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Obama’s New Carbon Rules Pose Political And Economic Risks For Questionable Benefits

Coal Fired Power Plant Sunset

As promised in a report that The New York Times posted on Sunday evening, today the Environmental Protection Agency issued new regulations that aim to cut sharply cut carbon production at the nation’s power plants, a move that is destined to have a severe impact on the nation’s network of coal-fired power plants as well as the coal industry itself:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Monday announced one of the strongest actions ever taken by the United States government to fight climate change, a proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulation to cut carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The regulation takes aim at the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, the nation’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. If it withstands an expected onslaught of legal and legislative attacks, experts say that it could close hundreds of the plants and also lead, over the course of decades, to systemic changes in the American electricity industry, including transformations in how power is generated and used.

Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A. administrator, unveiled the proposal in a speech Monday morning.

“Today, climate change — fueled by carbon pollution — supercharges risks not just to our health, but to our communities, our economy, and our way of life,” Ms. McCarthy said.

The regulation is likely to stand as President Obama’s last chance to substantially shape domestic policy and as a defining element of his legacy. The president, who failed to push a sweeping climate change bill through Congress in his first term, is now acting on his own by using his executive authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to issue the regulation.

Under the rule, states will be given a wide menu of policy options to achieve the pollution cuts. Rather than immediately shutting down coal plants, states would be allowed to reduce emissions by making changes across their electricity systems — by installing new wind and solar generation or energy-efficiency technology, and by starting or joining state and regional “cap and trade” programs, in which states agree to cap carbon pollution and buy and sell permits to pollute.

In her remarks, Ms. McCarthy repeatedly emphasized the plan’s flexibility.

“That’s what makes it ambitious, but achievable. That’s how we can keep our energy affordable and reliable. The glue that holds this plan together — and the key to making it work — is that each state’s goal is tailored to its own circumstances, and states have the flexibility to reach their goal in whatever way works best for them,” she said.

Ms. McCarthy also said that the proposal will help the economy, not hurt it.

“For over four decades, E.P.A. has cut air pollution by 70 percent and the economy has more than tripled. All while providing the power we need to keep America strong. Climate action doesn’t dull America’s competitive edge — it sharpens it. It spurs ingenuity and innovation,” she said.

The full scope of the EPA’s goals can be seen in this chart, which shows projected carbon emissions through 2050 if the plan is carried out in full:

EPA Carbon Chart

Not surprisingly, the President’s political allies are positively giddy about this announcement, not the least because they have been calling on the Administration to take action like this for five years now and have, for the most part, been disappointed. ThinkProgress calls the action “historic.” Matthew Yglesias called today the most important day of President Obama’s second term. Jason Mark calls the new proposals “Obamacare for the air,” a possibly unfortunate choice of words given the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act and the problematic nature of its rollout. Jonathan Cohn, meanwhile,wonders whether the President is going far enough and whether it will be enough to have a real impact on the rising CO2 levels believed to be playing a large role in global climate change.

Not all of the reviews are positive, though. Ronald Bailey, for one, casts some doubt on the EPA’s numbers:

The EPA has crunched the numbers and assures the American public that benefits of implementing this program will hugely outweigh its costs. In its regulatory impact analysis, the EPA calculates the global climate benefits using the social cost of carbon derived from a controversial Interagency Working Group report. That analysis found that social cost of carbon in 2020 ranged over $13, $46, $68, and $137 per metric ton of CO2 emissions (2011 dollars) depending on the discount rate picked by the analysts. The discount rates used were 5, 3, and 2.5 percent. The Working Group derived a high-end figure of $137 per ton in 2020 by looking at the worst 5 percent of the distribution, i.e., the less likely but possibly catastrophic damages using a 3 percent discount rate.

With regard to deriving a social cost of carbon, the EPA’s regulatory impact analysis does caution that …

…any assessment will suffer from uncertainty, speculation, and lack of information about (1) future emissions of greenhouse gases, (2) the effects of past and future emissions on the climate system, (3) the impact of changes in climate on the physical and biological environment, and (4) the translation of these environmental impacts into economic damages.

Other than that, everything is evidently OK.

Depending on the discount rate selected, the global climate benefits (not the climate benefits to the U.S.) from implementing this 30 percent reduction in power plant carbon dioxide emissions in 2020 will amount to $4.9 billion, $18 billion, $26 billion, or $52 billion. By 2030, the global benefits would rise to $9.5 billion, $31 billion, $44 billion, or $94 billion. These are just the benefits from lowering future increases in global average temperatures. The vast majority of the benefits have nothing directly to do with cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent.

The real bang for the buck comes in the form of health co-benefits arising from cuts in air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, ozone, mercury, and particulates. In fact, more than 70 percent of the health co-benefits apparently result from reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions.

The EPA calculates that the maximum cost for implementing the new regulations amounts to $7.5 billion in 2020, while the maximum net climate and health benefits range from $27 to $50 billion at a 3 percent discount rate or $26 to $46 billion at a 7 percent dicount rate. On it’s face, that sounds like a pretty good deal. But as I reported last August in my article, “The Social Cost of Carbon: Garbage In, Garbage Out,” anyone can pretty much conjure whatever number one wants when it comes to cranking out the social cost of carbon through integrated assessment models that combine econometric and climate prognostications.

In other words, there’s every reason to doubt the benefits that the EPA claims will come from these new regulations. This is laid even more bare in the chart above, which shows that, even as carbon emissions in the U.S. over the next 35 years under these regulations while those from Europe remain relatively stable, the carbon emissions from India and, most especially, China, are expected to skyrocket. Given that this is the case, it’s entirely unclear that much of anything that the United States does is going to have a significant impact on global carbon levels unless the Chinese, the Indians, and a whole host of other developing countries somehow cut their own carbon emissions, something which at the present time could only happen if they worked to significantly cut their rates of economic and technological growth. That last part, of course, has been the major sticking point of virtually every proposed global agreement on this issue for the past two decades or more. These nations have shown very little interest in taking any measures to clean up their own emissions, a fact that can be seen quite starkly in the frequent pictures of blinding smog in Beijing and Shanghai that have become common in recent years. Given that, it isn’t at all clear that the global benefits the EPA claims for these rule changes would actually materialize. At the very least, that is something that ought to be factored into judging their wisdom.

Also worthy of consideration here, of course, is the economic impact that these proposed changes are likely to have. By some estimates, these regulations could lead to the closure of as many as 600 coal-fired power plants across the country, which will have an obvious impact on jobs and on the economies of the areas where these closings take place. The coal mining industry itself, which of course predominantly exists in some of the poorest parts of the country where there aren’t many more economic opportunities to speak of, would also be heavily impacted. Electric rates for residences and businesses will rise as power companies and states are forced to engage in the heavy capital expenditures involved in converting coal-fired plants into natural gas plants, or construct entirely new plants as the case may be. All of these and more will have a real impact on the economies of the nation as a whole, and most especially on states that rely on coal-fired planets for their energy needs. While some may argue that these costs are somehow irrelevant, or should be discounted in light of the supposed benefits from the new regulations, they are real and they ought to be taken into account more fully before celebrating these new rules in the way that President Obama’s allies are doing today.

In addition to the economic impact that these rules are likely to have, there’s also politics at play here. Michael Grunwald at Time refers to the rules as the resumption of the so-called “War On Coal,” which has been a talking point in political races since the President took office five years ago. Coal state Democrats are already calling the new rules “disastrous” for their state and distancing themselves from the Administration’s actions. And,  as the Times’ Trip Gabriel notes, the proposed rules pose real political challenges for Democrats who are already on the edge in those parts of the country where coal and other forms of energy are a large part of the economy:

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Obama administration’s proposal for sharp cuts to emissions from power plants complicates the midterm elections this fall for Democrats, especially since some of the battleground states for control of the Senate are tied to the coal economy.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who is challenging Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, here in the most high-profile Senate race this year, has already been portraying herself as a friend of coal and a sharp critic of Mr. Obama.

On Monday, Ms. Grimes pledged to “fiercely oppose the president’s attack on Kentucky’s coal industry” if elected.

Natalie E. Tennant, a Democrat running for an open seat in West Virginia, struck a similar tone.

“I will stand up to President Obama, Gina McCarthy, and anyone else who tries to undermine our coal jobs,” she said Monday, referring to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is proposing the missions regulation.

The regulation takes aim at the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, the nation’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. Experts say it could close hundreds of the plants.

Republicans quickly seized on the fact that coal provides the majority of electricity in half a dozen states with hard-fought Senate races, including Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana and West Virginia.

“The stakes are clear,” Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said last week, adding that a vote for the Democratic senatorial candidate in Kentucky, Virginia or West Virginia “is a vote in support of President Obama’s war on coal.”

But the issue is likely to play differently state by state, and in some cases the president’s aggressive action against greenhouse gas emissions may benefit Democrats who tap into voter sentiment for addressing climate change.

The “war on coal” cry was a losing issue for Republicans in the race last year for governor of Virginia, which has significant coal mining, and which elected a Democrat.

“People on the Republican side overestimate the feelings for this and on our side, Democrats are scared for no reason,” said Andrew Baumann, a Democratic pollster. “Some Democrats assume anything about global warming is a political loser. And that’s just not the case.”

He identified races in Colorado and Iowa, with growing renewable energy sectors, where confronting global warming can help the Democratic candidate in hard-fought Senate contests “if they play it correctly.”

In battlegrounds such as Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia, where the president is deeply unpopular, the challenge is greater.

That last statement is an understatement, and is likely why we’ll see Democratic candidates in those states distancing themselves from the Administration on these new rules, and Republicans pushing the “War On Coal” meme in these states. The political impact is likely to be different in other states, of course, but it’s worth noting that, at least as far as 2014 is concerned, the states where this is likely to cause harm to Democrats also happen to be states where the battle for control of the Senate will be decided.

As I’ve stated before, there really isn’t any serious doubt about the science of global climate change. Carbon levels in the atmosphere have increased significantly since the beginning of the the industrial era, and are presently at points that Earth hasn’t seen in quite some time. The effect of this is measurable, straightforward, and predictable, and it’s quite clear that human activity is playing a role in the climatic changes that science is measuring. Accepting those facts, however, doesn’t mean that one is required to accept every environmental proposal that is advanced. The benefits of those proposals must be evaluated, and they ought to be weighed against the costs that would be incurred by implementing them. It requires, in other words, asking tough questions:

It doesn’t require anyone to get into the weeds on climate science. It requires asking powerful questions: how much are we willing to sacrifice for the environment? How many jobs, how much of our income, of our technological base? How much of our liberty – just to choose what lightbulbs we usewhat washing machines we can have, how much and what we can drive, how long we can leave the lights on – do we want to surrender to an even more bloated government that is driven by special interest politics and not our best interests at heart? How far are we willing to go to impose government force on others who do not share these concerns and wish to take another path?

These are not questions that can be answered by pointing to a model of temperatures over the past century. These are questions that can only be answered by philosophy, ethics, and economics. These are questions that can be answered by going back to the founding principles of our nation and the Hayekian principles that form the backbone of market economies.

Based on these standards, the EPA’s new proposals seem to fall short in a number of ways. They, and we, could do a lot better.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. edmondo says:

    Jason Mark calls the new proposals “Obamacare for the air,”

    Sad, but probably true. Mitch McConnell must be giddy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  2. wr says:

    Shorter Doug: “The planet is warming, it’s our doing and disaster is coming, but we shouldn’t do anything about it because Freedom! Oh, and light bulbs.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 3

  3. anjin-san says:

    Obamacare for the air

    Obamacare is working pretty well so far. This would be a feature, not a bug – assuming you have not outsourced you thinking to Fox News.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 2

  4. @wr:

    Of course I didn’t say that at all.

    Your reaction to the idea that we ought to apply simple cost-benefit analysis to rules like this is as utterly without merit as the conservatives who reject climate science altogether

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 17

  5. edmondo says:

    @anjin-san:

    Obamacare is working pretty well so far.

    Yep, it’s about as popular as herpes. And that’s before anyone has seen how much it’s really going to cost them out-of-pocket

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/170756/few-americans-say-healthcare-law-helped.aspx

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 23

  6. anjin-san says:

    @ edumundo

    Yep, it’s about as popular as herpes.

    Really? Funny how Republicans have become so quite about Obamacare as an election approaches. If it was a hugely unpopular train wreck, as they predicted, you would think they would be shouting about it from the rooftops.

    Anyway, you keep your finger to the wind and stay tuned to Fox & Friends. And when the day comes when you are able to get insurance despite a preexisting condition, remember who you have to thank.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  7. al-Ameda says:

    In my opinion the only way a Carbon Tax gets passed is if, from a taxation standpoint, this is a net-zero proposition. That is, establish the Carbon Tax estimate the revenue therefrom, and find another business tax that you could reduce by a similar amount.

    Does anyone think that reducing the Corporate Income Tax to offset the establishment of a Carbon Tax is a viable political option? Very little chance that this passes unless such a negotiation is successful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  8. mantis says:

    If we have to wait until India and China act first, nothing will ever happen. The US must lead the effort to slow and mitigate the effects of climate change. Too bad our country is full of morons and led by people owned by energy interests, so we’re all well and truly f*cked.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    I would like Jenos Idanian’s analysis on the Tragedy of the Commons issue implicated here….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  10. C. Clavin says:

    The best thing about this, besides Doug’s ODS, is going to be watching Republican heads explode…and remembering how wrong all the predictions about Obamacare were.
    Conserving the environment is a Conservative…but not a Republican…value.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  11. edmondo says:

    @anjin-san:

    If you have an insurance plan that you can’t afford to use, do you still have an insurance plan? (Or in your world, do middle class Americans sending gifts to for-profit insurance companies make sense?)

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-05-08/obamacare-plans-unexpected-sticker-shock

    http://www.hrbenefitsalert.com/its-official-controversial-obamacare-deductible-cap-is-lifted/

    https://pressroom.usc.edu/obamacare-42-percent-of-americans-cant-explain-a-deductible/

    November is going to be soooooooo awesome.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 12

  12. CB says:

    @edmondo:

    So you mean to say it’s an incremental change in policy, intended to alter the way we think about certain industries and services, with an eye towards comprehensive change in the future? Sounds like communist hell to me, too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  13. Rafer Janders says:

    It requires asking powerful questions: how much are we willing to sacrifice for the environment?

    False question, because we’re not sacrificing for “the environment” — we’re sacrificing for ourselves.

    The Earth, as a planet, is actually fairly neutral as to whether it’s a molten ball of magma, a frozen wasteland, a vast pitiless sea, or an arid desert with 200 degree daily temperatures.

    But we, as humans, are not. Our machines and infrastructure are not. If we are to maintain the industrial civilization we’ve all grown to know and love, we’ve got to do our best to keep the environment — including sea levels and average rainfall and storm intensity and air pollution and temperatures, etc. — within roughly the bands that we’re used to, the ones that make our cities livable and our crops grow when and where they’re supposed to.

    I don’t want to regulate carbon for “the environment” – I want to regulate it so that in another forty years I can still live in the same place and have the same plants in my garden and can still have hot running water, and I want that to be there for my theoretical great-grandkids a hundred years from now. You can blather on about “liberty” and “bloated government” all you want, but you won’t be able to do it from your beachfront home if it’s underwater.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 44 Thumb down 2

  14. al-Ameda says:

    @edmondo:

    If you have an insurance plan that you can’t afford to use, do you still have an insurance plan? (Or in your world, do middle class Americans sending gifts to for-profit insurance companies make sense?)

    Of course, you have read Paul Ryan’s plan to make Medicare unaffordable by turning it into a voucher gift to insurance companies, right?

    Also, I have to ask, do you actually know how health insurance deductibles and HSAs work?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  15. anjin-san says:

    @ Rafer Janders

    I would like Jenos Idanian’s analysis on the Tragedy of the Commons issue implicated here….

    JTOC™ – the troll formerly known as Jenos will be checking in soon.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  16. anjin-san says:

    The Earth, as a planet, is actually fairly neutral as to whether it’s a molten ball of magma, a frozen wasteland, a vast pitiless sea, or an arid desert with 200 degree daily temperatures.

    This is a subject that nearly every astronaut in history has had something to say about after viewing the earth from their unique perspective. Even the early Soviet cosmonauts. One of them, I believe it was Titov, was quite eloquent on the subject.

    Apparently when you view the earth from space, the fragility of our ecosystem becomes very, very apparent. It’s too bad everyone can’t have this experience.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  17. Ben Wolf says:

    Doug,

    Given that this is the case, it’s entirely unclear that much of anything that the United States does is going to have a significant impact on global carbon levels unless the Chinese, the Indians, and a whole host of other developing countries somehow cut their own carbon emissions, something which at the present time could only happen if they worked to significantly cut their rates of economic and technological growth.

    There is no thing called “the economy”. We total up all the transactions that occur and that’s what we call it. Growth occurs when the total of transactions increases, so it’s somewhat simplistic to assume growth must decline with less coal use; the growth would merely need to take a different form than rapid industrialization and ecological destruction. Nor is there reason to think technical progress is dependent on the rate at which we burn lignite.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    Given that this is the case, it’s entirely unclear that much of anything that the United States does is going to have a significant impact on global carbon levels unless the Chinese, the Indians, and a whole host of other developing countries somehow cut their own carbon emissions, something which at the present time could only happen if they worked to significantly cut their rates of economic and technological growth.

    The US has three percent of the world’s population and uses 20% of its energy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  19. Just Me says:

    And in a faltering economy who will these changes hurt the most? Those who are poor who are already struggling to beat their homes and keep the electricity on.

    Cleaning up the environment is a good goal-but the people who often support his stuff the most are rarely the people most harmed by the changes-those who will struggle with paying the increases costs associated with the rules.

    It also will out a lot of people in Appalachia out of work but those poor folk are the forgotten poor because they don’t live in large urban areas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  20. C. Clavin says:

    @Just Me:
    There’s those dire predictions…just like Obamacare and Same-Sex Marriage. And then there was the promise of cheap gas after the occupation of Iraq.
    You guys have a shitty record. Why would anyone listen to your nonsense?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  21. Hal_10000 says:

    I think people misunderstand why potentially hurting the economy is a bad thing in the long run .. for the environment. Innovation lives on the margins. If the economy goes in the toilet, innovation stops. The Feds can fund basic research but even that dries up when the budget gets tight (as we’ve seen for the last five years) and bringing a new tech to market is something only private industry can do. Govt research might figure out nuclear fusion but only industry is going to put a Mr. Fusion in every home.

    Innovation is the only thing that will really deal with global warming. We are a long ways away from where we would need to be to have a carbon-free economy. I’m still deciding on what I think about these regulations, since I am not a fan of coal with its pollution and the terrible human cost of getting it out of the ground. But I don’t think it’s illegitimate to ask: is the reduction in greenhouse gases we are getting worth the economic price we will pay? I would say the answer, right now, “Outlook Hazy, Try Again.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  22. bill says:

    @mantis: well it is nice to lead, but in the end what if india,china and the rest just say “screw you, you had your way for 100 years and now we can’t join the prosperity party”?
    and europe just blew off some of their own carbon goals, too much too soon.
    we need energy and we’ll get it somewhere- maybe the tree-huggers will stop their “anti-nuclear” banter or realize that wind turbines are killing off birds en mass? probably not, just a vision.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  23. Kari Q says:

    It requires asking powerful questions: how much are we willing to sacrifice for the environment?

    Every time I hear this type of thinking, I wonder if the people making the argument have another planet they plan on going to if we ruin this one.

    Switching to renewable and lower emission energy sources will have some economic impact, of course. I agree with Just Me when she says that the Appalachian coal mining region will be most hurt. But, if we do nothing the impact of global warming on farmers is going to be severe, and those people who used to have a problem paying for electricity will find food is now unaffordable.

    I’m not unsympathetic to their plight, but we can’t afford not to act.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  24. Kari Q says:

    @Hal_10000:

    So we shouldn’t do anything to reduce carbon emissions because that will prevent us from … developing the technology to reduce emissions?

    This sort of reasoning sounds an awful lot like Ted Baxter’s reasoning on population control: have a lot of kids in the hope that one of them will think of a way to solve it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  25. C. Clavin says:

    @bill:
    Oh boy… The lie about the poor birds…you guys are pathetic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  26. C. Clavin says:

    Oh the poor birds.
    Better get rid of cats and windows.
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-IOoZI0goDbM/Uc25wwIr_uI/AAAAAAAABLQ/gNWX2WZYW6Y/s803/Bird+Deaths.png
    Fools.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  27. walt moffett says:

    The coal miners union, the UMWA has issued a interesting press release.

    Note the last line:

    “I assure you, if that is the choice before us, we will not go quietly. We will not be out of sight. We will not be forgotten. You will hear from us.”

    The electrical workers union, IBEW has also weighed in, some what more moderately.

    Trumka of the AFL-CIO was once coal miner and UMWA president.

    Could be a lot union folks will be sitting on their hands instead of working to elect a D this fall.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  28. MarkedMan says:

    This bizarre notion that China is doing nothing about cutting emissions is just cr*p. China is struggling mightily to do so. Of course, they are simultaneously trying to bring over a billion people our of poverty, so the net effect is increased emissions, but that doesn’t mean they are ignoring the problems. China may be run by dictators but they are not Republicans, i.e. they don’t live with their heads in the sand. So, for instance, they have banned all gas powered motor scooters in big cities and imposed much stronger automobile pollution control laws than the US. They have invested billions in solar and wind power (remember, for those not living in the moronic Fox News bubble, the real Solyndra story was the Chinese dumping solar panels in an effort to corner the market). I could go on. These are all new laws and are being enforced, while the faith based Republicans have kept the US from enacting any major changes. The real question for the US isn’t “What are the Chinese doing?” but “Can we really afford the luxury of the know-nothing Republicans?”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  29. RaflW says:

    Uh huh. Questionable benefits? You’ll be dead, Doug, and so will I. But I’d strongly suggest that citizens of Miami 100 years from now will not find Obama’s actions of so questionable a merit.

    When I spotted your headline, I immediately thought:

    Exxon’s Opposition to Carbon Rules Produces Huge Profit With Questionable Results for Most of Earth’s Citizens

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  30. RaflW says:

    @Kari Q: Indeed, Kari. I find myself asking, what’s the lifeboat if Mataconis and all the other economy-handwringers turn out to be wrong. As in, “Whoops, we cooked the planet indefinitely for a few decade’s proffit. Sorry everyone who’s starving, living through water wars, or who’s nations are entirely submerged! Didn’t really think it through!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  31. C. Clavin says:

    @MarkedMan:
    There you go using facts again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. RaflW says:

    As for substance of your argument, Doug, I’ll start here:

    unless the Chinese, the Indians, and a whole host of other developing countries somehow cut their own carbon emissions, something which at the present time could only happen if they worked to significantly cut their rates of economic and technological growth.

    Well, why?
    Is it required that India and China have to go through the same stages of industrial revolution as we did? Do they and other developing nations have to have a coal-belching adolescence, a Love-canal era, etc? Yes they have to develop their industrial base, their supply chains and all that. But they don’t have to do it with filthy, 19th and 20th century energy technologies. They don’t have to be the US and Europe’s new toxic waste dumps and carbon cesspools to develop their economies.
    Standards of living can rise in much more resource efficient ways than we, Boss Hogg Americans have. G*d help the planet if they (and we!) don’t find ways to develop a 21st century that sees growth in standards of living, and human potential, without resorting to digging up every last buried hydrocarbon on earth.
    It does seem to be the current plan (written by the carbon-energy oligarchs, IMO), and it’s a bad one that needs to change. Now. Nattering negativism by US opinion leaders will assuredly not get us to where we need to go.
    I swear, if we had the modern punditry and culture when Kennedy said we were going to the moon, the response would have been “Its too far, what’s the point, it costs too much, I don’t wanna!”
    Jeeze.
    I applaud Obama for not listening the Mataconis’ of this world and taking a step. Without the US doing it’s share, that’s what will guarantee India and China saying “eh, why bother, you residents of the most carbon-intensive society on earth can’t be bothered to help.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  33. C. Clavin says:

    It cracks me up that the ones who cry like babies about the Government picking winners and losers are the same ones arguing for keeping our dependence on fossil fuels … Which we finance with trillions in direct and indirect subsidies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  34. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Your entire message is a long sigh that since the perfect is not possible, then we must use it to oppose all changes for the good. You acknowledge the problem and dismiss all attempts to address it without offer a single suggestion. And you end by approvingly quoting some libertarian assclown who bemoans the terrible loss of freedom that comes from not being able to choose from an infinite supply of lightbulbs.

    How should I characterize what you wrote?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  35. mantis says:

    @bill:

    well it is nice to lead, but in the end what if india,china and the rest just say “screw you, you had your way for 100 years and now we can’t join the prosperity party”?

    I think its going to be a clear necessity even to them before too long. It will for us all.

    And investment in alternatives by richer nations should with time make them more viable for developing nations that are experiencing high levels of growth and modernization. We should lead because we can, and suggestions that we would experience economic collapse as a result are propaganda nonsense.

    maybe the tree-huggers will stop their “anti-nuclear” banter

    This is what I’m hoping for and working on. Nuclear is the only viable replacement for fossil fuels in the short term (wind, solar could not fully replace in most situations yet). If France can safely get most of their energy from nuclear, so can we.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  36. michael reynolds says:

    Interesting that Mr. Obama decided to do this now and not after mid-terms. I wonder if he has polling data we don’t have. Alternatively maybe he’s just behaving like a leader and doing the right thing.

    Republicans haven’t gotten anything right since George W. Bush made a major commitment on AIDS. And politically they’ve missed repeatedly – wrong in believing that gay marriage would be a winner, wrong in thinking that immigrant bashing would be a winner, wrong in thinking Obamacare would result in a win for Romney. I’d love to get a peek at Obama’s polling data. He may be writing off 2014 and looking at 2016, solidifying the base, doing the essential work and in the process clearing ground for Hillary.

    The prize isn’t the midterms, the prize is 2016. A Democrat win in 2016 could bury the GOP. I suspect a side benefit if this is pushing Jen Bush and Chris Christie out of the mainstream. The GOP nuts will rant like crazy people about climate change and then realize – too late – that they’ve got another gay marriage on their hands.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  37. michael reynolds says:

    Jeb not Jen. Although there is a Jenna Bush…hmm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  38. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Obama told us this would happen.

    “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket, regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad, because I’m capping greenhouse gases,” Obama said. “Coal power plants, natural gas, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  39. ernieyeball says:

    @mantis: Nuclear is the only viable replacement for fossil fuels in the short term..

    How are you going to get past the Gang of Green?

    Greens Demand Decommission of of ALL Nuclear Power Plants
    In the wake of the Fukushima disaster and its impacts on land, sea and air, we redouble our stance against all nuclear development and deployment. The dangers are just too great for all of us and for the ground beneath our feet.
    Join us in telling our representatives that we want:
    Termination of all research, development, production and testing of nuclear power and weapons.
    Decommission and cleanup of all current and contaminated nuclear sites, plants, ships and installations.
    Federal funding to montor and report radioactive contmination of the air and ocean, and funding to clean up the Fukushima disaster.

    http://www.pacificgreens.org/greens_demand_decommission_of_of_all_nuclear_power_plants

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  40. anjin-san says:

    @ Hal_100000

    is the reduction in greenhouse gases we are getting worth the economic price we will pay

    Germany had a day recently where they generated 100% of their power from renewable sources. And their economy is doing fairly well.

    I would like to think that what others can do, America can do as well. Well, actually, I would like to be the world leader, like we once were, but that seems to be a fading dream as we turn away from science and innovation in favor of dogma and profit above all else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  41. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    well it is nice to lead, but in the end what if india,china and the rest just say “screw you, you had your way for 100 years and now we can’t join the prosperity party”?

    So America should base its actions upon what India and China might do?

    Is that really your plan?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  42. anjin-san says:

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion so much I just booked an energy assessment with a Solar City rep for tomorrow :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  43. Tyrell says:

    Of major concern to taxpayers is: how much is it going to increase our utility costs? How much is it going to hammer our pocketbooks?
    Homeowners have been improving their homes energy efficiency in the last several years by adding insulation, storm windows, caulking, more efficient appliances, and many other things. Many have even built and installed their own solar panels. This is a major investment in money and sweat. It has resulted in lower power bills. The homeowners have done their part. They should not be asked now to fork over some sort of carbon tax. And utility companies will just pass anything on to the consumers.
    Gasoline ? See the video “Gas Hole”. Many of us remember the so-called gas “shortage crisis” and price increases in the early ’70′s: the biggest hoax ever put on the American people.
    The president needs to appoint a committee of engineers, inventors, and economists to study this issue and make clear recommendations. We cannot have more and higher taxes, fees, and more regulations that will hurt the economy and hit the working class people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  44. mantis says:

    @ernieyeball:

    How are you going to get past the Gang of Green?

    Are you under the impression those people have a great deal of influence? They aren’t the problem.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  45. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Just keep typing Tragedy of the Commons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  46. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    Excellent job repeating myths and talking points.
    But tell me how homeowners with solar panels would pay a carbon tax?
    I’ll wait for you to run and check with Fox News .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  47. wr says:

    @bill: ” maybe the tree-huggers will stop their “anti-nuclear” banter ”

    So may we assume you’ll be setting up camp at Fukushima to prove how safe nuclear energy is?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  48. Tyrell says:

    @C. Clavin: No, I will check with fuel-efficient-vehicles.org . (electromagnetic propulsion)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  49. anjin-san says:

    If you have not seen it, the Solar Roadways Video on Indiegogo is well worth checking out. This is a great idea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  50. Ron Beasley says:

    @MarkedMan: You are correct China is doing more than the US to reduce their carbon footprint. Of course much of it is economic – it’s not good for business to have airports and highways closed for days because of pollution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  51. bill says:

    @anjin-san: no, my plan is to leave the smallest possible carbon footprint i can- and i do. i recycle everything, both of my vehicles get over 30mpg. i heat my house with solar in the winter and use my pool in the summer. i’m not a world leader, just in case you haven’t realized that yet. it’s up to individuals to tame this dependence on carbon, not some hypocrites who live in a 10K sf house overlooking the ocean ….and a garage full of suv’s….and a private jet on call….. clear on that?

    @wr: we have way more “tsunami/earthquake” free space than the japs do, just ask mantis (and most of europe) nuclear is not unclear, as those ‘tards like to say…….france is a prime example.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  52. ernieyeball says:

    @mantis: They aren’t the problem.

    Any group that provides bad information is no help.
    Irresponsible Physicians Oppose Nuclear Energy

    PSR is one of those groups, like the Heritage Foundation, whose ideological ends justifies its means, means which include exaggeration, misleading half-truths,..

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2013/12/15/irresponsible-physicians-oppose-nuclear-energy/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  53. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    it’s up to individuals to tame this dependence on carbon

    Well, half the people in the country think global warming is a hoax, so how is this plan going to work? So no, I am not “clear” that it is up to individuals. For one thing, private homes are just one part of the problem, or did you not consider that?

    As for “homeowners have done their part” (Tyrell), how do you figure? Do you have hard data on the % of private homes in the US that are reasonably energy efficient? Have you considered that wrapping the water heater and putting in weather stripping may not get the job done, that we may need to take construction to a level of energy efficiency that goes far beyond what most people consider adequate?

    I don’t know how old you guys are, but when I was a kid, most cars that dove by belched out clouds of nasty smoke. The LA basin was a stink hole, I never even saw the San Gabriel Mountains until the late 80s. This changed, and rivers stopped catching on fire because of government action, not because individuals took the bull by the horns.

    Never underestimate human greed and shortsightedness, they drive an awful lot of what happens in the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  54. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    the japs

    asshole much?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  55. Tillman says:

    How much of our liberty – just to choose what lightbulbs we use, what washing machines we can have, how much and what we can drive, how long we can leave the lights on – do we want to surrender to an even more bloated government that is driven by special interest politics and not our best interests at heart?

    Your best interest at heart is survival. Contra Ben Franklin, people will surrender as much liberty as they can if it ensures they continue to live. Rest assured that destroying the environment will make it unlivable, and as several others have pointed out, we don’t exactly have other places to go. I’d prefer living to not being able to buy certain kinds of lightbulb – WTF kind of lopsided choice is that? Who complains about lacking different kinds of lightbulb?!

    Hilariously, people bring up how India and China aren’t regulating carbon like we are (and they are varying degrees of inaccurate on that statement), but they are likely going to be hit hardest by climate change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  56. Hal_10000 says:

    @Kari Q:

    No. I’m saying that attempts to reduce carbon emissions have to be evaluated on bang for buck. How much reduction are we getting for how much economic cost.

    @anjin-san:

    Germany’s CO2 emissions are UP, not down, mainly because they are abandoning nuclear power and because supplementing alternatives with fossil fuels results in more emissions as the fossil fuel plants fire up. A lot of European countries have also outsourced their CO2 emissions to other countries like China.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  57. anjin-san says:

    @ Hal_10000

    No doubt there are trade offs with nuclear. Benefits when everything works, Fukushima, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island when it does not.

    This in no way diminishes Germany’s accomplishments in the area of renewable energy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  58. C. Clavin says:

    @anjin-san:
    European nukes are heavily subsidized…socialized even…probably won’t work here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  59. anjin-san says:

    @ Just Me

    And in a faltering economy who will these changes hurt the most? Those who are poor who are already struggling to beat their homes and keep the electricity on.

    It’s funny how the only time the right is worried about poor folks is when they think a little concern trolling will support yet another one of their deeply flawed assumptions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  60. Just Me says:

    And liberals generally have fake compassion-they are only concerned about the poor when if feels good but if the poor can’t afford the rise in their electricity costs just let them eat cake.

    The current recovery isn’t happening for the poor-and what’s the best way for democrats to show they care? Make the bills they have to pay for even more of a burden.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  61. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @mantis: Cheap natural gas is doing more to hamper expansion of nuclear generating capacity than anything relating to coal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  62. Grewgills says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Doug, this is the low hanging fruit. If we can’t do this and further auto emissions cuts are a near impossibility with our congress, what do you suggest? If you have nothing here then yes, you pretty much are throwing up your hands and saying there is nothing we can do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  63. Mikey says:

    @anjin-san:

    Germany had a day recently where they generated 100% of their power from renewable sources. And their economy is doing fairly well.

    Germany’s move to “green” energy is so expensive it risks pricing lower-income people out entirely.

    Germany’s Energy Poverty: How Electricity Became a Luxury Good

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  64. gVOR08 says:

    They (the EPA), and we, could do a lot better.

    Tell me that again after we see the screaming fit the GOPs in congress throw over this modest step.

    As to the costs of carbon reduction, see Krugman:

    Specifically, the report (by The US Chamber of Commerce) considers a carbon-reduction program that’s probably considerably more ambitious than we’re actually going to see, and it concludes that between now and 2030 the program would cost $50.2 billion in constant dollars per year. That’s supposed to sound like a big deal. Instead, if you know anything about the U.S. economy, it sounds like Dr. Evil intoning “one million dollars.” These days, it’s just not a lot of money.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  65. Tillman says:

    @Hal_10000:

    No. I’m saying that attempts to reduce carbon emissions have to be evaluated on bang for buck. How much reduction are we getting for how much economic cost.

    Sure. The problem, however, with emphasizing the cost-benefit ratio of what we do to mitigate climate change is the longer we wait to do anything, the costlier it will be to produce less change. This isn’t even including whatever costs climate change wreaks on us going forward, and one cold winter in the United States is said to have cost us almost a point of GDP growth.

    No, I’m wrong. The problem with cost-benefit analysis is that the costs of doing something about carbon emissions are fairly easy to calculate. The costs of doing nothing, however, are catastrophic, but not a level of catastrophe we can have solid numbers for given the complexity of global climate. Further, at a certain point it won’t be an economic question but an existential one. Not existential in the sense of human beings surviving on the planet, but existential in terms of existing power structures/nations surviving. We were rightly anxious about the Arab Spring collapsing a few nations over ideals, but popular revolts over scarce water and food are much scarier.

    For perspective on how long we’ve lagged on this, The Day After Tomorrow, the “climate change is gonna getcha” movie, came out a decade ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  66. Vast Variety says:

    All those coal workers and power plant folks can be retrained to build “Solar Freakin Roadways”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  67. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:
    According to the World Energy Council, the average German household uses about 3,500 kilowatt hours a year*. The giant 20% hike in the green energy surcharge the article you cite says is pricing Germans out of electricity amounts to an increase of about 1 cent per kilowatt hour, so this amounts to about 35 euro a year for the average German family. That is less than 2 euro a month more on their electric bill. Claiming that an additional 2 euro a month is pricing Germans out of energy is ridiculous.

    * The average US household uses about 3x that much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  68. mantis says:

    @SC_Birdflyte:

    Cheap natural gas is doing more to hamper expansion of nuclear generating capacity than anything relating to coal.

    I know it. But as more communities are poisoned by contaminated soil and water from fracking, guess who will still be waiting for her date to the prom? Good ol’ Miss Nuke.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  69. mantis says:

    @Vast Variety:

    All those coal workers and power plant folks can be retrained to build “Solar Freakin Roadways”

    Solar Freakin Roadways!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  70. Mikey says:

    @Grewgills: Having been poor, I can tell you even a few dollars (or Euros) a month can make a very big difference indeed.

    The point of the article isn’t, of course, that Germany should not have an Energiewende, but rather that their complex system of subsidies and loopholes is an inefficient and expensive way to do it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  71. Mikey says:

    @mantis: Interesting short article on a molten salt reactor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  72. Tillman says:

    @Tillman: Just to reinforce this: I’m not saying we shouldn’t judge actions against climate change by economic cost-benefit. I’m saying that shouldn’t be the highest priority of judgment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  73. stonetools says:

    Kudos to Doug for at least accepting the science behind climate change. that at least puts him ahead of the position of the Repubklican party which is to deny the science. Doug then descends into glibness saying “I dont like Obama ‘s solution. Surely we can do better” but by not suggesting what that better solution might be! I’m afraid that unless Doug gives a glimmer of what that better solution might be , I’m going to group it with blue unicorns, perpetual motion machines, seven league boots, and other things that we would like to have but don’t actually exist.
    Let’s review the libertarian piosition on business regulation. Libertarians have reliably opposed any kind of business regulation, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the FDA, the Consumer Product Safety Act, and mandatory seat belt laws. They have always prophesied unconditional disaster for those industries and doom for American democracy. So far they have always been wrong. It turns out Americans prefer that their rivers not catch fire, that they don’t die choking from smog, and don’t want pharmacuetical companies playing Russian roulette with their health.

    These are not questions that can be answered by pointing to a model of temperatures over the past century. These are questions that can only be answered by philosophy, ethics, and economics. These are questions that can be answered by going back to the founding principles of our nation and the Hayekian principles that form the backbone of market economies.

    Ok, well let’s look at Hayek. For the unitiated, you should understand that the reference is to Friedrich von Hayek, who libertarians consider to be a founding father of libertarianism. He is the one who wrote the Road to Serfdom, which libertarians regard as something like Scripture. What does he say about environmental regulation?

    Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, or of some methods of farming, or of the smoke and noise of factories, be confined to the owner of the property in question or to those who are willing to submit to the damage for an agreed compensation. In such instances we must find some substitute for the regulation by the price mechanism. But the fact that we have to resort to the substitution of direct regulation by authority where the conditions for the proper working of competition cannot be created, does not prove that we should suppress competition where it can be made to function.

    Bottom line-Hayek agrees (grudgingly, it is true) that regulation of business is necessary to protect the environment.Maybe its time for conservatives to give up their knee jerk opposition to environmental regulation. Their leading thinker certainly accepts the need for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  74. mantis says:

    @Mikey:

    Love the MSR model. If only we could get more plants built! ::sigh::

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  75. Rafer Janders says:

    @Tillman:

    We were rightly anxious about the Arab Spring collapsing a few nations over ideals, but popular revolts over scarce water and food are much scarier.

    The Arab Spring was, in fact, in large part about food and water. Syria, for example, suffered a vicious draught in the last ten years which drove millions of farmers off the land and into the cities where they were forced into dire poverty, and many of them blamed Assad for doing nothing about the draught. That anger contributed to their willingness to take part in the uprising.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  76. C. Clavin says:

    @Tillman:
    Even if you are going to do a cost-benefit analysis then you have to be all inclusive about it.
    We are already incurring costs due to AGW…the most obvious being increased food costs due to a historic drought in Cali…and a frigid winter in the NE.
    Also Con-Ed and other utilities that service NY are having to upgrade their grids.
    And then there are the massive subsidies that we are already paying to support the fossil fuel industries…most of which are indirect…pollution and health care issues.
    If you did a real cost-benefit analysis…really leveled the playing field…fossil fuels would be laughed out of the room.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  77. Tillman says:

    @Rafer Janders: Oh, what was it? There was an index that predicted armed conflict around the world by measuring variables that included scarce food and water, and it actually hit the Syrian civil war beforehand. I can’t find the article talking about it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  78. Rafer Janders says:

    @Tillman:

    Also check out the Cochabamba protests in Bolivia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000_Cochabamba_protests

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  79. wr says:

    @Just Me: “And liberals generally have fake compassion-they are only concerned about the poor when if feels good but if the poor can’t afford the rise in their electricity costs just let them eat cake.”

    Well, no. Liberals tend to do things like mitigate the costs of social movements on the poor. That’s why liberals support things like food stamps and help paying for home heating oil — because we know that the poor are always hardest hit. It’s conservatives who are busy slashing all expenditures on the poor — supposedly to teach them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, but really to shovel more money at the mega-rich.

    You’re inventing straw men and stomping all over them. It’s pretty pathetic, actually.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  80. Rob in CT says:

    Oh, what bullshit. Burning coal is an environmental catastrophe, Doug. Not only is there the carbon issue, but there are other nasty things emitted that are bad for human health, and the leftover waste is also nasty stuff. Mining, burning and disposing of coal waste, all put together, is absolutely awful for us.

    It is only cheap because many of the costs are externalized

    I would prefer a carbon tax to EPA regulation, but a carbon tax has exactly ZERO chance of passing congress, because it will receive no Republican support. Cap & Trade was the other market oriented solution, but that failed to pass back in 2009. So that backs us up to the EPA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  81. stonetools says:

    @Just Me:

    And liberals generally have fake compassion-they are only concerned about the poor when if feels good but if the poor can’t afford the rise in their electricity costs just let them eat cake.

    You do understand that the poor breathe in all that smog too, right? That they die in the storms and floods caused by climate change? You do understand that the safety regulations advocated by those “libruls” protect those coal miners and oil workers, right?
    Now I would be in favor of programs to retrain and relocate fossil fuel workers displaced by moving from fossil fuels to renewables and nuclear (if we go nuclear). Guess which major party is going to oppose such programs as “wasteful social spending” and “socialistic industrial policy?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  82. Rob in CT says:

    And, of course, the longer we wait to reduce emissions, the more draconian the response will need to be (or the more impressive the technological breakthroughs will need to be – either/or/both in combo).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  83. Mikey says:

    @stonetools:

    Now I would be in favor of programs to retrain and relocate fossil fuel workers displaced by moving from fossil fuels to renewables and nuclear (if we go nuclear).

    This will have to be done, because there are parts of America where the employment options are “coal miner” or “cooking meth.”

    (An exaggeration, perhaps–but only slightly.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  84. C. Clavin says:

    @Rob in CT:
    It’s critical to note that:
    1). McCain/Palin in ’08 proposed environmental regs that went far beyond what Obama is doing here.
    2). Cap and Trade is another Republican program that Republicans won’t vote for.
    3). Regulating coal is wildly popular…even when asked about increased electric bills it still gets 63% support.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  85. Rafer Janders says:

    It requires asking powerful questions: how much are we willing to sacrifice for the environment?

    Again, I keep coming back to the stupidity of this question, because “the environment” isn’t some abstract notion — it’s WHAT WE LIVE IN. It’s WHAT KEEPS US ALIVE.

    It’s like asking “how much are we willing to sacrifice so we have water to drink, food to eat, air to breathe and land to live on”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  86. Rob in CT says:

    @C. Clavin:

    1) Which tells you that McCain’s “plan” was smoke & mirrors bullshit for election time, not a serious proposal. Much like past GOP healthcare reform plans, it was only meant to blunt the charge that the GOP didn’t have a plan. It wasn’t actually meant to be enacted.

    2) Cap & Trade, similarly, is a plan that should be acceptable to Republicans if they actually mean some of the things they say, but they do not. When faced with EPA regulation, some will fall back to Cap & Trade. When faced with Cap & Trade, the objection will be that a Carbon Tax is better. When faced with a Carbon Tax proposal, it’ll be No More Taxes! The Republican Party has no intention whatsoever of using the government to address carbon emissions. None.

    3) I suspect that poll result is a lot of people with relatively weakly-held beliefs vs. a smaller group with very strongly held beliefs. Majority support doesn’t always translate into political success (e.g., gun control). I hope I’m wrong, and GOP attacks fall flat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  87. Rob in CT says:

    @Mikey:

    Agreed, and I’ve no problem with that. I’m a liberal, and I don’t mind transfers. If Appalachia and some Western states (Wyoming?) need some extra help because coal is no longer an option, then that help should be provided.

    Of course, coal will still be an option, even with these regs. The coal can still be mined and shipped overseas to be burned. That problem remains. The fact that it remains is not, however, a reason to throw up our hands and do nothing.

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  88. anjin-san says:

    @ Just Me

    And liberals generally have fake compassion-they are only concerned about the poor when if feels good

    In fact, Democrats have a reasonably good record of helping the poor, and they tend to back up their words with dollars – the recent restoration of Medi-Dental in CA is just one example, the availability of Obamacare for low-income folks another.

    If you are looking for the party of “let them eat cake” look no further than recent food stamp cuts by the GOP, the party that seems to only work on behalf of folks with seven figure plus net worths.

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  89. anjin-san says:

    I’m a liberal, and I don’t mind transfers. If Appalachia and some Western states (Wyoming?) need some extra help because coal is no longer an option, then that help should be provided

    Absolutely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  90. Tillman says:

    @Rob in CT: They could also provide greater funding for carbon sequestration tech and “clean” coal. If we can get something that limits the carbon emissions of a coal power plant significantly, I can’t see us abandoning coal unless we start using Solar Freakin’ Roadways.

    The big problem with Solar Freakin’ Roadways is that battery tech still can’t store enough to power our homes and industries once the sun sets, so we’ll need something as backup.

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  91. Francis says:

    As best I can tell, the post and comments in support basically take the position: “We have a long way to go. So far, in fact, that I’d rather not start.”

    And if Miami is underwater in a 100 years or so, f*ck em. Our descendants can spend billions on sea walls.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  92. anjin-san says:

    This is a good read – near future sci-fi about the slow motion collapse of civilization due to climate change:

    Drowning Towers

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  93. ernieyeball says:

    I watched two Solar Freakin’ Roadways videos. Saw a school bus and what appears to be a large van traveling the glass via the website’s artist’s renditions. Did not see any heavy trucks or tractor trailers.
    From WikiP:

    As of May 2014, the specific cost and power output of the panels have not been released by Solar Roadways, thus the lifetime costs have not been determined by independent sources. However, Solar Roadways reported in a May 2014 Wired article that a commercialized solar roadway would provide enough power to offset the cost over its lifespan.

    Do we need confimation by independant sources before tax money supports private ventures?
    From solar roadways.com:

    Internal combustion engines would become obsolete. Our dependency on oil would come to an abrupt end.

    ———

    An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.
    — Marcello Truzzi, On the Extraordinary: An Attempt at Clarification, Zetetic Scholar, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 11, 1978

    (Carl Sagan popularized this as “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.[15] However, this may have been based on a quote by David Hume which goes: “A wise man … proportions his belief to the evidence”.[16] This, in turn, may have been based on a statement by Laplace: “The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.”[citation needed])

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  94. RaflW says:

    This is instructive. Krugman wrote last week about the US Chamber’s review of the cost of regulation. Guess what? As a percentage of GDP, it’s small. 0.2% small.

    The Chamber’s supposed scare headline is that regulations would cost the US economy $50.2 billion per year in constant dollars between now and 2030. That’s for a plan to reduce GHG emissions 40 percent from their 2005 level, so it’s for real action.

    So, is $50 billion a lot? Let’s look at the CBO’s long-term projections. These say that average annual US real GDP over the period 2014-2030 will be $21.5 trillion. So the Chamber is telling us that we can achieve major reductions in greenhouse gases at a cost of 0.2 percent of GDP. That’s cheap!

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  95. gVOR08 says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Agreed, and I’ve no problem with that. I’m a liberal, and I don’t mind transfers. If Appalachia and some Western states (Wyoming?) need some extra help because coal is no longer an option, then that help should be provided.

    Of course, coal will still be an option, even with these regs.

    Me too, although I’m not sure the best support wouldn’t be to relocate the population to a suburb of L. A. or something.

    I saw a guy years ago saying it was a shame to burn all this coal and oil, our grandchildren will need it for chemical feed stocks and plastics.

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  96. Grewgills says:

    @ernieyeball:
    I had much the same thoughts. It would be interesting to see some pilot programs in parking lots or plazas. Maybe a theme park like Epcot could use them and do floor shows sort of like Fremont street but below your feet.

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  97. grumpy realist says:

    @Tillman: There are several technologies which could work. Not storage directly in batteries (although that would be the most elegant), but other methods of storing energy: ultra-capacitors, hydraulic pumping, separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen.

    Quite a few of the high-level probes we have in the upper atmosphere store their energy by electrophoresis coupled with fuel cell technology.

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  98. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. I keep wondering what people think they’re going to do when the temperature keeps rising and so do the sea levels.

    Our descendants are going to wonder how we could have been so mind-boggingly stupid not to attempt to solve the problem when we still had a chance. And if we don’t do something, they will curse us forever.

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  99. ernieyeball says:

    @Grewgills: Maybe a theme park like Epcot could use them and do floor shows sort of like Fremont street but below your feet.

    Let’s think big.

    Interstate 70 will be a “gravel parking lot” in just a few years if it is not totally rebuilt from Wentzville to Blue Springs, the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation said yesterday.

    http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/local/i–needs-rebuilding-modot-director-says/article_8dd7dc2a-4dce-5039-a753-36068142c950.html

    Interstate 70 is the main artery through Missouri, connecting its two largest cities. Nearly 60 percent of Missouri’s population lives within 25 miles of the roadway.

    http://www.komu.com/news/state-officials-look-for-funding-fix-for-i-70/
    What would be an appropriate test of this idea? 1 mile, 10 miles?
    Maybe the State of Missouri can show us!

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  100. anjin-san says:

    The Solar City rep just left, I was very impressed with what they are offering. We should be solar in three weeks.

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  101. Tyrell says:

    Around here, summers are usually brutal. Nothing new – it was hot in the 60′s – 90′s era. Probably hotter than it is now. We get hit with a triple hammer: high heat, high humidity, and long dry spells, with evening thunderstorms that make things even more humid. So, we keep our thermostat / ac on usually 75; heat on 73. This past winter, with the mini ice age that fell on us, the heat pump ran almost continuously. Heat pumps are not made for very cold weather like we had.
    Over the last two years, we have added insulation and caulking around the doors, changed filters more often, applied film to windows to cut sunlight, and installed insulated curtains. This has kept our power bill tolerable, but a little high for me. Our appliances aren’t very old, so they are ok on efficiency.
    Our neighbor has an ev. He is not happy about talk of taxing mileage. He put out a higher cost for that car so that he would not use a lot of gas. Any mileage tax should be deductible if you have an ev, or be able to write off some of the car price. They cost so much more than a regular car. And most people know or can easily get information on how to reset or turn back the odometer, even on the digital kind. No secret there. People do it all of the time, especially back yard used car dealers. I know that the highways must be maintained, even modernized with computerized communications systems, built in heat wires to melt ice and snow, fog dispersers, inlaid track lighting, rain dryers, special lanes for future smart cars, and special sonic devices to keep animals away (similar to those gadgets that will keep rodents out of houses). Bill boards with video, widescreens, and HD imaging would be especially helpful at night. Even virtual signals and signs that can be projected in front of the car should be in the future. Our highway system is not only in need of a lot of repairs and upkeep, it is in need of high technology that can make driving much safer, smoother, enjoyable, and even downright entertaining!! There is no reason highways can not be designed to be safe at 90 mph ! That should save gas because you could get where you are going in less time.

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  102. Grewgills says:

    @Tyrell:

    There is no reason highways can not be designed to be safe at 90 mph ! That should save gas because you could get where you are going in less time.

    BRILLIANT!!1! It’s a wonder no one ever thought of that!

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  103. Tyrell says:

    @anjin-san: We are some solar in use around here, but some developments won’t allow it. I am wondering how long it takes on average for solar to pay for itself, and what is the average savings per month. I hear and see some wild figures thrown around on advertisements.

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  104. anjin-san says:

    @ Tyrell

    Elon Musk is the Chariman of Solar City. This is a guy who has already built what consumer reports calls “the best car we have ever reviewed.” Oh, and he has his own fleet of space ships, currently delivering supplies to the space station and soon to be delivering astronauts.

    I don’t think they are making any “wild claims.”

    I should have all the data you mentioned by tonight, I would be happy share it if you are interested.

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  105. Tyrell says:

    Now here (Elon Musk) is a person in the same league as Ford, Edison, and Hughes. Yet the average American would not know who on earth you are talking about.
    Thanks for any information: resources, kits, supplies, and data about the solar panels.
    Some people around here have built their own.

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  106. anjin-san says:

    @ Tyrell

    Our install, which is in less than ideal circumstances due to some large trees in our yard, will offset 49% of our electrical usage and save us 14K over the 20 year life of our contract. There are no out of pocket costs for the install.

    We put out zero costs to get up and running, significantly reduce our fossil fuel usage, and save a decent amount of money in the process. This is a pretty big win in my book.

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  107. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: cats suck anyway! but back to the birds, yes they are dying in these vertical cuisinarts- denial doesn’t make it go away.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/how-many-birds-do-wind-turbines-really-kill-180948154/?no-ist

    speaking of wacky cali and birds;

    http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Tree-trimmer-to-face-federal-charges-in-Oakland-5496220.php

    @anjin-san: when it’s worth it people will adapt, not like anyone who lives in socal can call themselves an environmentalist…….living in an unsustainable desert that drains the western watershed makes that all moot. what’s wrong with japs anyway?!

    @Tyrell: maybe when he builds a car that joe avg can afford?! who has $70k to drop on a car that can’t go 250 miles?

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  108. Rob in CT says:

    @Tyrell:

    It depends on the level of subsidization, which in turn depends on the state program. The feds subsidize via a 30% tax credit, but that’s after whatever state subsidy you get. In my case, the combined impact of the CT and Federal subsidies meant that I paid for roughly 45% of the cost of the system. I calculated that we’d hit breakeven in 10-11 years (the contractor’s numbers were rosier, yes, mainly due to what I considered to be unrealistic assumptions regarding future increases in electricity rates. So far, I’ve been right, but you never know). So far, we’re on pace for that 10-11 year breakeven.

    Since we installed our system, companies like Solar City have rolled out solar leasing programs that are even better deals than the one I got (not least because if you lease, they take care of any technical issues. You don’t have to worry about warranties on particular parts or whatever).

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  109. Rob in CT says:

    @anjin-san:

    Musk may be cool and all, but check the underlying assumptions on whatever calculations they’re doing. Any contractor has an incentive to spin the numbers a bit.

    In our case, they were projecting a 5% increase per annum in our electricity bill. Given the fracking boom, I thought this was really, really unlikely. I re-ran the calculations with a lower inflation figure and got what I thought was a more realistic result. It was still worth doing.

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  110. anjin-san says:

    @ Rob in CT

    I do need to do a bit more research, I work with sales people every day & am all too familiar with rosy pictures painted to close deals. If I can get an install at no cost, reduce my dependence on PG&E, a once great company that I now despise, and cut my bill 40-50%, I will be happy.

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  111. Rob in CT says:

    @anjin-san:

    Yeah, I could see that as a motivator. The one thing that you may find irritating is that if PG&E goes down, you lose power. It could be the sunniest day ever, and your panels will be sitting there doing squat.

    We went big: the system was designed to produce ~100% of our consumption. And, if it hadn’t been for an uptick in that consumption caused by having a 2nd child, we’d have hit or even exceeded that last year. As it was, we hit 95%. I think some of that was due to unusually sunny April & May, as well as less snowy than usual January & February. This year wasn’t as good, so we’ve generated a bit less. We’re on pace for more like 90% this year.

    So far, the results have been good enough. At some point I want to look into geothermal for heat. We burn ~1000 gallons of heating oil a year. Aside from being $3500-$4000/yr., that’s a lot of carbon. In the past, I’d heard that geothermal/heat pump systems didn’t work very well up North, but there was a contractor that came by and was claiming they’ve gotten better. My furnace isn’t particularly old yet (13 years), but the older it gets, the more inclined I’ll be to replace it with something better.

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  112. DrDaveT says:

    @wr:

    So may we assume you’ll be setting up camp at Fukushima to prove how safe nuclear energy is?

    I don’t know about bill, but my takeaway from the Fukushima tsunami has definitely been “Wow, nuclear power is a lot safer than I thought it was.”

    Think about it — here they had an incident that was several standard deviations outside what they had planned for, and yet in the end they experienced only a very minor release of radiation and a complete shutdown. It’s like having a tornado hit your mobile home but leave it upright and slightly dented, with a hole in one corner.

    Now, there is a reasonable argument against nuclear power based on the transport and disposal of the waste, especially if you’re looking at high-efficiency reactors that produce heavier isotopes. But Fukushima is a success story every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

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  113. Rob in CT says:

    @DrDaveT:

    My only issue with this is that it really shouldn’t have been so far beyond what they planned for. Their planning was not good. Ring of Fire, yaknow?

    Therefore:

    But Fukushima is a success story every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

    Is foolish overstatement. Fukushima managed to not be a catastrophe. It was a major incident, though, and the people running things did not exactly cover themselves in glory. Hold the applause.

    That said, I do think nuke power’s safety track record is pretty good. The problem is more waste, which in turn tends to lead to discussing either: preprocessing (which I’d favor) or alternative reactor designs (which while they sound cool and all haven’t been proven to work the way their boosters claim).

    One of the big issues with nuke plants is the sheer cost to build them and the insurance issues Private insurers want absolutely nothing to do with them, so the government has to be the insurer (which is of course a huge subsidy).

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  114. DrDaveT says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Their planning was not good. Ring of Fire, yaknow?

    The plant survived the earthquake just fine. It was the extreme outlier tsunami that caused all of the problems. Or, to put it another way, hurricanes big enough to overwhelm the levees in New Orleans happen in New Orleans much more frequently than tsunamis of that size in that location. And yet the nuke station survived it — it not only wasn’t a catastrophe, it was a small mishap compared to (say) a failed levee in New Orleans.

    It was much worse than Three Mile Island; it was not nearly as bad as Chernobyl. Given the circumstances, that’s almost miraculous.

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  115. MarkedMan says:

    @DrDaveT: Whoa. The idea that Fukushima is a success story is beyond ludicrous. First, it wasn’t the earthquake and tsunami that caused the meltdown – the plant survived those. It was LOSING POWER. The plant melted down because they were unable to get power to the control systems for more than a day. So, yeah, you’re not going to have to worry about a tsunami in Tennessee but there are more than a dozen plants (more than twenty?) in the US that would behave exactly the same way if power was cut. And if you can’t imagine any way power could be accidentally or deliberately cut to a nuclear plant, well then you really need to start watching more Bruce Willis movies.

    And Fukishima is far from over. Thousands of square miles have been evacuated, entire towns abandoned. The plant is in an uneasy and shaky equilibrium requiring constant intervention with no way to get the piles out of badly cracked and leaking containment vessels or at least dispersed enough to stop an out of control reaction should something catastrophic happen. Like an earthquake. Oh, and they are creating entire multi-million gallon farms of radioactive water stored in “temporary” tanks. What do you think will happen to them in the next earthquake?

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  116. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    First, it wasn’t the earthquake and tsunami that caused the meltdown – the plant survived those. It was LOSING POWER.

    Are you seriously claiming that the power loss had nothing to do with the tsunami?

    I have not claimed that the situation at Fukushima is just fine. I’m just noting that, in the wake of a natural disaster far outside the design parameters, the result was modest on the scale of historical manmade disasters of all kinds. The Johnstown flood was a worse human disaster, and the tanks at Savannah River are full of tens of millions of gallons of much nastier liquid than the Fukushima tanks. If this is the “worst case” for a well-designed facility, it ain’t so bad.

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  117. MarkedMan says:

    @DrDaveT: No, of course the proximate cause for the power outage was the earthquake/tsunami. My point was simply that there are a lot of other ways power can be cut for 24+ hours to a major facility. As to “not that bad” I think we have to disagree there. It was not near a major population center so the effects of rendering thousands of square miles uninhabitable are not as bad as they could be. But similar reactors are much closer to major population centers, including ones in the US. On top of that – it ain’t over. They simply have no way to get to the pile and the structure is more damaged every month.

    I was once a proponent of nuclear power but my personal experience with the nuclear industry (peripheral but not insignificant) has made me extremely distrustful of the whole enterprise. They lie and cover up and fail to fix huge and obvious problems. On top of that they are a heavily subsidized industry and want to have laws specially passed to immunize them from any harm they might cause. If we had different people involved in this slow moving disaster of an industry, I would be whole heartedly on your side.

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  118. CarriesGunz says:

    When I think about PG&E having nuclear plants, it is quite chilling. These are the same people that blew a residential block in the bay area to kingdom come a few years ago by way of sheer incompetence.

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  119. Rob in CT says:

    The plant survived the earthquake just fine. It was the extreme outlier tsunami that caused all of the problems

    Yes, I know. My “ring of fire” comment was meant to encompass the various possible dangers from the faults. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. What, the people who build the plant were unaware that tsunamis happen sometimes?

    The thing about building a nuke plant is that you have to plan for the absolute worst case scenario. It’s fine that we design most things to resist moderately bad things and accept the small possibility of failure if/when The Big One hits. But not with nuclear power plants (at least not those with reactors designed like the Fukushima plant).

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  120. MarkedMan says:

    @Rob in CT: Just to bang my drum one more time: the “absolute worst case scenario” in this and dozens of other plants like it in the US and around the world isn’t “Tsunami”. It’s “the power goes off for more than a few hours”.

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  121. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    My point was simply that there are a lot of other ways power can be cut for 24+ hours to a major facility.

    No, there aren’t — not one with sensible backup systems and shutdown protocols. It takes something overwhelming, like a tsunami, to take them all out at once with no time for an orderly shutdown.

    Also, the fact that the plant is not near a major population center is not an accident; you can’t classify it as ‘luck’. It is not necessary to put plants near major population centers, especially in the US.

    The thing about building a nuke plant is that you have to plan for the absolute worst case scenario.

    They did. And they underestimated it, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to a degree where it’s hard to imagine anything worse that could have happened. And the results were bad, but not catastrophic — not even on a scale of non-nuclear manmade disasters.

    To me, it’s just irrational to look at that and conclude “See, I told you it wasn’t safe.” That’s like walking away from a high-speed head-on collision in which your car went off a cliff, resulting in nothing worse than bruises and a broken arm — and claiming on that basis that cars can’t be made safe.

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  122. DrDaveT says:

    @MarkedMan:

    If we had different people involved in this slow moving disaster of an industry, I would be whole heartedly on your side.

    So maybe we don’t disagree that much after all.

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