Bush & Kyoto

Bush says that the U.S. is not going to reduce CO2 emissions (a la Kyoto Agreement) because (1) the U.S. economy is slowing and (2) the U.S. is in an energy crisis. However, he does favor working toward efficiencies that would reduce CO2 emissions through new technologies.

Keeping the debate over global warming to a minimum, do Bush’s ideas make sense?

(1) The economy is always on a rise-fall cycle. Do we keep thinking short-term or do we develop a long term plan that may require belt-tightening at times?

(2) Are we really in an energy crisis or is just California having distribution problems? Even if we are in a crisis, does that mean we can ignore long-term potential risks?

(3) How much can we actually rely on new technologies being developed to help us? It takes money to do R&D. Is the government going to provide funds or offer tax incentives? Private industry & the general populace will operate “business as usual” unless there is some economic incentive or regulatory requirement.

  1. At different times in the economic cycle there are different costs associated with higher energy costs. If the economy is going great it is better able to absorb higher energy prices. For example say that higher energy costs will cause the economy to contract by 2%. If the economy were otherwise growing by 5% the end result would be it growing by 3%. If it were to otherwise grow by 1 % the end result would be a %1 contraction. That is the difference between a soft landing and a recession. The best time to enact measures detrimental to the economy is when the economy is going well because that way it causes hardship for the fewest people.
  2. The problems in California are the result of government artificially reducing supply while artificially inflating demand. However nationally demand is rising as the population grows and the economy expands. If supply is not increased the price will go up and the economy will suffer. Whether the word crisis is appropriate is debatable but more supply will be needed or bad things will happen.
  3. Business is interested in making profits. Energy is a cost which takes away profits. It is in business’s best interest to lower energy costs.

IMHO Bush made a reasonable decision, but his reasons deserve criticism. Phobos’s points 1 and 2 look reasonable to me.

Global warming is probably occurring. There’s great uncertainty about the effectrivness of reducing manmade CO2. My understanding is that the models show that the possible reductions in CO2 would have a negligible effect. I think we should focus on other problems, that are more obvious, and not apply a massive fix to GW that may well not help.

First of all Bush’s unilateral repudiation of Kyoto was a major mistake. Even if you buy his argument that Kyoto is unfair to the industrialized world (which I don’t). The rest of the world believes that Global Warming is a real and present danger. The USA is one of the largest contributers of greenhouse gasses. He could easy have just ignored Kyoto (as Clinton effectively did) and gotten what he wanted with no major harm to world opinion of us. Instead, he spoke his mind (without first discussing it with his handlers?) and made the USA look like an asshole/bully.

This is bad PR no matter how you slice it, and a mistake he will no doubt regret.

Now on to his reasons.

Reason A) The US is in the midst of an energy crisis.

Bullshit. What we have is an electrical power crisis. Actually not even that. We have a peak demand electrical power crisis. Calling it an energy crisis is nothing more than a handout to oil and gas producers. We have plenty of oil and gas and no reason to believe that the Saudis are about to turn off the hose.

Oil and Gas are not electricity. They can be turned into electricity in power plants. But California has, for the last 10 years, not built any plants (mostly because of the NIMBY effect?). Instead, they buy more and more from the grid, which means they import power from other states.

Normally, northern states use more power in the winter than the summer, and southern states use more power in the summer than in the winter. So this works out nicely. But, since California has finally grown to the point of needing to import power all year, this equation is about to go badly wrong.

The other problem that California has is purely political. The local power companies must by power on the open market, but can only sell it at fixed prices. The only way to fix this is to change the laws.

There are 5 ways to fix this, 3 short term and 2 long term.

  1. Conservation, use less especially during peak hours. The problem with this (only from Bush’s perspective ;)) is that this is only good for consumers. It actually costs the energy lobby money. I predict that you will never hear him mention this other than sotto-voce even though it is the best solution overall for consumers.

Kyoto effect - positive.

  1. Change the laws governing interstate/intrastate sales of power so that power companies aren’t caught in a forced-bankrupcy scenario like they are in Californial. This would probably imply setting cost limits on interstate power sales, which I don’t see the energy lobby liking very much, and thus Bush will not admit this is an option.

Kyoto effect - neutral?

  1. Allow older ‘dirty’ power plants to run during peak times, even though they violate clean air standards and don’t produce power as efficiently as newer ones. This option he will like very much because it puts more money in the pockets of his friends. IMO, this should be an absolute last resort, but I suspect you will see this treated as as the first and only defense because it is the only short term option that puts more money in the hands of Bush’s friends.

Kyoto effect - negative

Of course, this is also the only short term option that would make it impossible for us to try and comply with Kyoto, so Kyoto just has to go for the ‘good of the country’ :rolleyes:

  1. Long term: Increase the efficiency of transmission lines. Less lost power, means more power available at your house without any increase in power generation needed. The problem with this is that it has a very large up-front cost. The benefit is that this is sort of a ‘works’ program. Major construction projects are economic stimulous, so this would be good for the economy, but would probably send energy prices up in the short term. (whether they would or not would largely depend on whether the Gov helped to fund the switchover or not).

Kyoto effect - positive. (less generation needed)

  1. Long term: Build new, more efficient (and cleaner) power plants. This one also has a large, up front cost. Once again it would be a large construction project and good for the economy whereever the plant actually goes. This one has the major downside of the NIMBY effect and the political battles necessary to allow a plant to be built at a particular location are huge. On the other hand, if we are truly in a power crisis, then normal approvals process can be suspended and plants built by executive/congressional order.

Kyoto effect - positive. (generation likely cleaner)

Reason B) Compliance would hurt the US economy.

Once again: BULLSHIT!. It would hurt some energy producers (mostly coal in the near term). But it would also act as economic stimulous as changing over to cleaner more efficient power use involves capital building, and someone gets paid to do the building.

Even conservation is good for all parts of the economy EXCEPT the energy lobby. And if the US is the one to develop the new cleaner technology that the world is reqired to use (by Kyoto), then we then have a new product to export, which is also good for the local economy.


Ah, yes. The all-perfect market! Boy, it’s good there are these hard-headed free market types around to counteract us naive, mushy-headed liberals! :wink:

Unfortunately, in a market economy, people only seek their local optimum…i.e., they seek to minimize their costs. A very effective way to do this is to offload their costs onto others, particularly if they are allowed to do so without penalty. That is what is happening to a large degree in the energy sector at present because certain costs aren’t being captured by the market. (There are other market barriers keeping more efficient technologies out too, but this is just the most obvious.)

As for the rest of the issues being addressed in this thread: What Tejota said!