Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 9, 2009
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Cap and Don't Trade

As anyone who followed the Kyoto Protocols back in the 1990s can tell you, even if you believe that government action to stem carbon emissions would be desirable, Kyoto wasn't a genuine effort to get a worldwide agreement on limiting emissions: it exempted seven of the world's eight most populous nations (the U.S. being the lone exception) from its provisions, including rapidly growing economies like China (now the world's number one carbon emitter) and India. And neither of those countries, with more than a billion inhabitants each, has any intention of being subject to the kinds of restrictions that President Obama's carbon emissions "cap-and-trade" plan would impose on U.S. industries, much less during a global recession. Including industries that employ lots of the blue-collar union workers the Democrats purport to represent.

Those industries' and unions' solution, naturally, is even more government taxes and regulations: use trade barriers to try to inflict the same harm on foreign manufacturers as on American ones. Hey, why not start a trade war? Just remember, one thing, though: Senator Smoot and Congressman Hawley both lost their bids for re-election in 1932.

Bloomberg fills us in on how this is unfolding:

U.S. Steel Corp., American Electric Power Co. and the AFL- CIO, the largest U.S. federation of labor unions, are all pressing lawmakers for protection against imports from countries that won't have to bear the costs of any new measures to curb global warming.

The companies say fees might be needed to prevent price-undercutting by manufacturers in countries that won't match U.S. climate-change standards. Lobbying groups for exporters such as Microsoft Corp. counter that imposing penalties on imports may violate World Trade Organization rules and spark retaliation by China and other nations.

Industry and the unions are awake now to the danger the Administration poses to U.S. industries that are already on the ropes, although they seem to reognize that with the Obama team, they are better off pleading for special-interest favors for themselves rather than standing up for free and open competition:

If China and India don't agree to pollution-reduction targets, their companies would have a pricing advantage over U.S. manufacturers that take on the added costs of emissions targets, said Tom Conway, vice president of the United Steelworkers union.

New greenhouse-gas limits might also prompt U.S. manufacturers to move operations to China and continue emitting pollution, hurting the American economy and "undermining the purpose of the legislation," he said. Without levying fees on carbon-intensive imports, the U.S. might lose 1 million factory jobs, said John Surma, chief executive officer of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel.

"The issue of global competition is huge," Surma told the Congressional Steel Caucus on Feb. 4. "If you don't take care of the international aspect, you put us out of business."

Even Democrats in Congress who represent people with industrial jobs are starting to realize the problem:

Democrat Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told steelmakers this month that he would set up private meetings with that panel's chairman, Democrat Henry Waxman of California, to make sure climate legislation doesn't harm them.

"If the actions we take simply transfer manufacturing to Brazil and China, then we haven't accomplished much," Doyle said.

Of course, if we start a 1930-style trade war, we'll have accomplished even less.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:43 PM | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

What do you think Dow 2000 if this nonsense actually passes? But don't worry it will be George Bush's fault.

BTW-Per Rasmussen, Empty Suit now down to 56% approval rating after 6 weeks. Only a +6 advantage in the strongly approve/disapprove column. But I know he really is extremely popular because the media keeps telling me so 24 hours a day.

Posted by: dch at March 9, 2009 4:23 PM

"Kyoto wasn't a genuine effort to get a worldwide agreement on limiting emissions: it exempted seven of the world's eight most populous nations (the U.S. being the lone exception) from its provisions, including rapidly growing economies like China (now the world's number one carbon emitter) and India."

Definitely not. We were right to reject Kyoto. If China and India aren't involved, it's not worth doing.

Posted by: MVH at March 9, 2009 7:20 PM

When the melting polar caps on Mars is explained I will buy into man-made global warming. BTW, the big storm on Jupiter is shrinking too. The explaination is climate change. Hmmmm, can't be solar activity.

Posted by: maddirishman at March 10, 2009 2:28 AM

Irish, I think too much is made of whether global warming is man made or not. The fact that it's happening is enough to be scary. We as a species evolved within certain environmental conditions, but then spread and evolved into what we are in Eurasia (although we came from Africa originally).

Ecology and climate being what it is, changes can take so long, it's hard to always pin it somewhere. Plus it's human nature to find someone to blame (if it's human nature to have lawyers, then be extension......). If there is a blame, there is a lawsuit. So global warming can be very American!!!

Warming is clearly occurring, and is doing so, whether you believe in evolution or not. Is it a normal planetary cycle? Nobody knows. However, if it is, then why would we want to introduce what may be an ecological tipping point to it?

Oh, the Martian polar cap evaporation? I'm not a physicist, but it makes a lot of sense for ice to sublime when the air pressure and gravity is very low.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at March 10, 2009 9:55 AM

Definitely not. We were right to reject Kyoto. If China and India aren't involved, it's not worth doing.

The funny thing is, Bush got hammered for Kyoto yet, before he even took office, in a sort of symbolic vote (98-0), the Senate showed the Administration (Clinton) that they were not going to pass such legislation.

Kyoto was simply a way for the world to hamstring the United States economically.

Posted by: Agent W at March 10, 2009 10:02 AM

"I'm not a physicist, but it makes a lot of sense for ice to sublime when the air pressure and gravity is very low."

And I'm not a Martian historian, but it seems to me that there was very low air pressure and gravity on Mars long before the internal combustion engine was invented. Why would the ice up there have lasted this long?

Posted by: Motley Tool at March 10, 2009 10:13 AM

Motley, you've proved my point. It DOESN'T matter what is causing global warming, since the reality means it has to be dealt with. OK, no internal combustion engines on Mars, but still, the water went away.

Kyoto was a compromise more meant to level a playing field than change climate. So if we can develop new ways to generate energy for factories, homes and cars, and then export that ability to other countries, then we come out ahead, and so does the planet. Sounds like good business sense to me.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at March 10, 2009 2:05 PM

Actually Daryl it does matter what is causing climate change...it isn't warming anymore. If it is caused by solar cycles...the most likely cause...there isn't much we can do about that. The people of the world are being sold a bill of goods. None of the proposed changes will have an effect on solar activity or the warming or cooling of the earth. Therefore, people like Al Gore a perpatrating a fraud.

Posted by: maddirishman at March 10, 2009 4:18 PM

There are, as I always note, several moving parts to the debate:

1. Has the earth been getting warmer?
2. Is any warming trend projectible into the future?
3. Is any warming caused by human activity?
4. Can any warming be remedied by altering human activity?
5. What are the costs and benefits of any proposed plan to do so?

I'm increasingly skeptical, frankly, even of #1, which I was much more inclined to believe a year or two ago before we got more data showing essentially flat temperature trends for this decade. One way you can tell that the case for warming is weakening is the shift in terminology from "global warming" to "climate change," which is more amorphous and not tied to a specific, measurable (and therefore falsifiable) metric.

But regardless, as to Daryl's point, it's hard to have any confidence that you have answered #4 & 5 correctly if you haven't made the case on #3. If specific types of human activity are not, as claimed, capable of altering the planet's temperature, then ceasing those activities obviously won't help.

Posted by: Crank at March 10, 2009 4:29 PM

Since none of us are climatologists, it's hard to really answer. I don't want to get drawn into the conservatives answer to science: that philosophically it makes no sense. However, based on what I've learned in school and lots of reading over the years, the planetary cycles over the last few hundred thousand years seems to trend toward cold cycles, not warm ones. And that we were supposedly in a period between ice ages.

To then say that we are causing global warming because it should be colder is the same wrong philosophical argument. A better case could be made that human activity has upset a tipping ecology enough. The ozone holes over Antarctica and Greenland is a case in point. Dumping enormous amounts of greenhouse gases is not a great idea. Look at Krakatoa. It produced a year without summer. And that was the dumping of a large volcano: real damn big, but a single event. So yes, we are probably not being sold a bill of goods. The planet will not remain stable, it's just not the norm. But to say we've been sold a bill of goods is probably not right either. Crank, the chances of human activity to change the planet's temperature when it hangs by a thread is probably good, not poor.

Anyway Crank, look at your question 5: The costs and benefits to changing our behavior. Well, if the cost is extinction (OK, an overreaction), but you get the drift, then you pay the price. If the cost is a drastic reduction in population and lifestyle choices, you pay the price. But the best solution is to pay the price and get back a return on your investment: I love the idea of generating clean power here in the US, and not importing a valuable chemical that makes all sorts of plastics, so we can burn it. And out of it, the planet doesn't have to process gazillions of tons of CO2, and we get to sell the technology to everybody. So where is that bad?

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at March 10, 2009 10:01 PM

"I'm increasingly skeptical, frankly, even of #1, which I was much more inclined to believe a year or two ago before we got more data showing essentially flat temperature trends for this decade."

I'm ok with the flat temperature trends - it's not necessarily fatal to the theory that it would temporarily trend downward or flat in the face of known processes that cool the planet.

I worry about the quality of the raw data - how much confidence can I have in the global temperature measurements in the last 100 years or so? Have they been in consistent places? Have there been enough of them?

As for the solar cycles argument, from what I've read, these global climate models do take into account solar activity as a forcing mechanism - and apparently they aren't enough of factor to explain the temperature variations.

Posted by: MVH at March 11, 2009 7:14 AM

I'm no climatologist, either, and though I'm a global warming skeptic I haven't really done enough reading to make up my mind. But the people on one side of the debate tend to want to control my life, and the people on the other side tend not to. That helps me make up my mind, in the absence of other evidence.

Posted by: Hawkeye Steve at March 11, 2009 11:35 PM

Hawkeye Steve,
We pro-choicers are happy to have you on our side.

Posted by: Berto at March 12, 2009 10:35 AM
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