by Greg Krehbiel on 20 October 2013
On CSPAN radio yesterday I heard a few minutes of a press conference with some environmentalist guy. A woman reporter said something like this.
Environmentalists have been telling us for years that we need higher petroleum prices, and that higher petroleum prices would be good for the environment. Well, we’ve got higher petroleum prices. Has it been good for the environment?
It was a genius question. If he said no, he would have to admit that environmentalists have been misleading us. If he said yes, it would take the edge off the main environmentalist weapon, which is scare mongering, and it would paint environmentalism in an ugly light — i.e., we can only do good for the environment if we make the whole country suffer.
He said no, higher petroleum prices in themselves don’t do anything for the environment, but he tried to temper the effect of his answer by pointing out that there is no such thing as “the environmentalist movement.” Rather, there are lots of environmentalists saying all kinds of different things. I’m sure he’s right about that.
One thing that continues to bug me about environmentalists is their failure to calculate the human costs of their ideas. For example, the whole country is wasting time and effort sorting their garbage for the recycling trucks because of a useless feel good program. Has anybody calculated how many man hours have been wasted on this nonsense? What about the number of men who’ve been run over or seriously injured collecting the recycled material? (I have no idea how many, but any job that involves standing out in the street as cars drive by is going to result in fatalities.)
Higher petroleum prices is another example. The theory is if gasoline prices go up, people will buy more fuel-efficient vehicles (or maybe even fairy dust vehicles) and that will cut CO2 and air pollution and all that. It hasn’t actually worked, but that’s the theory.
The average family spends about $370 a month on gasoline, so if gasoline were half as expensive, that would put $185 in their pockets — every month. How much quality of life would be gained by that additional $185? ISTM there’s almost no chance that the alleged environmental gains from higher gasoline prices (even if we assume their best case scenario) would help people more than having that $185 would.
-- 2013-10-20 » Greg Krehbiel