The Best Way to Write a Climate Rule is by leaving the Paper Blank

The notion that EPA can write a climate rule that does not do far more harm than good is truly a triumph of hope over experience. That fact that the Obama Administration is even trying is a manifestation of Hayek’s Fatal Conceit.

Over the years, environmental regulations have become more complex, more intrusive, and more costly. A climate rule would magnify those characteristics. To write such a rule, it would be necessary to know the extent of human impact on the climate system, know the true cost of carbon, and then figure the most cost-effective way of achieving reductions without serious harm to the economy.

While advocates assert that most of the warming in the past 60 plus years has been a result of human consumption of fossil energy for such activities as production, commercial operations, mobility, and heating and lighting our homes, their estimates are based on models and not empirical measurement. The models are notoriously flawed as even the IPCC admits. The recognized uncertainty surrounding natural variability is so great than no reasonable estimate of human attribution is possible.

Since there is no solid estimate of human attribution, it is not possible to calculate the social cost of carbon. Those who have made such calculations rely on their own assumptions and ignore any benefits of CO2 emissions. Further, it is a fiction to believe that there is no current cost imposed on carbon. All of EPA’s regulations since the wrong headed Supreme Court decision in 2007 have added costs to carbon consumption.

Even a relatively benign carbon rule would be a fool’s errand. US carbon dioxide emissions are lower today than any time since 2005 and are not projected by EIA to return to 2005 levels for decades. A big reason why is the shift to natural gas as a result of private ingenuity and capital. To the extent that big government continues with its false beliefs about the negative impacts of carbon emissions, the best course to follow is to seek innovations that add to economic growth while also reducing carbon emissions.

In spite of global rhetoric, the world is not going to turn away from the use of carbon based energy because it is the basis for economic growth and a better standard of living. Our contribution to the planet and to mankind would be far greater by helping the globally improvished to achieve a higher standard of living by using energy more efficiently. With over 1.6 billion people existing without commercial energy, adequate diets or health care, the Obama Administration’s focus on self-righteous but costly regulation is tragic and inhumane to those who we could help and also improve the environment.

The Obama Administration and those who support his approach to over governing our society would do well to reflect on remarks by Frederich Hayek in accepting the 1974 Nobel prize in economics:

“To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm. In the physical sciences there may be little objection to trying to do the impossible; one might even feel that one ought not to discourage the over-confident because their experiments may after all produce some new insights. But in the social field the erroneous belief that the exercise of some power would have beneficial consequences is likely to lead to a new power to coerce other men being conferred on some authority”.

Originally in the National Journal at http://www.nationaljournal.com/policy/insiders/energy/what-s-the-best-way-to-write-the-climate-rule-20140527#comment-1407632258.

Partner & Fellow Blogs