precautionary principle try to say that even a small risk of climate catastrophe outweighs some minor abatement costs. But does a small change of manmade warming outweigh a near certainty of enormous economic costs?
I have said for years that to really get to an 80% reduction target, gas prices would have to rise over $20 a gallon (they are at $10 already in Europe and they are no where near the targets). Some researchers looked at the gas price implications of more modest CO2 targets:
To meet the Obama administration's targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, some researchers say, Americans may have to experience a sobering reality: gas at $7 a gallon.
To reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the transportation sector 14 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, the cost of driving must simply increase, according to a forthcoming report by researchers at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
And this is with a straight tax, probably the most efficient way to hit the targets. The study agreed that other intervenist approaches didn't seem to work as well as a straight tax:
In the modeling, it turned out that issuing tax credits could backfire, while taxes on fuel proved beneficial.