Environment

WPC's Center for the Environment brings balance to the environmental debate by promoting the idea that human progress and prosperity work in a free economy to protect the environment.

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Oregon's Green Job Experience: Much Green, Few Jobs

November 12, 2009 in Blog

With jobs high on the agenda for the public, environmental activists have made the creation of "green jobs" a central talking point in their campaign to justify government expenditures and environmental regulation. Politicians have jumped on this message as well. For instance, WPC was attacked by Dow Constantine in the recent King County Executive race because, he claimed, we "oppose green jobs."

Of course what we oppose are policies that kill two jobs for every one created in a politically favored industry. That is the path to higher unemployment and reduced prosperity. By way of contrast we favor innovation tax cuts that strengthen job growth, green or otherwise, while promoting energy efficient technologies.

Now, there is more evidence from the other side of the Columbia that the strategy favored by environmental activists and "green" politicians is costly and ineffective.

Writing about Oregon's effort to create green jobs, the Longview Daily News today highlights the costs of their government subsidies:

No state has been a more vigorous advocate of green economy — or, as it turns out, invested more in attracting renewable energy companies — than Oregon. ... [The Oregonian] reported that the state’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) cost taxpayers $68 million in 2007-09 — more than 40 times what legislators had been told it would cost. And that’s only for starters. The cost of BETC subsidies for green projects is estimated to climb to $167 in 2009-11, and to $243 million in 2011-13.

We've seen this before with Cash for Clunkers and other programs. Programs that offer free government money end up finding many takers. The problem is that the results are not in line with the costs. The Oregonian highlighted some costly failures:

Among them was the Clatskanie ethanol plant which eventually went bankrupt and ceased operations. It received $12 million in tax subsidies and a $20 million energy loan from the state. Another wasteful example cited in the report was a wind energy project that was handed tax credits totaling $40 million. [The Oregonian] found that this project will generate less electricity than projects that received credits totaling around $4 million.

The question is, have these projects generated jobs? Oregon's unemployment rate is currently 11.5 percent. More than 1.3 percent higher than the national average and 2.2 percent higher than Washington's rate.

Given the poor results from these subsidies, imagine what could be done with that funding that would truly make a difference.

The results are worthy of Linda Richman: "green" jobs are neither green, nor jobs...discuss.

Is Plug-in Worth a Plug Nickel?

November 12, 2009 in Blog

A major part of Washington's strategy to reduce CO2 emissions is the promotion of plug-in hybrid vehicles that would run on battery power for many trips but would use a gas-powered engine when needed. It is argued that these vehicles will significantly reduce carbon emissions. A study that came across my screen today calls this into doubt.

A study advocating hydrogen vehicles includes the graph below. Of course hydrogen vehicles come out looking good. There are many problems with hydrogen vehicles that cannot be captured in this graph, notably that the cost of vehicles is high and the refelling infrastructure is nonexistent.

What interested me most is the comparison between the projections of carbon emissions between gasoline-powered hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Plug-in hybrids emit only four percent less CO2 than regular hybrids. This is a remarkably small return on investment of the state's money to build plug in stations across the state. For instance, diesel hybrids are projected to emit less CO2 than plug-in hybrids.

These numbers are national and the numbers for Washington are likely to be different because so much of our energy is carbon-free hydro and nuclear. We should remember, however, that going to plug-ins would increase demand for energy and we aren't likely to build many new dams or even nuclear power any time soon.

Plug-ins are one of those technologies politicians have latched onto in an effort to demonstrate "greenness" to the public. As is common, however, what is politically popular isn't always environmentally friendly and spending money on inferior technologies misses opportunities to make real improvements in energy efficiency.

CO2 Emissions Comparison  

Dow Constantine is Lying about Washington Policy Center

in Press releases

Seattle - In a new T.V. ad King County Executive candidate Dow Constantine renews his attack on Washington Policy Center, claiming WPC’s Policy Guide for Washington State opposes green energy jobs. 

Constantine’s claim is false.  WPC’s research shows that policymakers should be aware that efforts to create jobs by promoting green technology may be offset by jobs losses in other economic sectors.

On page 75 the Policy Guide says:

Guess the Headline: Climate Change Edition

October 25, 2009 in Blog

The Seattle Times today has an Associated Press story about climate change and forestry in the Northwest. The story highlights a study done by Oregon State University regarding the effect of increasing temperatures on the growth of forests during the next century. It notes that:

Researchers from Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service calculated an increase in forest growth rates in Oregon and Washington of between 2 percent and 12 percent by the end of the century, when climate models predict temperatures to be between 0.9 degrees and 6.7 degrees higher than they are now.

It goes on to say that the biggest winners will be Washington's forests, saying "The highest growth rates showed in the Olympic Mountains and Northern Cascades of Washington and the Blue Mountains of Oregon."

So, what headline would you use for this story?

Study: Warmed NW forests likely to yield more timber

Study: Washington forests see greatest benefit from climate change

Study: Warmed NW forests may yield less timber

See the answer here.

Free-market innovation provides answers

October 20, 2009 in Blog

A recent post on Olympia Business Watch made note of several initiatives by Alaska Airlines that uses innovative technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and business costs. 

In this blog post Don Brunell, President of the Association of Washington Business, concludes that:

“Alaska and other airlines are undertaking these initiatives without the prodding of federal or state legislation or mandates.  They are doing it because it was a way to stay in business.  Saving fuel costs and being more environmentally friendly make good business sense. Market-based, free enterprise works.”

This is a great example of how the free-market, when left unfettered by government mandates, uses innovation and technology in a way that is a win-win for everyone. 

We have written before about government policies that limit innovation or pick and choose winning technologies.  Such policies assume lawmakers know which technologies are best.  However, it is extremely difficult to know what practical technologies are on the horizon and public officials are notoriously bad at predicting what will work in the future.

Successful initiatives by Alaska Airlines, and others, serve as another reminder that policymakers should engage the creativity of families and businesses and look to encourage innovation in the technology marketplace, not restrict it.

To the Seattle Weekly, "reporter" means someone who doesn't believe in fact checking

October 20, 2009 in Blog

Seattle weekly reporter Caleb Hannan blogged last week that King County Executive Candidate Susan Hutchison's environmental credentials were suspect because she contributed to the WPC's Center for the Environment.

To what do they object? They are unhappy because, they believe, we are "global warming denialists," and claim that we don't "believe in global warming." The only way they can come to this conclusion is by failing to do even a modicum of research.

In the past two years, I've written about climate change numerous times and testified by invitation in front of the legislature about the issue. Our position has been consistent for two years. In our Policy Guide, I advocated setting a carbon price to reduce CO2 emissions and cutting other taxes to offset this increase. It is a position supported by conservative economists like Reagan adviser Art Laffer,the head of President Obama's National Economic Council Larry Summers and Obama's director of the Office of Management and Budget Peter Orzag.

While we believe there is risk from climate change, we also believe that we should follow the science and that claims regarding 20 feet of sea level rise and other alarmist hyperbole are simply incorrect and untenable.

In fact, I've had two editorials published in the Seattle Times this year advocating that very position: a carbon price to reduce CO2 emissions. The Sightline Institute, a leading progressive think tank, even praised my position (even though they have faith that government can successfully pick and choose the best green technologies -- a faith I don't have).

The Seattle P-I made a similar mistake last week but when the error was brought to their attention corrected it immediately.

I've asked the Seattle Weekly editors to retract their blog post since it so obviously incorrect. They e-mailed on Sunday saying they were willing to correct errors but have not responded since then.

This is the problem with reporters whose understanding of an issue is limited by their politics and who don't feel the need to do their homework. They react reflexively rather than thoughtfully. We'll see if they follow the PI's lead and correct their error.

Update: October 21

Caleb wrote a very gracious blog entry today correcting our position on climate change. I'm sure the Weekly still would disagree with us on some elements of our position, but their correction was straightforward and sincere, and appreciated.

New Climate Documentary

October 20, 2009 in Blog

Our friends at the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland have put together a great new video on on climate policy outlining the risks of the current, government-heavy approach and the free-market alternative. Titled "Climate Chains" it interviews a number of experts on the issue...and me as well.

The video is only 22 minutes long and you can watch it at www.climatechains.com.

World Premiere Showing of Not Evil Just Wrong:The true cost of global warming hysteria

October 19, 2009 in Events
Date: 
Monday, October 19th, 2009
Time: 
5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Place: 
Locations around the state
Washington State

Washington Policy Center was part of the world record for the largest ever simultaneous film premiere by hosting a world premiere showing of Not Evil Just Wrong:The true cost of global warming hysteria.

State Backs Away from Green Building Energy Promises

October 18, 2009 in Publications

"Green" buildings have been at the center of the Department of Ecology's strategy to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After promising dramatic energy savings from "green" buildings, officials at the Department of Ecology and in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction are rapidly backing away from those claims. Internal e-mails show officials in those agencies admitting that a recent report on green schools "was not trying to show energy savings," and other officials claiming that the buildings are better because they create pride in the schools, saying "I don't even need test scores" to show the value. This month, the Environmental Watch highlights those revelations, which are just the latest evidence, now acknowledged by a number of groups across the country, that, despite increasing construction costs, green buildings are not living up to their promise.

Sea Rise and Climate Change: Let's Do The Science

October 17, 2009 in Publications

This op-ed appeared on Crosscut.com, September 10, 2009

The images are ominous. Rising water rapidly covers large areas of New York and other major cities in Al Gore’s movie. Similar graphics show large portions of Seattle and Olympia underwater by 2100. A sports magazine cover shows a player knee deep in a flooded baseball stadium.