Friedman on Climate Change

Thomas Friedman has a unique look on the cap-and-tax (climate change) bill that recently passed the House and is on its way to the Senate for debate.

Friedman argues that for fiscal conservatives, this bill is actually a good thing.

“We need Republicans who believe in fiscal conservatism and conservation joining this legislation in the Senate. We want a bill that transforms the whole country not one that just threads a political needle. I hope they start listening to green Republicans like Dick Lugar, George Shultz and Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

How does rewarding those who pollute the most, punish those developing and implementing new fossil fuel technologies, and saddling the American public with thousands of extra dollars in costs exactly fiscally conservative?

Friedman thinks that by taxing carbon emissions, it will lead to increased innovation and development in other non-traditional energy sectors…which may create jobs and new technology.

It sounds good in theory, but when those renewable energies only account for 4% of U.S. now and grow by optimistic projections to 11% in 2030, energy consumption rises by 9% by 2030, and use of oil, coal, and natural gas even with an explosion in renewables STILL makes up over 75% of where our energy comes from in 2030 (according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration), all this legislation does is punish the public with higher taxes, job losses, and more costs.

How exactly is that fiscally conservative again?

Of note, Harris Interactive recently conducted a poll to gauge the knowledge of the average American on energy issues…as can be imagined, much of what is driving this debate to the left is a lack of information.

Also blogging: Crystal Clear Conservative

  • When has government punishments led to innovation? I submit that incentives and rewards have driven infinitely more life-changing innovations and developments than punishments and confiscatory taxes have.

    Did we need a candle tax to create the light bulb? Did we need to ban horses to invent the car? Did government institute an oar tax to force the creation of the steamship?

    Was there a tax on walking that forced the Wright brothers into the air?

    These folks have a fundamental misunderstanding of how America works.

  • tx2vadem

    So, would you support HR 2380 (also titled the Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act of 2009 )? This was an alternative proposed by Rep. Inglis (R-SC) and cosponsored by Rep. Jeff Flake.

  • I think that Republicans that are concerned about carbon emissions are correct to point to the lack of inclusion of encouragement of nuclear power in the energy mix. Renewable energy sources need a backup because the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine.

    I can understand why environmentalists might scream that there is no such thing as clean coal (I will not join their screaming) but I condemn them for then not supporting carbon free nuclear power. The cap and trade legislation should include measures to finally open the Yukka Mountain nuclear waste storage facility.

  • tx2vadem


    I don’t disagree that incentive structures drive the market towards innovation. However, the market finding a solution to certain problems requires that the proper incentives/disincentives be built into the system. Pollution in general is one of those things. If you didn’t have mandates and disincentives to emit certain pollutants, then you as business person would never invest in pollution controls. Without the incentive to do so, you wouldn’t do it unless just out of the kindness of your heart. But generally, the benefit needs to be quantifiable for business decisions to reach solutions for issue like pollution. And taxation is a fundamental way in which we alter incentive structures.

    Alternatively, we could also implement strict mandates like we have for freon or mercury.

  • EJ


    I agree with your sentiment. I’ve never understood the extent of hostility towards nuclear power. It’s completely carbon free and its technologically and economically viable (at least compared to renewables), and the republicans can get on board with it too, because beyond not being as economically damaging, it reduced foreign energy needs. It would seem to me that nuclear power is the concensus/ compromise option that all sides should get onto. And its something that can be delivered pretty quickly. If we had a nuclear initiative now, within a decade we could have a huge impact. This is particuarly important, because if we indeed do move towards electric cars, we are going to need a lot more electricity generation and renewables even by the most expansive estimate are still only going to be a fraction of total output.

  • tx2vadem

    Little David,

    Fundamentally, this is why government and we the people of the US are unable to solve this problem. Nuclear is a great idea. The problem is that the permiting process and capital requirements are so tedious that we could not build new plants fast enough to replace baseload from coal. Public opposition to building them would drag the process out regardless. Also, I doubt we will ever solve the problem of waste disposal. Yucca Mountain, while I also agree with you here, is DOA thanks to the Senate Majority Leader. I suspect Sen Ensign isn’t a big fan either. And then no state is willing to take the bull by the horns and say locate the dump in my state.

  • Let me know when you’ve figured out how to implement those strict mandates on China.

  • tx2vadem


    Take a look at HR 2380. It imposes the carbon tax on imports too. So, even if China doesn’t have an equivalent tax, their exports to the US would be priced with the tax included. Considering that they have an export driven economy and we are their largest consumers, seems like they would want to make changes so that their products avoided the tax and were competitive with less carbon-intense products made in other parts of the world.

    As far as mandates go, we certainly impose our product safety mandates on them by banning their products or pulling them off the shelves. Though the bad publicity probably does more damage.

  • Brian,

    Simple. Throw a carbon tax on all imports that come from China if they do not attempt to comply with green house emission reduction standards. This could cause a WTO (World Trade Organization) complaint, however since the WTO is dominated by countries concerned about global warming I think the tax would be ruled as being justified.

  • And I’ll bet it gets waived in a trade agreement.

  • Brian,

    Which previous trade agreement supported by Republicans are you going to point to?

    Will you support a measure that requires compliance in the future?

  • David, do you insist on always being so partisan?

    I wrote what I wrote. Take a deep breath, read it again, and ask me a question that requires me to do more than repeat what I wrote.

  • Brian,

    Me partisan? Chuckle, such an accusation coming from someone who is so unabashedly partisan?

    How about this question: Did NAFTA pass without Republican support?

    Another question, will you be willing to support climate change measures that punish other nations like China that refuse to comply?

  • David, I watched a debate about NAFTA, and who was arguing FOR it? Al Gore.

    Climate change (what happened to global warming?) – more Al Gore.

    You’d have me believe that Al Gore is a Republican.

    But I’m glad you understand that climate change measures punish nations.

    If you think we’re going to punish China economically, you’re crossing the line into silliness.

  • So your argument about current policies is simply Al Gore?

    Arguments against Al Gore are so old school. Please come up with something new.

  • What current policies?

  • Yea, we have such a tight grip on China’s economy that we were able to force them to continually buy our worthless paper in order that we continue purchasing their products. Unfortunately, Ponzi schemes and “Buck Passing” can only go but so far. Now we’e in such debt that China laughs in the faces of our government officials that try to portray our situation as healthy and “safe”.

    Tex, tell me how “we” can punish China. Sooner or later, purchasing our worthless paper will get old and they will fight back when we attempt to “tax” them. China and India are not as evolved markets and they will be trapped in the past if they abide by Kyoto. They’ll likely resist too much gamesmanship via taxation. Do they need us? Yes. We need them more thanks to our politicians selling our fiscal health from under us. Just how long do you think the public will put up with empty shelves in Wal-Mart? You think our economy is in trouble now?

    There is a huge difference between allowing penalties for dumping on companies and adding a tax on carbon emission. Carbon emissions are natural occurances. It happens now in industry. Industries are continually trying to improve without these proposed damages to the market. I’m sure you are familiar with ISO and the associated environmental ISO programs. Industry knows that environmental impact is a factor to their business and will likely become more so.

    Some amount of carbon exchange has been natural and mostly accepted for so long, that radical changes will throw the baby out with the bathwater. Carbon is a part of us and a part of our lives. We exhale it, animals exhale it, volcanoes emit it. You speak of taxing/limiting something that trees MUST have to breath? Here I thought trees were inherently good. What is the measuring device to determine at what point trees are starving for carbon dioxide? This legislation proposes purposeful manipulation of nature. Not only is such a goal incredibly lofty, it is absolutely dangerous. What if CO2 protects us? What if the trees really do need it? What if our emissions are meaningless compared to what is emitted everyday in nature?

    This is not conservation. This is not fiscal conservatism. Cap and Tax is economic ruin. It is throwing out the baby with the bathwater and a race to hard core socialism.

    I loved this quote of yours Tex:
    “Alternatively, we could also implement strict mandates like we have for freon or mercury.”

    You mean like the mercury in the light bulbs we are going to be mandated into using? The ones that will add environmental mercury into human populations and possibly into run off and interacting with marine life? You think I should have any confidence at all in a government’s abilty to pull off something like Cap and Trade when they do THIS to us and our children? Mercury poisioning will be a future issue. It will be the new lead in the paint chips. From global cooling to global warming, the religious environmentalists continually feed the kool-aid and prove they absolutely do not know what the heck is going on. Sure, Al Gore might make a buck off of this monstosity. Then again, I’m sure the far left thinks that this is only fair. It is after all THEIR TURN. Republicans profitted off of what they considered and evil war, and now they get their “turn” to feed their special interests.

    Lastly, Brian, don’t allow them to frame the question for you. The burden of proof does not lay on our feet. It certainly isn’t necessary for us to “find” for them, a program or bill that reduces carbon or whatever they’re looking for, that we will support. We certainly don’t need to compromise into a direction that will do us harm.

    Just when we joke about government’s willingness to tax the air we breath, we should stop laughing as we “wait to exhale”.

  • BK,

    If you need to ask “what current policies” it is because you are uninformed. I often praise you about being informed about the topics discussed, but if you ask such a question it leads to believe something else.

  • tx2vadem

    The intent is not to punish China. What I have already pointed out and that Little David has as well is that we can apply the taxation to imported goods to create a level playing field. Our system of taxation certainly will have some influence on business decisions by exporters to our market. This was in response to Brian’s question on whether we could influence China.

    Your argument on carbon emissions does not make sense to me. The proposal before us is to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from sources that are not naturally occurring. The proposal does not regulate aerobic respiration in any species. There is not even a cap on emissions from factory farms. The answers to your questions about whether our acceleration of the naturally occurring carbon cycle through combustion is detrimental to the planet, I believe, has been answered in the affirmative by a scientific consensus. So, when you say the burden of proof is not on you, I would disagree. There is as much of a burden on you (and skeptics generally) to disprove scientific theory.

    ISO is a standards setting body. They don’t have control over whether those standards are adopted by every company unless they are codified in treaties or legislation. I would ask was industry as a group working on cleaning up the Cuyahoga River prior to the Clean Water Act? Would industry and individuals be doing something to clean up the Chesapeake absent some governmental coordination?

  • LittleDavid, this entire thread is about a bill that only passed the House. It is a proposal. It is NOT a policy. So, if there is a policy you’d like me to address, you’d have to tell me what that policy is.

    Until then, we’ll be discussing this proposal.

  • Tex, you miss my point on ISO. The International Standards Oraganization does have a role with standards, but they really don’t set them. Having standards in the first place is an accomplishment (especially in developing companies and nations). Its more like a certification of standards that a company sets. Even low standards can be certified from my understanding. The setting of standards and the Continual Improvemnet inherent to ISO is more of my point. Once a company sets their standards, documents procedures/policies, sets methodologies for improvement, make certain documents accessable to the public, abide by their own rules, and comply with outside ISO audits, they can be certified. Once you stop saying what you do, doing what you say, documenting everything, or refusing audits, you stand to lose your certification and business. Your product and ability to deliver what you claim might be questioned by other companies/entities doing business with you.

    Quality ISO programs are probably more prevalent than Environmental, but that is growing. My employer has both certifications. Some compaines even construct new buildings with “Green Roofs”. Basically, speciallized vegetation growing on specialized roofing. This provides insulation and filters potential run off etc. This is a feather in the cap and many companies like to publicize their embracing of “Green Tech”.

    I think we need to be a little more realistic with countries like China, India, and Mexico. Their markets and companies are not as developed as ours. They will become cleaner over time just as we have. ALL without Cap and Tax! Sure, we should try to influence our trading partners, but throwing down legislation or regulations YOU expect THEM to follow over plays the hand the US holds. It won’t work, taken too far. Just as this legislation will be disasterous in an already troubled US economy.

    “There is not even a cap on emissions from factory farms.” – Tex

    So, unlike our legislators, you actually read the bill? Another reason to question this legislation. You know as well as I, that some groups really do want that kind of regulation of Factory Farms. If that isn’t in the bill its just further down the slippery slope. No we’re not taxed as immediate sources of carbon(our breathing), but the fact they are taxing what we breath out is disturbing. The very idea of taxing elements of the periodic table is absurd. Carbon is part of us. Carbon exchange is natural.

    The Left feels the Right profitted from an evil war as did their pet interests. Are you so sure this isn’t about the Left “having their turn”? The problem is, their “turn” will hurt the economy, potentially harm our natural development as a nation and market, and possibly actually be bad for the environment.

    There are PLENTY of scientist that insist that we are not in “Global Warming”. What has been proven is that comparatively, carbon emmissions by man are very tiny compared to natural events. Further, what we do is natural. We and our homes and buildnings, and industry is a part of nature. I object to the demonization of mankind.

    Can an ecosystem become unbalanced(with or without man), absolutely. Can individual companies and individuals create too much acid rain or spoil a body of water? Yes. In that case, in self interest, others will approach government to engage in its proper role. Regulate to prevent damage and enforce compensation for damages rendered to individuals.
    Sure I’m a Libertarian that believes in smaller government, but I certainly don’t want to be without a government.

    This is not a question about government. This is about particular legislation. Just because there is a proper role for government, does not mean this Cap and Tax is the proper legislation.

    As far as burden of proof goes, I was mainly speaking of you and LD attempting to frame the question and thus control debate. However, to your point, the burden of proof is on the backers of the global warming hoax. Before wrecking our economy and taking us further down the slippery slope of socialism, they must demostrate that our comparitively small carbon emmissions make a difference in temperature. Insulation after all works both ways. Does it protect from sun’s excess heat or trap ours in? Which is more important? Ozone is bad down here but, good to the point we don’t want a hole in the ozone layer? It sure is easier to control ozone over LA than the whole planet, but what if you could and you did the wrong thing for a noble purpose? You can’t even reasonably demonstrate that the legislation was sound. How does that solve a problem of global warming that many don’t even believe to be true? My high school Earth Science teacher told me of what she felt was an impending global cooling. That was environmentally correct back then. Now its warming. I haven’t lived but so long. Nw we’re warming. My how fast the cycles change. The Global Climate fear mongers have proven nothing but, that they don’t know what the heck is going on. That won’t stop them from trying to fix it though.

    “Would industry and individuals be doing something to clean up the Chesapeake absent some governmental coordination?” -Tex

    Yes. Without doubt. I am always amazed at how the good will of individuals is discounted. All the conservationist. People joining “Save the Bay” becuase they wanted to make a difference and not waiting on government. Individuals in a government organization would likely find themselves in conservation group and lobby with or without Cap and Trade. People pick up trash or put economic pressure on companies on their own. not because of Cap and trade. Yes, even without government coordination, somebody would still do something. Just like during 9-11, hurricane Katrina, the flooding of the Mississppi, and Tsunami in SE Asia.
    There would still be an ISO!

    Yes, even without government somebody would do something. But, this isn’t an arguement about government having a role. The arguement is on the Cap and Trade legislation.

    Either from the Right(Moral Correctness) or the left (Political Correctness or Environmental Correctness) tactics meant to control the individuals thoughts and actions are wrong. This CAP and Tax is Environmentally Correct and not necessarily thereby good for the environment. At least our elected reps should read the damn bill.

    “Feel Good” legislation often makes us feel bad later.

  • Just to clarify, I was speaking of ISO 9001 and 14001. Basically they are ISO certified Quality Management Systems and Environmental Mangement Systems where you have internal systems of standards.

    There is potential to confuse that with other parts of ISO which may center more on set standards that are internationally accepted. My knowledge is limited to QMS and EMS.

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  • re mercury and light bulbs…

    Don’t let anyone tell you that coal power mercury is worse than fluorescent “energy saving ” lights mercury…
    EPA have announced 90% reduction plan by 2018
    = aided by new injection and photochemical techniques apart from gasification and use of wet “scrubbers”.

    Also, It is (was) only true that coal power was a worse problem where (untreated) coal dominates electricity generation.
    – referenced reasons why coal power mercury is a bit of a rat in the pizza folk tale.
    Worldwide mercury emission reduction – including US/Canadian staged reduction programmes with new limits – will as said see dramatic falls in mercury emissions,

    In a nutshell:
    1. We know where the ever decreasing coal power stations chimneys are and we can treat their emissions with ever increasing efficiency at lower costs.
    2. Compare that with billions of scattered broken lights on dump sites, when we do not know where the broken lights are, and so we can’t do anything about them.

    Other reasons, with references, against banning light bulbs onwards

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