A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Montag Dialogues, part I: Kyoto

Mentioned him in the intro post, and now it's time to get down to it. An email dialogue between myself, a fiscally conservative, socially mostly liberal Libertarian/Republican/Independent and Jack Montag, a more left-leaning Democrat with a keen mind and a diverse background. The first topic of discussion: the Kyoto Protocol and the United States decision to not sign on through 2012.

For a basic summary of my feelings on this, take a look here.

And away we go, Jack in blue, me in green:

When I was studying for my MBA (fortunately I came to my senses and dropped that pursuit) I did a research project about Kyoto. It's not a simple question, no. I have the following observations just quickly:

A research project. Heh, okay, well then you are no doubt better informed than I.

This is my primary point: The world will now be going in one direction, and we will be left in the mud. Kyoto is going to drive the rest of the world (hold India and China aside for the moment) toward more efficient use of energy. It is already happening in the UK and in Europe. They have already upgraded some of their facilities. They are making the investments which will lower their use of energy. How long do you think it will be before that investment shows up as a competitive advantage? As quickly as the world moves these days, I don't think it will be very long at all. In essence, we are protecting our country from competition in the form of increased efficiency. Protectionism always ends up burning the ones being protected, and in this case it won't take that long for the burn to hit.

Well, this is an angle I haven't really heard anyone else use, and it's better than most that I have heard. The counter argument, I imagine, is that the US is already doing much the same thing-- Bush has pushed a number of market-based (trading energy credits and what not) initatives to improve power plant production facilities. But certainly much, much more needs to be done. My main problem with Kyoto remains the exclusion of India and China-- imposing arbitrary limitations on your industry when two of your chief competitors suffer no such restrictions must necessarily put you at a competitive disadvantage, no? To me, as a knee-jerk reaction and based primarily on reading I've done from others more knowledgable than I, this disadvantage to signing Kyoto at least balances, if not outweighs, the disadvantage created by being protectionistic relative to Europe.

Secondarily: there will be many new inventions and developments generated by the implementation of Kyoto. We will not be positioned to reap the benefits of the R & D. We will keep chugging along in our old ways, and will lose any edge that we might have had in the area. That does not bode well for the long term for the US either.This is worrisome, and I wish energy efficiency and cleanliness were much higher on everybody's agenda. It is far past time to force some changes in the automotive industry, and also in the energy/utility industry.

My basic feeling is that Kyoto is not the best approach to solving the problem-- it is costly and overarching and seems likely to improve the situation minimally, if at all. And I'm still not convinced that we need to "fix" global warming. Let's find a better way to do what needs doing.

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I'm with you Nick. I think Jack should have stuck with the MBA program a little longer...looks like he really could have used a class in Macro-Economics. Government imposed regulation and added cost has never resulted in a competitive advantage that I can think of. To my broader point. The EcoFringe has really got a winner with Kyoto. It is precisely because the Treaty will put the U.S. at an economic disadvantage relative to the rest of the developed industrialized world that our so-called allies (Australia excluded) have bought into this garbage. If Jack could do a little more research he'd find that GH gas emissions are not growing in much of Europe due to stagnation and the shift away from heavier polluting industries, Russia's industrial output is almost half of what it was pre-1990, Japan remains mired in a 10+ year period of recession and very low growth. So the U.S. picks up the vast proportion of the burden (where have we seen this before?). What's really stupid is that any gains achieved by the Treaty will be more than offset by emerging industrialized nations, most notably China and India.

What's really tragic is that the EcoFringe and their sycophants have sold the world on a Kyoto solution that won't work. The cost will be in the trillions. Trillions that could otherwise be used for realistic, meaningful improvements to our planet.

The world press has done a huge disservice on this topic. Most prople are not aware that all the activity related to humankind taken together amount to around 4% of total GH gas emmissions. In a best-case Kyoto scenario, we might reduce overall GH emmissions by some two-tenths of one percent and an average climate impact of a tenth of a degree. I could go on, but I think I'd be preaching to the choir.
 
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