Burning the Greenbacks to Save the Greenhouse

The Los Angeles Times reported
Friday that California would adopt “the most sweeping curbs on greenhouse gas
emissions in [the] U.S.” According to the story, the state air board
has ordered that a 15 percent cut in emissions be achieved over the next 12
years, which will supposedly bring our emissions down to 1990 levels.

What an original idea!
That
is, if you consider a nearly verbatim restatement of a ten-year-old
toothless international treaty new or innovative in any way
whatsoever. Of course, the “inconvenient truth” that this proposed
model has already failed at the global level can’t be expected to stop
the overzealous California legislators from engaging in the sort of
self-congratulatory back-patting that one could only expect from
politicians.

According to the Times, the regulators responsible for
this most recent swan dive into the clutches of crisis-entrepreneurship
have “characterized [their plan] as a model for President-elect Barack
Obama, who has
pledged an aggressive national and international effort to combat
global warming.” For their sake (as well as for the country’s), one
hopes the president-elect will do what he apparently always does to
people with an exaggerated sense of their own self-importance: pat them on the head and then move on.

For my part, I’d like to keep this bit of “we can change the world”
nonsense confined to one state. If possible, it would also be
nice to get that one state liberated — something Schwarzenegger could
do with his new found emergency powers. And not only can Schwarzenegger do this – he ought
to do so, considering that his overriding concern over the next few
years is to keep California’s budget solvent, something which will
undoubtedly not be helped by having to spend millions of
dollars for granola-crunching regulators to sniff cow derriere (“I think
there’s a little excess CO2 here, Johnny!”) and otherwise poke and pry
in industries that cannot afford to be subjected to inquisitorial
meddling, not the least of which is California’s farm community, which
is probably already reeling from the blow it was dealt by Proposition
2! First the eggs, then the cows…I wonder if we’ll get bread rationing next. After all, these regulators do want us to go back to 1990.

But of course, none of this would convince those who support
state-mandated meddling in the marketplace. After all, when the market
is left to its own devices, we all know it’s a voracious, evil thing
that swallows up entire rain forests in the pursuit of measly dollars.
Well, that’s
at least according to some people. So what about the environmental
consequences of this plan? Surely, if those are good, then at least
those who proposed the plan will have some cause to celebrate!

Actually, any way this plan goes, it will only end in tears. As of
now, one can see two possible routes. One possibility is that the plan
will go the same way as the Kyoto protocol, in which case it will
simply be a mask for more of the same industrial “attacks” on the
planet, and will actually set back the environmental movement that is
responsible for it. This would be the preferable route for California’s
economy, but would totally destroy the political capital of
California’s regulators where environmental activists are concerned. Or,
and this seems more likely since this plan can be enforced, unlike Kyoto, the plan will work too well and exacerbate California’s financial situation to such an extent that backlash occurs.

Before you dismiss this possibility, consider this: according to Cato Institute Senior Fellow Patrick Michaels, an expert in environmental science, “As economies suffer increasingly from global warming taxes and
regulation, nations can descend from first-world energy infrastructure
and supply to banana-republic like conditions, even without the current
economic contraction.” It would be absurdly Manichean to assume that all environmentalists believe in a return to stone-age conditions,
so long as the critters aren’t hurt. As such, one imagines that the
prospect of reducing California to a banana republic would be just as
unattractive to those members of her population who have been seduced
by environmental crusading spirit as to those without.

But for
those few oddballs who do wish to see industrialization brought to a screeching halt,
it would be the height of tactical folly to introduce a plan like this
now, considering that the opportunities for backlash are so admittedly
profound. Thus, given that the only options for this plan will both end
in disgrace for environmentalists and (possibly) for California’s
economy, it should be obvious that the regulators responsible ought to
be censured immediately before they try and codify more hot air.