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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Follow the money
June 3, 2008 - 7:19pm

So, the Warner-Lieberman bill is finally getting to the Senate floor, and (after managing to ignore it for the entire presidential primary season), the press has rediscovered climate change in a political context.

Last week, I happened across a pretty good article by Daniel Weiss, titled
"Ten Industry Arguments Against Action on Global Warming ... and Why They Are Wrong."

And today, I heard most of those same arguments coming out of the mouth of Stephen Moore (of the Wall Street Journal and the Club for Growth), on the Diane Rehm Show. Moore added the putative argument that global warming action benefits the political left, and went so far as to say that if the lefties wanted to get anything passed, they needed to buy some right-wing votes by spreading the monies around (not that he was being mercantilistic or anything, you understand!).

One of Moore's more colorful statements was when he called any references to economic growth resulting from climate change response "fairy tales". But he insisted that there were going to be real costs to US businesses if Warner-Lieberman, or any similar bill, is ever enacted. Various estimates were in play, but the number that was tossed out at the beginning of the show was $6.7 trillion over 42 years.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that "trillions" is the right order of magnitude, my question is simple: where will the money go? Who will invent the new technologies which will be required, imposing licensing costs? Who will implement all the changes, imposing various construction and rehab costs? Won't the work have to get done right here? Won't it get done (in large part) by US companies employing (in large part) US citizens? Since climate change is a global problem, shouldn't there be significant export opportunities? If so, doesn't all that money get sucked out of the US economy and go directly into ... (wait for it!) ... the US economy? Doesn't any counter-argument implicitly assume that US companies aren't smart enough to succeed in a renewable energy environment, while foreign companies are?

Sure, there will be costs. But costs is where economic growth comes from. When Katrina wiped out New Orleans, a lot of people incurred costs, but all the reconstruction activity counted as economic growth. I'm not saying it's entirely logical; I'm just saying that that's how the accounting works.

So, let's assume that the amount of money which will change hands, purely as a result of US actions to mitigate climate change, is somewhere in the $5-10 trillion range. Doesn't that sound like a whole lot of people holding down a whole lot of good-paying jobs? Given that the renewable energy industry is still at the toddler stage, doesn't creating those jobs and educating/training those people sound like a major market opportunity? Shouldn't American entrepreneurs be able to do very well for themselves, under such circumstances?

Shouldn't colleges and universities?


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