Green by Force

The sort of green of which Ayn Rand approved was the honest earning of money. (Actually, she favored gold, but she would accept greenbacks that actually served as certificates of gold holdings.) But Rand would have had little patience with today’s “green” environmentalist movement.

Interestingly, Alternative Energy Retailer published an article based on the comments of Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute. The basic point of the article is that government ought not subsidize or mandate “alternative” energy. I also found Epstein’s following quote interesting:

The purpose of government is the protection of the individual rights of all to their lives, liberty and property. For government action to be justified in response to claims of global warming — the cause of today’s alternative energy infatuation — it must be scientifically demonstrable, in a court of law, that individuals’ burning of carbon fuels will do demonstrable harm to specific individuals through some sort of catastrophic change in weather. The state of evidence regarding global warming today is not even close to that. Even the highly politicized, highly speculative United Nations projections of a gradual, 8-degree-average warming over the next 100 years would be easily dealt with by industrialized people, who have sturdy houses, air conditioners, and sunscreen to cope with heat or bad weather, and ample time to migrate if necessary.

I fear that Epstein is considering a hypothetical without looking at the facts of “greenhouse” gas emissions. If it were the case that some limited number of companies or individuals were emitting most of the emissions, and if those emissions demonstrably harmed others, then the matter would be actionable. However, every single person in the industrialized and semi-industrialized world is contributing to the emissions of “greenhouse” gasses. Any lawsuit would necessarily target some tiny and arbitrarily selected minority of those who emit such gasses. And anyone who might bring such a suit would be a party to the alleged harms. Every person and company that emits “greenhouse” gasses (and every person and company that could possibly file suit) contributes only a miniscule portion of total emissions. Thus, the matter is not properly actionable. That criticism aside, Epstein eloquently states his main point that government force is wrong.

In a December 21 release from the Institute, Keith Lockitch criticizes the new fuel “economy” mandates:

Compelling automakers to achieve higher mileage forces them to compromise automobile safety. To achieve fuel economy, they are forced to make vehicles lighter and smaller. But lighter, smaller vehicles are much more dangerous in an accident. …

The original Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, imposed in 1975, have already led to a substantial increase in traffic fatalities — an additional two thousand traffic deaths per year, according to a 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences. With the new standard, manufacturers will be forced to downsize even further all cars, as well as SUVs and light trucks. … Nevertheless, environmentalists have continued to fight for higher fuel economy requirements, consistently and cavalierly dismissing the risks and the tragic consequences.

Despite the drumbeat of constant assertions to the contrary, it is far from a settled scientific fact that we face catastrophic dangers from climate change. Yet, under the guise of protecting us from the alleged dangers of global warming, environmentalists force upon us the very real, provable dangers of increased auto injuries and deaths. Clearly, what they value is something other than human well-being.

I’m glad to see that the Institute is offering astute commentary about these issues.