As an economist and a former student of Prof. Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago, I am by education skeptical about any theory of climate change that explains warming but not cooling. The anthropogenic theory of climate change (AGW) blames man-caused carbon emissions for global warming but cannot explain past periods of global warming and cooling when there were no human beings to blame for climate change. Another economist who shares this view is former Czech President and Prime Minister,Vaclav Klaus, who fought against Communism and recognized in the movement that blames man for causing global warming, a new threat to our freedom saying:
I feel threatened now, not by global warming — I don’t see any — (but) by the global warming doctrine, which I consider a new dangerous attempt to control and mastermind my life and our lives, in the name of controlling the climate or temperature. … I used to live in a similar world called communism. And I know it led to the worst environmental damage the world has ever experienced.” (As quoted in the Herald Sun of Melbourne , 7/28/11)
It not only cannot explain past periods of global warming and cooling, it cannot explain the most recent decade of global cooling. Just fifty years there were allegations that we were entering a period of global cooling. There are reasons to be skeptical.
But even if the AGW theory had some basis, economists have to ask , “What is the best policy to deal with global warming?” Whatever policy is selected should meet the standard economic criteria of economic benefit-cost analysis.
And there are competing theories of climate change. Many physicists, literally hundreds of them, were skeptical of the AGW theory almost ab initio. Recently nobel lautreate Ivar Giaever resigned from the American Physical Society because the society, which has 48,000 members, had adopted a policy statement which states: "The evidence is incontrovertible: global warming is occurring." But Prof Giaever, told the society, "Incontrovertible is not a scientific word. Nothing is incontrovertible in science."
Prof. Swensmark of Denmark published this theory of climate change in 2007. He attributed climate change to the effects of solar magnetic disturbances that affect the amount of cosmic rays that strike the earth’s atmosphere and affect cloud formation. A recent experiment at CERN, the world’s leading nuclear research institution, called CLOUD appears to give credence to his theory. This appeals to me as an economist because it may explain global warming and cooling.
Similarly, historians, geologists, anthropologists, and climate scientists have taken issue with the theory. After all, we owe the Great Lakes to global warming. Global warming is not necessarily catastrophic.
And as scientists like Michael Mann whose hockey stick graph of climate change over the last few thousand years or so was shown to have deliberately left out climate changes which would have made the hockey stick somewhat knobby. He was also one of those “scientists” involved in the University of East Anglia scandal who worked to exclude publication of papers that challenged the AGW theory. They behaved more like Stalinist scientists and ended up chopping off millions of years (tails?) of climate changes.
Once UN largess convinced many respectable scientists that there really was global warming, indeed not to question the AGW theory, the questions scientists asked were what would be the consequences of continued global warming? As day follows night, new disasters loomed every day. There was no shortage of Chicken Littles. The sky was falling, hurricanes were increasing, there were more floods, tsunamis, you-name-it. Republicans became ardent supporters of policies that cost consumers and legitimate businesses literally a total of trillions of dollars world-wide. Economists themselves were not immune. Academia found that any research that they proposed that showed how horrific AGW was quickly financed.
Promoters of wind and solar farms and bio-energy plants found they needed to put up very little of their own money. Huge grants and tax savings were offered by state and local governments. And not only in the U.S. but world-wide. A Spanish economist, Prof. Gabriel Calzado Alvarez blew a whistle. According to his research, for every job created in solar and wind farms2.2 jobs were lost in the private sector. Spain retrenched and just in time or we would be facing the collapse of her economy and Greece’s. And the latest calamity, the bankruptcy of Solyndra leaving the U.S. government holding the bag for some $535 million in guaranteed loans.
Here in the U.S., the federal government approved loan guarantees for hundreds of wind and solar farms. It made a $175 million loan guarantee to a Spanish company Abengoa Solar Inc. to construct Solana, a 250-megawatt, concentrated solar power (CSP) facility located near Gila Bend, Arizona. The total cost of the project will exceed $205 million. President Obama during one of his weekly addresses stated that after years of watching companies build things and create jobs overseas, it’s good news that we’ve attracted a company to our shores to build a plant and create jobs right here in America. Unfortunately, it will create only about 1600 temporary jobs building the plant and only 80 permanent jobs at the facility. To make matters worse, only 70 percent of the plant’s materials will be made in the U.S. Benefit-sost analysis anyone.
The Energy Department has closed a $1.6 billion loan guarantee for BrightSource Energy’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah project now under construction on federal land in the Mojave Desert in California as well as a $1.2 billion loan guarantee for SunPower’s 250-megawatt photovoltaic California Valley Solar Ranch. In February, a 290-megawatt photovoltaic power plant being built by NRG Solar, a unit of NRG Energy, in Arizona obtained a $967 million federal loan guarantee. All of these plants received additional subsidies from the states and federal government.
As an economist, I am hard-pressed to describe the economic system that these plants represent. I think of Hitler and Goering, of Mussolini, of Lenin’s New Economic Plan, and of China. It is a mixture of socialism and capitalism. It is a capitalism with no private risks for all practical purposes. I think of Pres. Obama’s intervention in the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler. It needs a name. State capitalism, or closer to the administration’s heart, perhaps social-capitalism.
One thing is sure, it is an economic disaster in the making. The diversion of such enormous resources is lowering the standard of living of the American worker, indeed of workers around the world. Our economy is stagnating, few jobs are being created. In the largest wind and solar farms, what environmentalists call sustainable jobs averages about 40 jobs. Even with 200 plants, the sustainable jobs come to only 8,000 jobs for an expenditure of a million or so dollars per job. Few domestic and foreign corporations are investing in the U.S. This is one of the unintended consequence of the new social-capitalist green economy.
For all practical purposes, the wind and solar farms will pay no taxes. There is a lot of propaganda some coming from the President himself that the fossil fuel industry enjoys more subsidies than wind or solar or biofuel. What the President and the non-economist analysts overlook is that fossil fuel firms pay huge amounts of state and federal income and excise taxes while the green plants pay nothing at all.
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