slortar: Of course, consumers could NEVER make a conscience [? conscientious?] assumption on their own that better safety and gas mileage is a good thing.
Of course, consumers could. But, as we’ve discussed in many previous threads (though this type of topic tends to get more airtime in GD than the Pit), consumers’ preferences are constrained by the amount and type of information they have access to, and can be expressed only through individual choices that have little net effect on the market—unless they are willing to devote lots of their own time and money to organizing boycotts or consumer protection campaigns. Manufacturers and employers, on the other hand, are much better organized and have a much bigger budget for PR to present their point of view. And because they’re in business to make a profit, they don’t like taking short-term financial losses, even if the results will make more people happier in the long run. This is why, in fact, employers and manufacturers did fiercely resist child-labor laws and other labor-rights legislation, seat-belt and other auto safety mandates, and fuel-efficiency standards. “Never take a loss unless you have to” is a cardinal rule of smart business. That’s the way it ought to be, but that’s also why we need legal regulation.
It HAS to be government regulation.
See above. Yes, when you’re trying to get businesses to take a financial hit in the near term for the sake of benefits to workers or consumers that may be good for business in the long term, the long arm of the law is the only thing that works. Why would a company voluntarily lose money if it doesn’t have to?
If you’re looking for a better example, try the FDA instead (and even the institution of the FDA was driven largely by consumer outcries, and not in the bass-ackwards way you’ve suggested, IIRC).
? Why is the FDA a “better” example of government regulation than the NHTSA or the FLRB or the EPA? All regulatory agencies have advantages and shortcomings of various sorts. Also, I don’t see how it makes the FDA in any way “ungovernmental” to note that it was instituted in response to popular pressure. That’s the way government regulation is supposed to work: the citizens get upset about being taken advantage of and so the government muscles in to stop it.
friedo: A perfectly valid opinion, but it does not address the morality of taking people’s money for the purpose of helping people who have committed their own acts of stupidity. Instead of paying my social security payments, I could put that money into investments that I want to make, or I could go blow it in Vegas.
The same could be said about your health insurance payments, or life insurance payments. Why should your insurance company take your money and give it to, say, people who destroy their own health or endanger their own lives by their stupid choices? All insurance schemes frequently take from the prudent to give to the stupid; if you think that’s intrinsically “immoral”, then your beef is properly with the whole concept of insurance, not just the particular social insurance scheme that is Social Security.
*How about the plethora of communities who have refused to let people build nuclear power plants in their cities, thereby increasing America’s use of fossil fuels? *
You personally may think that such prohibitions are “unnecessary and too restrictive”, but it’s hardly a settled question. Also, the dichotomy “we must either build nuclear plants or increase our fossil fuel use” is not entirely accurate.
- There is no proof that ANWR has “three months of oil” in it. The only way to find out is to go look.*
That’s not the way oil geologists operate: they don’t say, “Well, there might be much more oil in such and such a place than we currently think, so let’s go look.” They do geological studies to get a good idea of how much is really there before drilling. That is exactly what the US Geological Survey has done with the ANWR, and their estimate is that there are about 7.7 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in the proposed coastal plain region—that means all the oil that it’s possible to get out of the ground there, irrespective of whether oil prices make it commercially viable. The amount of commercially recoverable oil—that is, oil that’s worth drilling for—is bound to be much less, and may indeed be as low as 3 billion barrels. That’s less than six months US transportation-related oil use, and between three and four months total US oil use.
*Further, it would be ridiculously unprofitable for oil companies to drill that oil if they knew that only three months worth was there. So why would they be lobbying for it? *
Actually, they’re not lobbying all that hard, partly because (as oil company execs have told the New York Times) they’re not convinced it’s such a good deal. The major lobbying group for ANWR drilling, Arctic Power, gets only 5% of its funding from the oil companies and the rest from the state of Alaska — whose motive for supporting any kind of Alaskan drilling project is obvious. In fact, Arctic Power has even complained that the oil industry has been lukewarm on the issue and hasn’t backed up their lobbying efforts as aggressively as they would like. (Remember too that drilling projects are sometimes profitable for oil firms even if they never extract a drop of the stuff, due to the possibilities for tax writeoffs.)
Further, your assertion that such drilling would “destroy” the preserve is beyond absurd. We’re talking about an area of land that’s 19 million acres. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, that’s more than a third of the size of The United Kingdom. No drilling proposal that I have seen takes up more than 10,000 acres of ANWR land.
But remember that those acres would not be just a single tiny clump (and 10,000 acres is not all that tiny, especially considering that much of it’s right in the middle of prime caribou calving territory, which is much smaller than the ANWR as a whole); it’s long skinny stretches throughout large parts of the whole Refuge, which would definitely have a much larger environmental impact.
*A properly regulated drilling program would cause negligable damage to the environment of Alaska. *
Wishful thinking. You may be right, but it’s very far from certain; and, as many environmentalists point out, if we can save equal or greater amounts of oil by implementing very minor conservation measures, why bother with the drilling? If it’s a Welfare for Alaska project we want, why not just give Alaska the money?
*Instead of just “doing your part,” how about working towards convincing people that it is to their economic advantage to conserve voluntarily? *
See above, in my response to slortar. If it’s not to the short-term economic advantage of any of the crucial players—in this case, say, the car companies that would have to absorb the costs (though small) of meeting increased CAFE standards for SUVs and light trucks—then how are you going to convince them? They’re just going to look at the projected quarterly balance sheet and blow you a big wet raspberry. “Never take a loss unless you have to.”
*Of course they have money alloted to research. Billions of dollars worth. Why? Why should government bearocrats [:)] have the power to wield economic power in order to coerce the private sector? Is that what a free society does? I don’t think so. *
? What’s unfree about it? We pool our tax money and give it as incentives and grants to industries that are pursuing projects that we think will be advantageous to us down the road. If some company wants to work on different projects, then fine, let them use their own money.