The Illogical, "Environmental" Left.

Okay, so Tom Daschle and a whole pile of House Democrats have come out demanding that George Bush “Do Something” about high gasoline prices. They want either tough talk with OPEC to increase supply, or they want a repeal of the gas tax or an outright gas subsidy.

The House Democrats have a large majority in favor of instituting price caps on power in California.

Now, anyone who has taken high school economics understands that lowering the price of something increases demand, and
these are the same people that were in favor of Al Gore’s energy tax, because the increased cost of energy would promote conservation.

Free market environmentalists have long been saying that the market will take care of energy demands through the price system. Too many people buy SUV’s, and the price of fuel will go up and reward those who didn’t. SUV sales will diminish, and fuel consumption will go down. Raise the cost of air conditioning, and more people will decide to save money and turn it off.

Environmentalists should be ecstatic over the rapid increase in energy prices.

Okay, so you could argue that Daschle and Co. are simply opportunists who are looking for any opportunity to attack George Bush, even if it means violating what could laughingly be called their principles.

But then Ralph Nader, the leader of the Green Party, came out in favor of price caps on energy in California. I believe the Sierra Club is also in favor of that.

So now that fuel prices are climbing, WHY are environmentalists on the left fighting to keep energy prices down? What possible motivation for that could they have?

I have my own ideas, which I’ll share after you’ve had a chance to think about this and share your thoughts.

They’ve got to pay their bills, too, you know.

Some are. How I laugh every time I see the SUV owners filling up their gas tanks. $2 a gallon, and 12 mpg. Now THAT’S funny!

Well duh. Nader was a commie long before he discovered there were fellow travelers in the Green Party.

I dunno. Re-election?

Sam, damn few people are Ed Begley Jr. Most pro-environment people in the U.S. do not want to give up their cars or their air conditioners, even if they do want to minimize the impact of those luxuries. But there is a GIGANTIC leap from “let’s save the planet” to “let’s screw the little guy on his electric bill.”

With that said, the California legislature pooped its own nest with that consumer-friendly deregulation plan. Ya can’t be socialists and capitalists simultaneously, folks, so enjoy those blackouts this summer.

Sam Stone, you’re absolutely right.
Energy prices are cyclical, like everything else. Today, they’re going up. As long as that continues, there will be an ever-increasing incentive both to find more energy and to conserve.
At some point, enough sources of energy will be found and enough conservation will take place that we’ll get our butts over the top and slide downhill again on lowering energy costs and increasing energy consumption.
But times in the cycle like these are times for insuring that as many alternative sources of energy and ways of conserving it are found as possible, because once the price starts to go down, so will people’s incentive to innovate.
The signal was clearly given last summer, when gas prices spiked to 2 bucks a gallon in the Midwest. My impression is it will have to hit 3 or even 4 dollars before people start seriously questioning the logic of having that SUV in their driveway.

Because for some on the left environmentalism is nothing more then a tool to push their socialist agenda.

Not to imply that all environmentalist are like that. I myself enjoy clean water, air, and I believe the government has a legitimate role to play in pollution control. While the current gas crunch is hitting me hard I look forward to the day when automobiles will no longer be dependent on gasoline.


Sam touched on a number of policy issues. Let me focus on putting price caps on electricity.

Pull out your college textbook again, Sam. Look under “Monopoly”. If the government sets a price cap above the competitive price but below the monopoly price, what happens to the quantity supplied under monopolistic conditions?

Time’s up. The equilibrium quantity increases. Monopolists hold back output (or shut down power plants for extended repairs) in order to jack up the price. Limiting the price increase limits the incentive to withhold output. (Tech note: Look what happens to the marginal revenue curve).

But don’t feel too bad, Sam. The &*^! Public Utility Commission and **^%& PG&E didn’t recall this either, although it’s in most introductory economics texts.

POSSIBLE RESPONSE: Electricity providers don’t have monopoly power. A: Ha! My understanding is that some were able to purchase around 8% of available capacity. Given an inelastic short run demand curve (and since people don’t know the price of electricity on an hourly basis -or they don’t pay the hourly spot price- demand is very inelastic) that’s enough to have leverage over the spot price, even without collusion.

flowbark: Do you believe that that is the actual motivation of these people, though?

Minty Green Said:

None of which explains why the same people were in favor of increasing energy taxes just a little while ago.

And while it may be true that the public wants to have their cake and eat it too, that doesn’t explain the support of radical environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Green Party.

I’ll take a stab at this. I try to be Green, but its not easy, and politically I’m on the conservative wing of the extreme left.

Intense gasoline prices discomfit and annoy that “class” of Americans who can afford Stupid Useless Vehicles. Thier motives, thankfully, escape me. If you won’t give the money to someone who needs it more, the least you could do is spend it sensibly. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.

For the (you should forgive the expression) “working poor”, an additional thirty or forty dollars for transporation costs is serious trouble. They, and thier dependents, are going to have to take that money from other needful things.

The left didn’t invent the moral dilemma, nor the ecological and political conflicts of our time. On this one, I’m with them: the people least able to respond to the crisis should be at the top of the list when the government seeks to alleviate suffering. They are, in fact, the ones suffering.

“Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable” A rather crude guideline, I grant you, but surprisingly useful.

Well, yeah. Rolling blackouts are a pain; the current electricity crisis is acting like a supply shock on the California economy. Our elected politicos would be remiss if they didn’t try to pressure W to put price caps on. Of course W is happy to hang the West Coast out to dry…

As for the Sierra Club/ Greens: yeah, in my experience they are not totally economically illiterate.

IM-not-so-HO, Ralph Nader/Public Citizen don’t care about the environment and don’t care about poverty. They just care about sticking it to the corporations, whatever the context.

Heck, I’m for electricity price caps as well as higher energy taxes. High spot prices on electricity don’t help the environment if the final consumer doesn’t pay them (under the status quo) or cannot perceive them (if they were charged them on an hourly basis).

There are efforts to charge businesses an hourly spot price, which would be a good thing provided that a system is available whereby they can (for example) adjust their thermostats by a degree or two when hourly electrical prices go up. My understanding is that such a web-based system is currently under development.

Do remember that the left, like the right, is not merely a unified hive-mind with a single purpose. There are those on the left that want lower gas prices, there are those that want people to use less gas, and there are those that want both of these and feel that the one does not make the other impossible (it doesn’t). Some want both things but think that one is more important than the other (at least in the short run). Surely you can see that the left doesn’t have a monopoly on seemingly contradictory policy stands: let’s spend $100,000,000,000 on missile defense and then cut taxes; government is too intrusive, so we should cut taxes and deregulate . . . and while we’re at it, let’s use policy to promote marriage, legitimacy, and religous faith.

I’m curious.

In other words, reducing prices increases consumption, which is what Sam said. Do you have a point, or do you enjoy being condescending for its own sake?

As for the OP, if someone is convinced that corporatons are evil, then every situation will confirm their beliefs. If prices are high, that means that the corporations are price gouging. If prices are low, it means that corporations are manipulating/flooding the market.

I’ll ignore the flashbacks of fatherjohn and simply say the of all the people I know, the people who complain most about the gas prices are the guys who own Hondas.

Just my personal experiences, of course.

Didn’t they say the same thing about the death penalty?

There are price caps on energy in California, which PG&E and Southern California Edison have been trying(with some success) to have changed. The problem is not that there’s an energy shortage. The problem is that PG&E and SCE cannot buy enough power from it’s suppliers because the suppliers have chosen to gouge California, charging them considerably more than other states are paying. PG&E and SCE cannot charge enough to make up the difference, hence the shortage.

It stinks. Somebody’s playing both ends against the middle here. The middle being the standard California consumer.

What monopoly is there with greater power, scope, and influence than the government?

Free-trade advocates :wink:

But to refer to the OP, I think you’re trying to lump too many people, with too many viewpoints, under the wrung-out, tired headings of ‘left’ and ‘right’.

I dunno about you, but I think those headings have been inadequate to describe politics and people’s views since I was a young raider looking for places to ransack and pillage.

Barbarian, try this and report back.

All the good points have been made.

Many environmental problems are being promoted as a means to a desired end. E.g., the desired end might be bigger government, sticking it to private industry, or some quasi-religious view of Earth as a god.

Suppose that the planet’s temperature could be reduced by using an H-bomb to blow up a volcano. Would global warming worriers would support such a solution or oppose it?

A question for those who understand economics and politics better than I …

Do the current high gas prices, along with the expectation that they will go much higher, give legitimacy to the “need” to develop domestic oil sources? As gas prices go up, is the American public more willing to support drilling for oil in places it wouldn’t when gas is cheap?

Sam Stone, the reason that ‘liberal’ political animals are advocating caps is simple. They view the concept of using governmental regulation to ‘solve’ the energy difficulties as more acceptable than using the typical economic solution proposed by the Republicans: build more polluting energy production infrastructure. Now, I’m not weighing in on either side of that issue; I see positives and negatives to increased traditional energy production. But, from the standpoint of the Green party, the Sierra Club, et alia, what would you prefer, the building of more energy production plants based on coal or oil burning, the building of more pipelines to carry hydrocarbons, and the increased mining of hydrocarbon fuels in environmentally sensitive areas, or the imposition of a price cap, supported by the taxation of the people of the nation, who will have to pay the cost of attempting to avoid the forces of a free-market economy?

When a Democrat held the White House, environmental groups were much less concerned about increased pollution. With a Republican in the White House, the possibility of increased pollution is significantly higher, forcing a strategy switch. Of course, the cost will be significant (you can’t ignore economic forces!). But, then, a true liberal in this country rarely worries about that; the lifeblood of a liberal American is the notion that the federal government can solve anything through governmental action, and damn the eventual cost. Which is what gets people like Libertarian so unhappy. :wink:

Sticking it to the corporations does help overty and the environment.