Is a "Renewable Energy Standard" a good approach?

The idea, now working its way through Congress is to mandate particular percentages of renewables by certain timeframes.

This is, IMHO, as bad of an idea as underwriting nuclear with huge loan guarantees and the boondoggle corn ethanol subsidies. Damn it, why can’t they just do cap and trade putting a solid fair price on carbon, and let them figure out how to do it themselves? Either renewables will increase on their own under that fair competition (and I think they will), or they do not deserve to increase at this point in time.

Even cap-and-trade is immensely stupid, because fraknly, ye Leftist Ones and your idiot leaders in the govenrment don’t know what needs to be done, either. Are really surprised the ignorant leading the ignorant are even now making a mighty hash of things?

Ignoring the inconsequential name calling … we do know that CO2 emissions needs to be decreased and that the ideal approach would also foster less dependence on foreign sources and stimulate our own economy. Leftist Rightist or Centrist, I think beyond that we should merely provide the market the incentives to figure out what will work best, because politicians are not going to be able to know that.

You did know that a large number of States already have RPS’s in place, yes? This will dilute greatly any possible effect from a Federal RPS.

No, I did not know that. I thought it was only a handful. How many have them already and to what level and what timetable?

The best? It’s called nuclear. The Left has managed to make its name an abomination over the years.

But the politicians aren’t legislating what should be built with this bill. They are still leaving it up to the power companies to decide what combination of renewable energy sources are best able to meet their demands. If a cap and trade system would force them into investing in renewable energy anyway, I don’t see why this is any more objectionable.

We need to spur investment in these technologies and this seems like as good a way to do it as any…

Ah, got my answer myself.

So why even propose this?

As to the presumption it’s nuclear sb - feel free to comment in that thread (it may be on the next page by now).

Diz they are presuming - that it is renewable and how much renewable it is flat percent across the country all power providers. It may be the best choice. But what if nuclear did turn out to be the hands down most cost-effective way to decrease CO2 emission? Or CO2 sequestration? Or renewables made lots of economic sense and were easy to do in the Southwest with their ample solar and wind resources, or Nevada with geothermal fairly easy to exploit, but not so much sense in Michigan or North Dakota? The difference with cap and trade is that a utility in an area with ample and easily exploitable renewable resources could go well beyond what they need to do and sell those credits to areas where renewables are not such a cost effective option.

The first thing we have to acknowledge is the false notion that you can go ‘green’ and actually improve the economy. That’s the snake-oil the Obama administration is talking about with its promise of ‘green jobs’. Alternate energy sources are more expensive, which is why we’re not using them now.

Can we all accept that as a starting point? That, at least with today’s technology, a ‘green’ mandate is going to raise the cost of energy. Perhaps not in the future, but at least in the short term.

So the next question you have to ask is whether this is the right time to do this, what with the economy in free-fall and state and federal governments up to their eyeballs in red ink. The ‘Stimulus’ was justified because the claim was that every dollars the government spends will be multiplied, so it will help rather than hurt. But there’s no question that just imposing higher costs on energy is anti-stimulative, and will hurt the economy. So again, is this the right time?

Next, you have to ask if this will help the planet. The answer is a resounding NO. Not unless you can get every other government in the world to comply. In fact, it could easily wind up hurting the planet. If the higher cost of energy pushes more manufacturing out of the United States and into countries which are less energy efficient, it’s making the problem worse, not better.

In addition, since oil is fungible, any efforts made to reduce the consumption of oil in the U.S. will have the result of driving down oil prices, which in turn will stimulate demand elsewhere. Not only that, but lower oil prices act as a disincentive to conserve or improve energy efficiency.

So it seems to me that the net effect of this legislation will be to hurt the American economy, make American goods less competitive on the world market, and simply change the distribution of oil consumption from the U.S. to other countries. The law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head again, and creates results opposite of what the ‘feel good’ legislation intended.

The one remaining argument for this is the ‘infant industry’ argument - that if only government pushed hard for alternative energy, it would unleash the forces of capitalism and spur innovation and we’d discover ways to make energy cheaper and ultimately come out stronger. I think that’s an article of faith among many on the ‘green’ side of the debate. The problem is that there’s not much evidence that this is going to work.

Previous attempts by government to jump-start complex technologies have often ended in disaster. Japan’s MITI project, France’s Minitel, various government-sponsored fusion initiatives. Hell, remember when Carter was pushing solar power in the 1970’s? The same claim was made - if government offers the right incentives, surely we’d find a way to make solar cost-effective. There was a mini-boom in solar cell and solar thermal systems due to that push, and most of that hardware is now rotting in landfills because it never did get much better.

But hey, do you know who this will be good for? General Electric. GE was one of the largest donators to Obama’s campaign and to liberals in general, hoping to cash in on a ‘Green’ program (GE is heavily invested in ‘green’ technology, and needs help to sell it). But it’s not just GE - over 700 companies are in the game. According to Green Biz, there are now four climate change lobbyists in Washington for every member of Congress, and this year they’ve spent over $90 million in 2008 plying politicians with favors and donating to their campaigns. A textbook example of regulatory capture in the making.

So you can be sure that whatever program passes will be good for GE and Johnson and Johnson. Whether it’s good for the country is a completely different question.

No Sam we cannot accept that as a starting point.

Once the actual costs of fossil fuel waste are even partially accounted for (and even the highest levels of carbon tax or costs via auctioned credits won’t even be a fraction of what it is reasonably going to cost to deal with the effects of that waste eventually) then nuclear, renewables, and sequestration, can all likely compete with coal.

It is just that right now we are not paying the waste management fees; we’ve just dumped those costs into the future.

Will green collar jobs help the economy now? Yes. These are to a very significant degree jobs that cannot be easily outsourced and that play to America’s remaining strengths in creating clever intellectual property that can be exported as well.

Does the entire world need to be on-board? No. But the more the better. Getting China and India to play is important and the early signs are that they want to now, as they realize that global warming is likely to affect them worse than us. Africa? Less so important. It is hard to imagine that much manufacture is going to pick up and move to where the infrastructure (in all senses, roads, power, educated workforce, etc.) isn’t there, but you know, if some did invest there then more power to them. Probably better for us in the long run if those economies grew stably.

Mixing up power generation with oil I see … but sure. Fully attacking global warming does entail decreasing oil use, perhaps in a better manner than global economic meltdown as we’ve done. And unless the big consumers are all playing the same game then oil’s fungibility is a problem. Again though, we are talking about the big players, not everyone. Us, China, India, the EU … working out agreements in Copenhagen or later is key for that.

Amazingly things can seem to you one way and you can be very wrong.

Sorry I didn’t respond earlier, I had to cook Mongolian Beef. And I wasn’t trying to nitpick you, I was just trying to separate if you were making the case against Federal-level RPS, or against any RPS.

Well Una I am not crazy about either but at least state level can be more responsive to local realities. Enjoy your dinner!

Sam note this too. Most Americans will end up close to budget neutral, although oil will lose some of its subsidies, under Obama’s plan.

Here we get to a frequent problem point - there are a large number of people who say “oh no, no, we have to let China, India, and everyone else pollute a hell of a lot until they get to our standard of living” - in effect, leveraging carbon reductions as a “stick it to the west” wealth transfer mechanism. I’ve argued with plenty of people on this very board, who on one hand say “we’re reaching or at the tipping point! We must cut now! Why do you hate the earth?” and in the very next post exclaim “we can’t hinder China and India - don’t you realize people are poor there? Why do you hate the poor?” Well tough shit, as Gus always says, “the world isn’t fair, it’s round.”

The sooner those who want change to stop AGW can ditch the idea that AGW is the apocalypse except for some cases, the sooner they’ll get more support from “conservatives.”

Hang on… the point is that allowing carbon to escape into the atmosphere is a subsidy. If it harms the earth, we won’t suffer economic damage for that in the short term. In essence, we borrowing from the future to maintain our CO2 output, just as the stimulus bill is.

This isn’t an argument about whether CO2 is harmful or not. Even if you accept that it’s very harmful, we’re still getting more economic benefit today by just releasing it - it just comes at the price of economic harm in the future, just as any borrowing does. Stopping that subsidy now will hurt the economy. No question about it. Maybe it will help the economy 50 years from now, but then so would not borrowing money for a financial stimulus.

Exactly. That is why it’s a current stimulus to the economy.

Then why don’t these jobs exist now? Or can they only exist with big government subsidies? If so, paying for them by eliminating another big subsidy (free carbon release) isn’t going to improve the economy.

Also, could you be more specific? Exactly which ‘green collar’ jobs can’t be outsourced? Why are Americans positioned better to do them? How do they play to America’s strengths? What kind of export market could their possibly be if the ‘green’ technology created isn’t cost-effective without government intervention?

And even if this were all true, you’d still have to show me why employing people in those jobs is better than employing them at whatever else they would have done. Opportunity cost, and all that. With enough government subsidy, you could make Americans the best producers of buggy whips in the world, and capture a big share of the buggy-whip market. Would that be a good thing?

Fine. Then let’s implement this when you get them on board. Because my gut feeling is that it’s never going to happen. Oh, they might play a long a bit and sign some treaties that don’t really impose costs in the short term, but when it comes down to the hard choices of saving the planet vs hurting the economy, they’re not going to do it.

Have a look at other similar ‘public good’ treaties signed between nations. They tend to get broken as soon as pressure is applied. The EU had all sorts of treaties between members regarding debt ceilings and the like - all broken. Hell, most of the signatories to the Kyoto treaty missed their targets, and some of them had their CO2 emissions grow faster than the U.S.'s.

You can’t just handwave this problem away. China and India are the elephants in the room, and if they aren’t on board, nothing you do is going to help. In fact, taking unilateral action now might be a bad idea, because if it drives down the cost of fossil fuel it will give them an even larger incentive to continue using it.

Straw man. Africa’s not a major player. Really, we’re talking about Asia here. A continent using huge amounts of energy, and which has energy/GDP ratios much worse than the U.S., indicating that they use it very inefficiently.

I don’t think I’m wrong. I think you’re being utopian.

So New York gets a break because of hydroelectric plants and Illinois gets butt-fucked over coal. No way. This is simply an excuse to raise taxes.

Wow. Tax the manufacturers, give the money to the poor. Forgive me if I don’t see that as the path to economic growth.

The tax will NOT be neutral for energy consumers - if it was, it would be useless. The price of manufactured goods will go up. The poor may get government money to help them cope, but that’s not going to do jack for the ability of these companies to export their higher-priced goods.

This is just another scheme to tax the productive capacity of the country and put the money in the hands of the government to divvy up as it sees fit. This increases government power because it makes them a middleman, and it’s almost guaranteed to decrease economic efficiency, unless you believe that in general it’s better for government to allocate the resources of a country rather than the market.

Even strident AGW supports like James Hansen (and most economists) oppose this plan over a straight carbon tax, because cap and trade is more inefficient, is prone to too much political interference and puts the government smack in the middle as the agent which decides who gets what and who should be punished and rewarded.

Una the questions are however, how to best get China to play, what to accept as a reasonable first response, and what to do if she won’t?

In that regard I offer up this two-part analysis.

So indeed the perfect would be to have China agree to the same rules as the US and the EU agree to. But if that is just not possible, for whatever reason, is progressin moving them along towards that end, as described in that link, acceptable, or do we do nothing as the alternative.


There is reasonable borrowing and there is raping. IMHO dumping the waste without managing it is not the former it is the latter.

Talk about your strawmen. No, no government subsidies in what I have proposed. Market incentives. They are indeed different critters.

Green jobs include building and deploying and maintaining renewable energy generation in both utility grade and distributed generation applications, energy conservation projects, coming up with the bright ideas for new products that can be built here and sold elsewhere, etc. If I have the time I’ll try to find some estimates of job creation numbers for you later.

As to the possiblity that China in particular does not play to the degree that we think is reasonable for them to do, yes, we need to have contingency plans. It may be that the EU and the US agree to impose a carbon tax consistent across their markets on goods imported from countries that will be signators to a new agreement. Maybe there are other options. Definitely they would need to become … inspired … to be part of the global community addressing the issue.

Dseid, that’s not relevant.You can create all the jobs you want. But if the plan lowers overall economic efficiency, then you are ultimately nailing the economy.

Let me put it you in this way. Let us say you could build 100 million jobs in Green power. One out of every three Americans could have a hapy job working for Green Power. Everyone who wants one has a job. Yay, right?

Nope. As you are probably realizing, we want fewer people working in energy industry. We want as few as possible. We want the fewest Green Power jobs that can happen. Because ust creating jobs does not, and never has, created actual wealth.

Yeah, that’ll help… piss them off, raise the price of goods, and generally make us poorer across the board. I’m sure they’ll happily wreck their fragile economies in order to please you. Not that it will matter, because you won’t have much money to pay for any of their goods anyhow.

Let me put it to you this way: without exaggeration, the official plan, and your plan, are both potentially enough to wreck the United States’ economy wholesale. You have essentially found a way to blow off the economy’s foot completely, and are now confused as to why we think it would be lying on the ground screaming and bleeding to death. After al, the whole foot was only a few pounds of flesh, right? And that’s correct, but besides the point.

In your opinion. But even this is a different argument than saying that there will be no short-term cost to the economy. Can you at least admit that carbon taxes or cap and trade do represent higher costs for energy producers, and therefore enacting them will be anti-stimulative in the short term?

I happen to think the ‘stimulus’ package is economic rape of my grandchildren, but that’s not really an argument for whether it will prop up or hurt the economy today, is it?

Well, they’re certainly spelled differently. That’s about the only difference I can see. Perhaps you could expand on the difference between subsidies and market incentives, so we can debate why the latter is preferable to the former.

So… Foreigners can’t come up with bright ideas? ‘Green’ products can’t be made elsewhere, even if the technology is developed here? Companies would never outsource ‘green’ manufacturing to other nations where it might be cheaper to build?

I can accept that you can’t outsource the job of laying new power lines or putting insulation in buildings. But on the technology side, the supply chain is truly global. I happen to know a lot about this, because I work in the industry helping manufacturers in the U.S. improve efficiency. In fact, I just came back from a week in the U.S. working with customers. And I’m Canadian. So at least one ‘green job’ has already been outsourced - mine. I would personally stand to benefit from Obama’s plan, and my company is spending big lobbying money to push it. I still think it’s a very bad idea.

Ah. So… Protectionism and trade wars? Driving up the price of Chinese-manufactured goods as well? You have of course considered what might happen if China retaliates and closes off one of the largest export markets for American products?

Economic disaster, here we come.