Saturday, May 31, 2008

Anti-Capitalism and Environmentalism Are Not Coextensive

...And I really wish that Progressives would stop pretending like they are. If fossil fuels are evil and are the biggest source of global warming such that we need to collectively take steps to reduce our use of fossil fuels, then surely anything that reduces that use cannot be a bad thing correct?
Similarly, if corporate profits are inherently evil such that we need to create a "Reasonable Profits Board" for the purveyors of fossil fuels, then any environmental measures that increase prices (and thereby corporate profits) cannot be a good thing, correct?
Of course, the answers to both of these questions are rhetorical. The problem is that at least as applied to oil and fossil fuels, anti-capitalism and environmentalism are utterly inconsistent with each other.
The proof? According to the Federal Highway Administration:

The FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” report, produced monthly since 1942, shows that estimated vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all U.S. public roads for March 2008 fell 4.3 percent as compared with March 2007 travel. This is the first time estimated March travel on public roads fell since 1979. At 11 billion miles less in March 2008 than in the previous March, this is the sharpest yearly drop for any month in FHWA history.

And of course, the reason for this is high gas prices. In other words: perhaps nothing has had more of a positive effect in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions than higher gas prices. So why would any committed environmentalist want to intervene in the market in order to make gas prices lower, on the grounds that high gas prices create "unreasonable" (to whom? by whose standards?) profits?

Meanwhile if higher gas prices (and thereby higher corporate profits) are an inevitable element of any attempt to reduce carbon emissions, then why would any committed anti-capitalist ever be willing to work towards the reduction of carbon emissions?

I suppose one way you could work out these discrepancies is through massive government internvention wherein profits from carbon fuels are either illegal or so highly taxed as to effectively make the oil and gas industries nationally controlled. But if that is the answer, I warn you: that way lies madness. It is impossible to escape the laws of supply and demand - you may as well try to escape the laws of gravity, and any attempt to reconcile anti-capitalism with environmentalism as applied to carbon fuels must, repeat MUST, require an attempt to escape the laws of supply and demand.

In other words, to my Progressive friends: environmentalism or anti-capitalism- you can choose one, but not both. For what it's worth, I might mention that many of you are apparently a lot less anti-capitalist than you think, so perhaps you already have chosen but just want to express anti-capitalism because you think as a Democrat you're supposed to be anti-capitalist. Why do I say this? Because, according to this study, Democrats are as likely to support free trade, pro-business policies as Republicans, when those issues are presented without reference to political party.

Bottom line: if you're an environmentalist who wants us to cut back significantly on our carbon emissions, then you should support big profits for oil companies, in addition of course to some sort of Pigou tax - whether we sign Kyoto is almost irrelevant if fuel prices go sufficiently high.

H/T: Coyote Blog