Monday, November 15, 2010

The long run

Bjorn Lomborg argues that the wise thing to do about global warming is to accelerate research on alternative energy sources.
World-wide public spending on research and development for clean energy technologies is a paltry $2 billion a year. Increasing this to $100 billion a year could be a game-changer. Not only would it be almost twice as cheap as the $180 billion a year cost of fully implementing Kyoto, but the effect of this kind of spending would be hundreds of times greater. But this should not be our only response to global warming. We should also invest considerably more in adaptation to global warming's effects, and research geo-engineering technologies as a potential backstop.
George Gilder suggests that market forces have been and are pushing us towards cleaner energy.

The irony is that a century-long trend of advance in conventional "non-renewable" energy—from wood to oil to natural gas and nuclear—has already wrought a roughly 60% drop in carbon emissions per watt. Thus the long-term California targets might well be achieved globally in the normal course of technological advance. The obvious next step is aggressive exploitation of the trillions of cubic feet of low-carbon natural gas discovered over the last two years, essentially ending the U.S. energy crisis.
But most people have fallen for the "green jobs" idea. We get economic recovery and environmental improvement as a two-fer. Californians just elected Jerry Brown on such a platfrom -- and approved the State's AB 32 by a wide margin.

But picking winners is a bad idea. (1) It is politicized; (2) it assumes that the we have knowledge we do not have; (3) it relies on impossible long run forecasts; (4) it embraces autarky.

Re the latter, 20 or so years ago, some smart people suggested that Los Angeles not only go with the switch to rail transit use, but that we also build the trains in Southern California!

Where are they now?

They now want us to produce green energy and "green jobs" in California. What the hell. It gets votes and contracts. Where will they be in 20 years? I have no idea. Long run forecasts are for the smart set.