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Bernard Finel
Senior Fellow, American Security Project

Bernard Finel

Dr. Bernard I. Finel is a Senior Fellow at the American Security Project where he directs research on counter-terrorism, defense policy and climate change. ALL POSTS

We can't afford subsidies

Q: As the prospects for a climate bill in the Senate get dimmer, some in Congress have said the solution is not to limit U.S. emissions but instead invest in green technology (wind, solar or earth's natural heat) that might be able to produce the same energy but with less pollution. Is this a good way to go, instead of setting a legal limit on emissions?

Politically, subsidies for green technology will be easier to accomplish. They are also a terrible idea. The problem with the energy market right now is precisely subsidies. We subsidize oil and coal to the tune of several hundred billion dollars a year. We spend in the neighborhood of $120 billion a year to maintain military capabilities to ensure access to foreign oil. That is a massive and distorting subsidy. Imagine, if Exxon-Mobile had to shell out to maintain a navy to police the Strait of Hormuz. But they don't. American taxpayers do it, artificially reducing the price of the product. We also indirectly subsidize coal in the sense that we don't charge coal industry for the environment damage -- particularly in terms of climate change -- they cause. Again, tens of billions of dollars in subsidies.

So yes, giving a ton of money to green tech would level the playing field. It would indeed encourage more wind, solar, etc. But it would be massively costly, with a $1.6 trillion deficit, frankly, we can't afford tens of billions more in subsidies. No, the answer is to appropriately make carbon-intensive sectors pay for the real cost of the their products. And you do that with emissions targets enforced by either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade scheme. There are pros and cons to each, but simply throwing up our hands and picking the third best option just because it is politically easier is, I would argue, the epitome of cowardice.

By Bernard Finel  |  February 3, 2010; 11:43 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Sure, we import more oil from Canada than from any other nation. However, the price we pay for that oil is determined on the world oil market. That gives other nations undue influence over our energy security. You raise a very good point Mr. Finel. The price of oil is artifically low because oil has both environmental and political externalities that aren't factored in to the price.

Posted by: elnicho | February 6, 2010 8:39 PM
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This Brand New Video Blows a Huge Gaping Hole in Obama's Cap and Tax Scheme:

Posted by: CommieBlaster | February 6, 2010 6:57 PM
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Interesting to mention the cost of defending Persian Gulf oil. We only draw 15% of our oil from the Gulf. It's primarily a source for Asia. Primarily we defend it because nearly all the other countries that could defend it, particularly Russia or China, would simply steal it, eliminate the Arab families that sit on it, and likely keep it for their own consumption. Nonetheless, there ought to be recompense for our expense and trouble.

Posted by: JamesChristian | February 6, 2010 3:42 PM
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An honest post on the "defense" of our cheap oil. I agree wholeheartedly.

Posted by: dontblamemeivoted4gore | February 6, 2010 7:49 AM
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See what a Fraud Global Warming is!! These are some of the E-mails of Scientist who are advising the United Nations, The EPA, and Your U.S. Congress! Discover for yourself America.

Mann e-mail of 11 Mar 2003
In one e-mail, as a response to an e-mail indicating that a paper in the scientific journal Climate Research had questioned assertions that the 20th century was abnormally warm, Mann wrote:

“I think we have to stop considering Climate Research as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal."[37]

Jones e-mail of 8 Jul 2004
An 8 July 2004 e-mail from Phil Jones to Michael Mann said in part:

"The other paper by MM is just garbage. [...] I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

Jones e-mail of 2 Feb 2005
A 2 February 2005 email from Phil Jones to Michael Mann includes:

"And don't leave stuff lying around on ftp sites - you never know who is trawling them. The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone. Does your similar act in the US force you to respond to enquiries within 20 days?—ours does! The UK works on precedents, so the first request will test it. We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind.”

Trenberth e-mail of 12 Oct 2009
An email written by Kevin Trenberth, a climatologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, discussed gaps in understanding of recent temperature variations:

"The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't,"[

Phil Jones
"I've just completed Mike's Nature TRICK of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to HIDE THE DECLINE."[

You don't have to be a Climate Scientist to understand this. We are supposed to invest Trillions of Dollars based on the manipulation of Data by Corrupt Scientist? Thank God for Senator Inhofe!

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | February 5, 2010 10:13 PM
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Here are a Few of the MANY Scientists Who Believe Global Warming is Primarily Caused by Natural Processes and NOT caused by Co2.

- William M. Gray, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University [1] [2]

- Sallie Baliunas, astronomer, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [1]

- Don Easterbrook, emeritus professor of geology, Western Washington University [1]

- Khabibullo Abdusamatov, mathematician and astronomer at Pulkovskaya Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences [1]

- Fred Singer, Professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia [1] [2]

- Frederick Seitz, retired, former solid-state physicist, former president of the National Academy of Sciences [1]

- Willie Soon, astrophysicist, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [1]

- George V. Chilingar, Professor of Civil and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Southern California [1]

- Ian Clark, hydrogeologist, professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa [1]

- Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [1]

I will listen to these guys instead of Al Gore who thinks the “Earth’s core temperature is several millions of degrees”. Al is also Vice President of the CHICAGO (hint) Climate Exchange and stands to make Billions if Cap and Trade legislation passes. That almost sounds like a conflict of interest? Hmmmmmm

Posted by: Senator_Salesman | February 5, 2010 10:11 PM
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