Topical thread May 7, 2010 Voter perceptions, energy
Chris Caldwell of the Financial Times writes:
This is why the leak in the Gulf may make it less likely that Mr Obama will get the environmental legislation he desires. Any bill with the slightest austerity or self-sacrifice has an uphill climb, particularly in this economy. Voters will accept the “new” environmentalism (focused on climate change) only as long as it is free. The temptation has been to pay for the new environmentalism by gutting the old environmentalism (focused on visible pollution).
Here the energy industry in recent decades offers certain parallels to the finance industry. Structured finance on the one hand, a green economy on the other – both innovations involve trade-offs. But the modern voter, like the modern consumer and the modern investor, is unsatisfied with trade-offs. He wants windfalls.
So innovations are presented as pure gains. This is done by rounding risk down, by assuming that hitherto rare events – a housing crash on the one hand, a drilling leak on the other – are impossible. You pay for the new efficiencies by zeroing out protections from old-fashioned risks. The risk of a spill is taken off balance sheet. Until the inevitable screw-up, it looks like a bonanza attained through the brilliance of our leaders.
At a Senate hearing in November, Mary Landrieu, the Democratic senator from Louisiana, said we had to measure the dangers of oil spills against the gains from oil: victory in the second world war, the industrial revolution, the automobile. Ms Landrieu is the largest recipient in Congress of donations from BP and its employees (just as Mr Obama is the largest recipient among all US politicians), so one might take her views with a grain of salt. She has been mocked this week. But her larger point bears listening to. After so many forests have been felled and hillocks dynamited to serve the US addiction to oil and automobiles, it would be unwise to think that the contamination of a few salt marshes is going to alter energy policy in the long term.
Caldwell: “But the modern voter, like the modern consumer and the modern investor, is unsatisfied with trade-offs. He wants windfalls.”
To what extent is that perception of the modern voter, consumer, or investor an artifact of polling? If you asked me what I wanted, in separate questions, it is plain that the list will be unaffordable. From that you cannot conclude that I want to go into debt. If you ask me to prioritize or to indicate tradeoffs, I will do so. Now, some polling questions are comparative, but how many ask for serious prioritizing or address tradeoffs? Such questions are difficult, and you might get a lot of “I don’t know” answers.
“But the modern voter, like the modern consumer and the modern investor, is unsatisfied with trade-offs. He wants windfalls.”
“Voters will accept the “new” environmentalism “
Voters won’t accept the new environmentalism. That is really why Al Gore lost the last election.
The environment has been co-opted by radicals, at least as unrelenting as the tea bags. The Mericans are not idiots. We are people trying to raise families, pay their bills, support a way of life, and voluntarily conform to the law of the land.
We are doing exactly right in going slowly on the new paradigm of environmental catasphrophe. It really is not about the veracity of the global alarmists. It is about making the right fit.
With all the crap going on, the OB administration has seen fit to prevent shipping cigarettes from the Indian Smoke Shops. It’s all politics. I suppose that seems like a good thing to most Mericans.
Since on the topic of energy I Highly recommend this book:
Power Hungry: The Myths of “Green” Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future
The author is not a conservative in case anyone is wondering, he describes himself as a former liberal and new member of the disgusted party.
Book does a great job using basic math and spatial analogies to explain the massive scale of the worlds demand for power, and what will needed to meet those demands – and the Carbon free alternative. The author does make the key distention between power and energy. We demand power, which is created with different sources of energy. People do not “care” about the source which provides the power, they just want cheap abundant power.
He works to dispel many myths, and brings forth some interesting facts. He calculated the amount of cement needed for nuclear compared to wind (wind uses an incredibly large amount), and shows land footprints etc.
Very provocative read.
Book is kindle ready
very nice blog…